Magazine article The New Yorker

Morning in Midwood

Magazine article The New Yorker

Morning in Midwood

Article excerpt

With the arrest last week of two Brooklyn roommates who were allegedly on their way to Syria to join ISIS, water-cooler conversation around town turned, once again, to the secret lives of youths. "Young people, they don't have much to lose. They can easily be brainwashed," Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who runs the Soufan Group, a security firm that tracks Islamic extremism, said. So what makes them join a jihadist movement? Before their arrest, Akhror Saidakhmetov, nineteen, who worked in electronics kiosks, and Abdurasul Juraboev, twenty-four, who had a job chopping vegetables at the Gyro King on Foster Avenue, resided in Midwood, a diverse neighborhood of Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and immigrants from Poland and South and Central Asia.

The arrests flew in the face of the local conventional wisdom. At the Gyro King, a Pakistani man in a hoodie and sweatpants said, "The young people here? Mostly they're staying at home, because their parents don't let them do stuff. They go to school and home. That's it." A man at a visa service on Coney Island Avenue painted a similar picture: "Young people here are good . They don't go out drinking."

A twenty-year-old Jamaican man named Shakwan, who was working the counter at a gym down the block, had a different take. "It's a boiling pot," he said. "Is that what they say?" He lives nearby and has friends of every nationality, he said. "Arabs, Pakistanis. For a while, I was the only black kid." Juraboev is from Uzbekistan and Saidakhmetov is from Kazakhstan.

Shakwan didn't know them, but he said that the Gyro King is popular with local kids. "They make cheesesteaks, too. That's the secret." (The restaurant's Yelp reviews confirm Shakwan's assessment of the food: "When I see people say that there was roaches in the meal that is ridiculous. They are confusing it for a cardamom that looks different but its not a roach very delicious food I recommend it to everyone.")

Shakwan questioned the idea that the local teens are all quiet and dutiful. "To be honest with you? They all smoke," he said, referring to marijuana. "You might think that it doesn't happen, but, trust me, everybody does it." Hangout spots include Junior's Pizza and Fried Chicken, the Kent movie theatre, and local basements, where teen-agers play video games like Call of Duty. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.