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Borough Afghans question Bush promises in Iraq war

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The Afghan population of Queens has a message for the people of Iraq: Be wary of the promises made by President George W. Bush.

Bush and his administration have told the Iraqis that they want to rebuild and strengthen the nation with the end of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, a claim that Afghan Americans have questioned.

“He made the same promises with Afghanistan,” said Abdul, a 24-year-old Afghan college student living in Flushing. “He never delivered.”

As Muslims gathered to pray at Flushing’s Masjid Hazrat-I-Abubaker on 33rd Avenue Friday afternoon, they discussed the news of war in Iraq.

The mosque primarily serves the borough’s Afghan population. With close ties to the last country to be targeted by the U.S. military as part of the war on terror, the worshipers offered their perspective on recent events.

The Flushing center has been outspoken in its support for Bush’s war on terrorism. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the mosque organized a march through Flushing in which its members condemned Osama bin Laden and terrorism. The leadership of the mosque, although concerned about civilians in Afghanistan, supported the American attack on their homeland.

But since then, some Afghans have grown more skeptical of U.S. actions. They criticized Bush for not providing enough support to rebuild the infrastructure of Afghanistan and saying the U.S. military was “liberating” the country.

“The Russians came into Afghanistan and said ‘we are freeing the Afghan people,’” said Wais Rahimi, a 28-year-old computer technician from Flushing. “[Bush and his administration] are saying the same thing now.”

Abdul worried that the focus on Iraq would allow terrorists to regain control of Afghanistan.

“If they don’t pay attention, it’s going to go back to the terrorists,” he said.

While most at the mosque were against American military action in Iraq, others said they were somewhat open to the invasion to free the Iraqi people from Hussein’s grip.

Waheid Mohmand, a 38-year-old Flushing resident, said he was willing to listen to the president’s arguments for war.

Mohmand, however, said his biggest concern was not the reasons behind the war but the safety of all sides in the conflict.

“Of course, I worry about the Iraqi civilians,” he said. “I also worry about the American army.”

While backlash against the mosque was a concern following Sept. 11, most at the Flushing center said since the start of the war they had not been harassed or had simply become accustomed to discrimination after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

One worshiper, who did not wish to give his name, said his white robe and cap often attracted negative attention.

“You get insults, but you don’t bother with them,” he said. “When they see you in this kind of clothing, they call you a terrorist.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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