Meet Alioune Niasse, the Senegalese Muslim Brother Who May Have Been the Very First to Sound the Alarm About the Times Square Terrorist. But You Wouldn’t Know That From Media Coverage, Would You?
Thanks to Think Progress and Democracy Now! The Times in the UK has the story:
Aliou Niasse, a street vendor selling framed photographs of New York, said that he was the first to spot the car containing the bomb, which pulled up right in front of his cart on the corner of 45th street and Broadway next to the Marriott hotel.
“I didn’t see the car pull up or notice the driver because I was busy with customers. But when I looked up I saw that smoke appeared to be coming from the car. This would have been around 6.30 pm.
“I thought I should call 911, but my English is not very good and I had no credit left on my phone, so I walked over to Lance, who has the T-shirt stall next to mine, and told him. He said we shouldn’t call 911. Immediately he alerted a police officer near by,” said Mr Niasse, who is originally from Senegal and who has been a vendor in Times Square for about eight years.
So Lance Orton and Duane Jackson are taking all the credit and are feted as American heroes, notably because they are Vietnam vets. Of course, this looks good on networks like Fox News and CNN. Duane Jackson is wearing his full uniform, medals, and vet cap and is saluting well-wishers. Everyone’s chest swells. But it takes the British press to say that it was probably an African Muslim immigrant who actually sounded the alarm?
Have you seen CBS/NBC/ABC correct themselves lately? Or Orton and Jackson fessing up to the truth of what happened that night, as they pick up dinners from Mayor Bloomberg, phone calls from President Obama, and plaudits from ordinary passersby?
If this is true, what a couple of celebrity hogs.
As the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights notes, “South Asian, and Muslim communities may yield useful information to those fighting terrorism. Arabs and Arab Americans also offer the government an important source of Arabic speakers and translators. The singling out of Arabs, South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs for investigation regardless of whether any credible evidence links them to terrorism will simply alienate these individuals and compromise the anti-terrorism effort.”
Reflecting on Niasse’s good samaritanism Muslim-American author Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes, “It’s somewhat consoling to know that the man who first noticed the smoking Nissan Pathfinder and sought help is also Muslim, a Senegalese immigrant. … I grew up Muslim in this country, with Muslim friends and non-Muslim friends, and there was very little difference between the two groups. We were all American.”
Democracy Now! went to interview Niasse yesterday. The video inteview is there also. From the transcript:
ALIOUNE NIASS: I am the first person who saw. Look at this, this is my table right here. I do not know how Lance, he’s going to see this. You see, his table’s over there. He was sitting there. [Inaudible] Look at this. This is my table right here. This one right here. You see the car? This is my car. That car right here. I don’t know. So, when I come in the morning, they tell me Lance, he said he saw the car first. Oh, I am surprised. I’m so mad, believe me. But it doesn’t matter.
ANJALI KAMAT: Alioune Niass has been at the spot for almost a decade selling framed photographs of celebrities and the New York skyline.
ALIOUNE NIASS: I feed my family from this table.
ANJALI KAMAT: I asked him exactly what he saw on Saturday evening.
ALIOUNE NIASS: So, Saturday, this is my work. You see this, I have a customer, she’s a lady. And I sell to her already so I try to get the bag. When I tried to get the bag, I took the bag already, I see the car smoking. I told her, “You see? This car is smoking.” So, I give her the picture and then I go back to my table, behind the table I see this car is more smoking. I try to go to the phone to try to make phone call I told Lance, “This car is smoking, I’m going to call 911.” Lance, he told me, “Don’t call, the cops are right here on the corner. When you go there, he’s there.” So, I tried to go to the corner to get the cops. Before I go to get the cops, the [inaudible] he went there before I go. So I tried- I’m standing here, he tell the cop already, so me and [Inaudible] and cop, we come together. So we were standing, the cop called 911. Firemen, everybody coming like ten minutes, twenty minutes. They tell us to move down over there. We leave our merchandise here.
ANJALI KAMAT: And you didn’t see anyone in the car?
ALIOUNE NIASS: No, I don’t see anyone. That time, my brother, he’s coming to see inside the car but he told me, “I don’t see nothing, it’s dark,” that’s what he tell me. But I’m not coming to the car. I’m trying to get the cop or make a phone call.
ANJALI KAMAT: And you just saw smoke coming out of the car?
ALIOUNE NIASS: Yeah.
ANJALI KAMAT: And you told your friend over there, Lance?
ALIOUNE NIASS: Yes. I told him. I told Mohammad also, my brother, my cousin, I mean. I told both of them.
ANJALI KAMAT: When Alioune returned to his spot the next morning, he was briefly questioned by the police. What did the police ask you when they questioned you?
ALIOUNE NIASS: Yeah, they ask me, “You saw the guy when he come out the car?” I said, “No.” He ask me, “How you see the car?” Like same question you ask me he asked me. I answer. They took my license number and my address and my phone number. So they tell me, “If I need you, I’m going to call you.”
ANJALI KAMAT: Have you been contacted by the police.
ALIOUNE NIASS: Not yet.
ANJALI KAMAT: Or anyone? Any law enforcement agencies?
ALIOUNE NIASS: Not yet. Not yet.
ANJALI KAMAT: You’re from Senegal?
ALIOUNE NIASS: Yeah, I’m from Senegal, yeah.
ANJALI KAMAT: You’re a Muslim?
ALIOUNE NIASS: Yeah, I’m Muslim.
ANJALI KAMAT: I asked Alioune Niass what his reaction was when he found out the suspect in the attempted bombing is a Muslim-American born in Pakistan.
ALIOUNE NIASS: That not religion, because Islam religion is not terrorist. Because if I know this guy is Muslim, if I know that, I’m going to catch him before he run away.
ANJALI KAMAT: How do you think Muslims are generally perceived in New York by police, by law enforcement, when it comes to investigations into terrorism cases?
ALIOUNE NIASS: If one person is bad, they going to say everybody for this religion. That is, I think, wrong.
ANJALI KAMAT: Alioune’s not awaiting for a call from the president, but as one of the first people to notice and speak out about the smoke rising from the SUV, he does want some recognition that a Muslim immigrant from Senegal might also be counted among the eyes and ears of New York City.