BUFFALO, N.Y. – A local community is devastated and in shock. Following the arrest of Lackawanna resident Arafat Nagi, 44, local Muslim leaders are speaking out.
“People need to recognize that the Lackawanna community in no way, shape, or form wanted any of this to happen and this is not the norm,” said Executive Director of Western New York Muslims, Julie Algubani.
Nagi was arrested Wednesday after federal authorities say he pledged allegiance to terrorist group ISIL, used social media to recruit other supporters and allegedly purchased items he planned to use to fight for their cause.
Algubani told News 4 stereotyping is not a new obstacle for Muslims, and she hopes the arrest doesn’t create new tensions.
“Unfortunately because Islamophobia is so strong, we are, you know we recognize that it’s so strong. And unfortunately it’s something that as a Muslim in the community we have to deal on a daily basis whether something like this happens or not,” she said
President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, Dr. Khalid Qazi sees things a little differently.
“There obviously are some issues in terms of some Islamophobes that do exist in many communities and to some extent in our community also but the community in general has been very welcoming,” he said.
There are 25,000 Muslims in Western New York. Those is Lackawanna are mostly from Yemen.
Dr. Qazi says Nagi was no longer part of that community.
“He had withdrawn from the community about three years ago. He had some domestic issues, some family issues,” Dr. Qazi told News 4.
Since Nagi’s arrest, Dr. Qazi has been working with Muslim leaders in Lackwanna, meeting regularly to have open discussions on how best to address the situation.
He and Algubani agree Nagi’s alleged actions are out of character for the community, and hope continued discussion can ease anxiety for both Muslims and non-Muslims living there.