The two men who were arrested were described by friends and acquaintances as hard-working, peaceful men devoted to their families and religion.
Mr. Aref, a Kurd from northern Iraq, was the imam of the mosque. He lived in a ramshackle wood-frame house next to a vacant lot with his wife and three young children. He had a job driving for a local ambulance company, taught children at the mosque and, last year, took a group of children to an amusement park, friends said.
As Mr. Aref’s children played on the stoop of their house on Thursday, Arif Khan, a friend of the family’s, said they were driven from Iraq by Saddam Hussein about four years ago.
“He was harassed by Saddam,” said Mr. Khan, who called the government’s charges, “totally fake.”
Just a couple of the mistaken assumptions here:
1. Being harassed by Saddam doesn’t automatically mean that you are on the side of the angels. Endeavoring to keep them from toppling his relatively secular regime, Saddam harassed radical Muslims as indefatigably as he did the Kurds and others.
2. There is no reason why a man who devotes himself to the study of the Islamic religion, even a quiet, nice man, could not or would not have gotten involved in terrorist activities. Global jihadists can and do point to numerous passages of the Qur’an and Sunna to justify their actions. The imam of Albany’s mosque was no doubt familiar with these passages.
At the court hearing, the wives of both men wept and hugged each other as United States marshals led their husbands away. One acquaintance there, Sajid Ahmed, a 32-year-old native of India, said the idea of Mr. Hossain being involved in an anti-American terrorist plot seemed incredible. Not only was he often heard saying that he loved America, he said, but he was well known for giving pizza to the poor.
“It was very surprising to me,” Mr. Ahmed said. “I think they were being nice to some other people and they got entrapped in this case.”
Yes, I often demonstrate kindness to strangers by helping them obtain surface-to-air missiles.