As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, one of the key people who alerted police to the failed Times Square car bomb was Senagalese Muslim immigrant Aliou Niasse, who works as a street vendor there.
Yesterday, Democracy Now’s Anjali Kamat went to Times Square and interviewed Niasse about his experience alerting the police to the car bomb and his thoughts on Muslims who commit terrorism in the name of their faith. Niasse told Kamat that “Islam is not terrorist” and that if he sees any Muslim who tries to committ terrorism, he “is going to catch him before he runs away.” He also lamented the case of one “bad” Muslim being used to paint all Muslims with a broad brush:
KAMAT: You’re from Senegal?
NIASSE: Yeah I’m from Senegal, yeah.
KAMAT: You’re Muslim?
NIASSE: Yeah I’m Muslim.
NARRATION BY KAMAT: I asked Aliou Niasse what his reaction was when he found out the suspect in the attempted bombing was a Muslim-American born in Pakistan.
NIASSE: That’s not religion. Because the Islam religion is not terrorist. Because if I know this guy is Muslim, he do that, if I know that, I’m going to catch him before he run away.
KAMAT: How do you think Muslims are generally perceived in New York, by police, by law enforcement, when it comes to investigation of terrorism cases?
NIASSE: If one person is bad, they gonna say everybody, for his religion. That is, I think, wrong.
Two other street vendors also helped alert police to the presence of the car bomb. Handbag seller Duane Jackson and t-shirt vendor Lance Orton, both Vietnam veterans, smelled smoke from the burning car and ran to alert police officers. Niasse says he was the first to see the car, as it pulled up right in front of his photo stand. Given the fact that he doesn’t speak english well, he told a nearby vendor who then alerted the police.
Kamat notes that the two other street vendors who assisted police in foiling the bombing and catching the suspect have recieved national media attention and phone calls thanking them from President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Kamat ends her report by saying, “Aliou’s not waiting for a call from the President, but as one of the first people to notice and speak out about the smoke rising from the [car bomb], he does want some recognition that a Muslim immigrant from Senegal might also be counted among the eyes and ears of New York City.”