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Afghan grocer keeps sacred traditions

Next to a poster of a large Saudi Arabian mosque, Faith Fazly, 54, keeps a small rug in his Afghan grocery in Fresh Meadows that sells Halal meat, dried fruit, basmati rice, Afghan music CDs and special condiments such as mint water, rose water and fig preserves.

Inside of Afghan United & Kabul Halal Meat, a modest, two-month- old grocery at 183-01 Horace Harding Expressway, Fazly takes time out from cutting meat and cleaning several times a day to abide by the Muslim tradition of praying to Allah.

“Muslim people make prayers five times a day,” explained Fazly, demonstrating how he washes his hands, places his rug on top of a piece of cardboard next to a refrigerated display case, and kneels on top of it, facing the direction of the sun, to pray.

In addition to praying, Muslims are supposed to abide by certain laws pertaining to food and dress, said Fazly. For example, they must not eat things that are haram, an Arabic term meaning unlawful or prohibited.

The opposite of haram is Halal. All Halal meats are killed by hand with a clean knife, in a clean environment, by someone wearing a clean uniform who has washed his or her hands, said Fazly.

Before killing any animal, the person must say “Allah Au Akber” three times, meaning “God is the greatest,” explained Fazly’s 13-year-old cousin, Krishma Faqiri, who helps Fazly cut chicken and clean the store for several hours a day during her summer vacation.

Most animals which are properly slaughtered, such as goat, cow, lamb, chicken and fish are considered Halal, said Faqiri. Meats that are never considered Halal include pork, carnivorous animals, birds of prey and land animals without external ears. In addition, gelatin is generally not considered Halal because it is made from the bones of pigs.

Fazly has worked as a Halal butcher for about 10 years since he emigrated from Afghanistan, through India to Queens in 1990. Prior to managing Afghan United & Kabul Halal Meat, which is owned by his cousin, Rashid Khairzada, Fazly owned his own Halal meat store in College Point.

“I lost too much money, so I sold it and came here,” said Fazly as he cut a whole Halal chicken in to pieces using a cutting machine, while his young cousin bagged the meat.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, where he lived for most of his life before coming to the United States, Fazly was a banker and the owner of an auto mechanic shop. Although he liked his jobs, he decided to leave his native country after he was imprisoned several times for refusing to serve as a soldier at a time when his country was fighting with Russia, the butcher explained.

“Now I am happy,” said Fazly. “Why not? I’m working, I’m eating, every month or two months I send two or three hundred dollars to my family. If I’m sick, I go to the hospital and somebody takes care of me. If I was in my country, maybe somebody would have killed me.”

Located next to the Afghan restaurant Ali Baba, Fazly’s grocery draws both Muslim and non-Muslim customers, many of whom pass by on the Long Island Expressway on their way to Long Island.

“It’s very clean, very good meat, fresh,” said Faqir Pertaw of Levittown, L.I., who grew up in the same town as Fazly in Afghanistan.

Astrid Benedek, a Hungarian immigrant who frequently travels from Manhattan to her house on Long Island during the summer, said she likes to stop at Fazly’s grocery to pick up the large, flat Afghan bread that is made fresh and sold at the store every day.

“I discovered this place because I have a mechanic that’s nearby,” Benedek explained, before heading to a bathroom in the back of the grocery, which Fazly gladly let her use.

Fazly said customers like to come to his grocery because it has a reputation for only selling products which are clean and genuinely Halal.

“A lot of Muslim people live in this area, from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan. They come to my store and they say ‘Brother, we need Halal meat.’,” said the butcher, as he filled a cup with hot tea for his customer. “If one day I give them haram, I know they will never come to my store again.”

Prices for the Halal meat are $3 per pound for goat, $1.29 per pound for whole chicken, $1.09 for chicken leg and $3.25 per pound for ground beef.

Aside from owning the Halal grocery, Fazly’s cousin, Khairzada, also operates a catering company, said Fazly. When he is not working on his catering business, he runs the grocery and Fazly is free to go home to rest and recover from a heart problem that he was recently hospitalized for.

The grocery is open every day from 9 a.m. to midnight. Business has been slow during the first two months, said Fazly, but he is hopeful that it will begin to pick up after word spreads that it has opened.

Anyone who wishes to place a special order for Halal meats or catering can call (718) 321-3946 or (917) 319-3367.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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JACK says:
You have incorrectly listed Rashid Khairzada as as Fazly cousin. What type of news agency are you.
Jan. 7, 2013, 1:02 pm
Khairzada family. says:
We are Rashid's cousins, we have no idea who Fazly is and made Rashid aka "Rachie" aware that our last name was wrongfully used for this article. Please take this bogous article down, this article is false and has no truth. This article was written without the consent of Rashid Khairzada, who has no family relationship with Fazly.
Jan. 7, 2013, 1:17 pm
Solomon says:
Mr. Khairzada's father was a successful merchant and finance manager. Between the 1950-1960, Mr. Khairzada's father became partners with another prominent Persian-Jewish merchant from Herat City, soon both started a lucrative export business of Karakul known as Persian sheep-skin and Carpet business to Germany and Italy. Later during the 1960's, Mr. Khairzada invested heavily in real estate in Mashid, Herat, and other areas around Herat Provence during the period of the two very democratic Shah's (Kings), Zahir Shah and Pahlavi Shah. Mr. Khairzada built schools for the poor, modernized a banking system, and was a key benefactor in modernization efforts in the kingdom. Many of his children were raised in Europe and U.S, they attended boarding schools during the 50's and 60's and received quality education. Many also intermarried other nationalities, Mr. Rashid Khairzada is happily married to a Italian-American for over 35 years.
May 29, 2013, 1:44 pm

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