Kazi Hassan is an MPA Candidate in Public Finance and Program Evaluation at George Washington University
A grocery store clerk, a cabdriver, a cashier at a Hudson News stand, a sales associate at a departmental store, and an assistant manager at Domino’s Pizza: what do they all have in common? Well for starters, the grocery store clerk is my father, the cabdriver is my brother, the sales associate at the departmental store is my sister, the cashier at the Hudson News stand and the assistant manager at the Domino’s Pizza are both my brothers-in-law.
We all share two more facts in common: we are all immigrants from Bangladesh who moved to the United States in search of a better life and have been living in the Kensington community section of Brooklyn since the late 1990’s.
If “Kensington” sounds familiar, that is because it is the same community that Akayed Ullah, the bomber who tried to detonate a bomb in New York City subway tunnel on December 11, 2017, called home.
Masjid Nur al Islam, the local mosque where Mr. Ullah prayed, is also the same mosque where my family has been praying for multiple years. My house is on the same block as Masjid Nur al Islam and I have attended this mosque numerous times to pray.
My heart is in pain because I know what this unfortunate attack means for the mosque and the Kensington community. It means a rise in hate crimes against my neighbors, heavy scrutiny for my friends, and the subjugation of an entire group of people.
Mr. Ullah’s actions should not give a hardworking, dedicated, and resilient community such as Kensington a reputation related to terror.
Growing up, I watched my Bangladeshi neighbors in the Kensington community work extremely hard to make sure that their children would have a chance to succeed in America. My father was no different, who worked multiple backbreaking, minimum wage jobs to support a family of five. He, like many others in the community did so because they believed in the “promise” of America – a place where hard work was rewarded.
The Kensington community I know works day and night to ingrain themselves into the fabric of the American society and they are proud to be part of the American dream.
That is what Kensington should be recognized for – not for being associated with a terrorist. While most news agencies did not hesitate to connect Kensington to terror, I hope people will recognize that my community is not representative of one man and his deranged views – it is a community that values diversity, hard work, and opportunity – the same values that make America a beacon for immigrants across the world.
Mr. Ullah is by no means a representation of the Kensington that I have cherished when I was growing up there. My family still lives a block from Masjid Nur al Islam. My neighbors still work everyday to pursue opportunities they could never dream of back in Bangladesh.
And just like the rest of the world, we are grieving. We are scared.
But, we also understand. A member of my community has committed a terrible act, and America needs to respond so that “we” can make a statement.
Fear dictates actions, but love and understanding builds a strong society. I hope policy makers and the American public will choose love and understanding.