New York’s Uzbek community believes 29-year-old terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov's radicalization can be attributed in part to a lack of language and culture-specific inclusion, among Uzbek nationals attempting to integrate into U.S. culture.
Saipov reportedly planned his deadly attack in Lower Manhattan for weeks, leaving authorities with many questions about what led him to become radicalized in the U.S.
Saipov was living in Paterson, New Jersey, 32 kilometers from New York city where some neighbors say they did not notice signs of unusual behavior.
“He was friendly to me, I don’t know about anyone else on the block," said neighbor Carlos Batista.
More preventative measures needed
While New York City has a robust counter-terrorism unit, additional preventative approaches to countering radicalization are needed, according to Bennett Clifford, Research Fellow of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.
“While it's very difficult to stop an attack like a vehicular-based attack as it is happening, once the individual has decided to commit the attack, there are a number of things before that individual reaches that level that can potentially push them down a different path," said Bennett Clifford, a research fellow at George Washington University's program on extremism.
Activists within New York’s Uzbek community say what’s missing from the conversation is a greater support network for its foreign nationals.
“In the future we want to have our own community center where we can gather together and discuss issues in Uzbek, because now there is no such place, and people need some information. So where do they seek it? The internet," community activist Ilkhomjon Kenjabayev told VOA.
The conversation comes as President Trump argues for an end to the U.S. diversity visa that allowed Saipov to enter the country legally in 2010. But Abdullah Kwaja, of the Turkestanian American Association, says terrorism has no nationality.
“Uzbek culture does not say or teach to kill the innocent and neither [does] Islam. We came to the United States to contribute and not harm anyone," Kwaja noted.
By fostering inclusion and language-specific outreach, he hopes, new immigrants will be better suited to build a prosperous community in their new country.