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The FBI built bridges with Brooklyn’s Muslim community last weekend with the help of some really serious firepower.
The G-men, as well as members of other federal agencies, flocked to Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach last Saturday for the first-ever FBI Muslim Youth Conference — and met 300 youngsters with one open hand and another holding bombs and rocket launchers.
Organizers say that the equipment — which included a helicopter — were just show-and-tell pieces as each agency explained what the items did and what they stood for.
“This is an important community outreach initiative,” said FBI Public Affairs Officer Tim Flannelly. “We genuinely want to foster good relationships in this community by showcasing what our capabilities are and let them know that they, too, can have opportunities in these fields if they choose.”
Mohammad Razvi, whose group, the Council of People’s Organization, organized the event, agreed that the conference would build bridges with young Muslim-Americans.
“It’s imperative that we take these steps,” Razvi said. “We have to take down this wall of ignorance, if we don’t do it now, the wall will only get bigger.”
But some local Muslim groups say the event bombed — because of the bombs.
“[The weapons] send mixed messages,” said Asghar Choudhri, president of the Pakistani American Federation of New York. “On one side, the FBI is saying that they should be trusted, and on the other side, they’re saying. ‘We have this weapon we can use against you.’ You should be friends with the federal government, not scared of it.”
But the weapons didn’t appear to intimidate the children at the conference. In fact, they couldn’t get enough of them.
“I put on a bulletproof vest and got to hold a battering ram, it was really interesting,” said 13-year-old Waleed Ahmed. “I can see myself becoming an FBI agent.”
Quaratulain Muzaffar, age 11, agreed.
“It’s a good event,” she said. “They taught us about guns and stuff.”
Neither child said he felt intimidated by the agency or worried about the FBI coming into their neighborhoods to fight terrorism.
“That’s never happened in my neighborhood,” Ahmed said. “Cops have come in, but it was nothing big. They were searching for some punk kids.”
The weapons weren’t the biggest draw at the conference either, Flannelly said.
“Logan, the bomb-sniffing golden retriever deployed by the U.S. Parks Police, got a lot of attention,” he said.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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