For Area Muslims, Closure is Elusive

Little Pakistan DeliKathryn Kattalia For many in the East Village’s Muslim community a sense of closure after the death of Osama bin Laden still seems far off. Below: While much of the world watched news reports of Bin Laden’s killing, patrons at the Little Pakistan Deli watched a cricket match.

On a newspaper stand outside the Little Pakistan Deli on Second Avenue, bold headlines announced the news many Americans have waited 10 years to hear: Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden is dead.

But inside the deli, manager Safdar Zaidi said it was business as usual as several customers crowded around a small television in the back of the store. “They are watching the cricket game instead of the news,” Mr. Zaidi, 45, said. “Pakistan is playing the West Indies.”

While thousands of New Yorkers rushed to Times Square and Ground Zero last night to celebrate news that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan by American forces, members of the East Village Muslim community were hesitant to join in, saying closure is still some way off. Mr. Zaidi, whose store has been in the East Village between East 12th and East 13th Streets for more than ten years, said that many of his customers are Muslim cab drivers who stop in during their lunch break.

“Most of them aren’t sure if he’s dead because they haven’t seen a body,” he said. “They want evidence that he died.”

It was an uncertainty echoed by others a few blocks down on First Avenue and East 11th Street, as people poured out of the Madina mosque following the daily afternoon prayer service. Khaled Khater, 40, an Egyptian limo driver from Brooklyn who often stops by the mosque, said many Muslims are still unsure of how to react to Bin Laden’s death. Specifically, he said, some are fearful Bin Laden supporters might plan another attack on Americans in retaliation.

“People are split,” Mr. Khater said. “Generally speaking, people are a little worried about what could happen now. Some are happy that it’s over. We’re all waiting to see what happens. Are things going to be more peaceful? Is there going to be more trouble? We’re all hoping it will be okay.”

Noman Rahman, 28, who lives in the East Village and has been coming to the mosque for almost 20 years, said he is most worried about community backlash toward the Muslim community.

Mosque 2Kathryn Kattalia Some Muslims said Sunday night’s celebrations following the news of Bin Laden’s death was the source of some uneasiness.

“We’ve been taking a lot of heat,” Mr. Rahman said. “I don’t want anything to happen to our people. At the end of the day we’re here to provide service for all people, not just Muslims.”

Mr. Rahman said he still remembers hateful reaction to the mosque following the 2001 terror attacks. “After 9/11, we put up a box out here with a big sign to raise money for the 9/11 victims, and there was still backlash,” he said. “I am afraid of that.”

Anthony Noel, 52, an electrical engineer who works in the East Village, expressed similar concern. Mr. Noel, who comes to the mosque to pray every day, said Sunday night’s celebrations following the news of Bin Laden’s death was the source of some uneasiness throughout the Muslim community.

“Should you be celebrating the death of somebody? No,” Mr. Noel said. “We’re not saying what Osama bin Laden did was right. Muslims in this country never supported those ideas, but you still see demonization of Islam in this country.”

“I wouldn’t say there’s a fear, but there’s certainly concern about how people are going to react to this,“ he added.

Mr. Noel said he also questioned the timing of last night’s announcement. “They said they’ve known about this for months,” he said. “They chose this particular time to carry out the order. It seems very political to me.”

Still, Mr. Zaidi said like all Americans, many of his Muslim customers are relieved to see the decade-long manhunt for one of the world’s most feared terrorist leaders come to an end.

“Generally, we are happy,” he said. “The story is over.”