|From The Times Union timesunion.com
A hero comes home to rest
Muslim soldier who was killed in Afghanistan is laid to rest in Colonie
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
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First published: Tuesday, September 23, 2008
COLONIE -- First Lt. Mohsin Naqvi returned to the Al-Fatemah Islamic Center in a flag-draped coffin on Monday, three months after he married his wife, Raazia, in the mosque and left for Afghanistan.
In a day marked by high emotion and a blending of Army tradition and Muslim ritual, Naqvi was mourned at the mosque before being buried with full military honors in Evergreen Memorial Park.
The Pakistan-born first lieutenant died Wednesday with three other soldiers in Gerdia Seria, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle they were in, causing it to overturn, the Army reported.
Naqvi's father said Monday that the 26-year-old from Newburgh wanted to be buried in the Capital Region because the soldier often visited his wife and sister at their home in Mechanicville and his brother at the University at Albany.
"He gave the ultimate sacrifice -- his life -- just for America," Nazar Naqvi said while standing at his son's grave. The father's grief momentarily turned as he chided the American media for what he said was a false portrayal of all Muslims after 9/11.
"Why are we Muslims being blamed for something done by 19 people? Why? Why is that? We are patriotic Americans," Nazar Naqvi said.
The funeral on the first day of autumn started at about 1 p.m., with uniformed Army leaders untying and removing their shoes out of respect for Muslim tradition to walk the casket into the mosque. More than 100 men in typical American clothing and women in traditional Arabic garb and headdress mourned in separate locations, with the women's wailing audible from all parts of the building.
The service at the mosque was poignant but simple. There were no speeches, no pictures of Naqvi nor even flowers by the casket. A voice amplified by a microphone conducted Muslim prayers, and four rows of men knelt and quietly repeated the verses in a humid room. The space was mostly barren except for hanging rugs, some artwork and a large wooden chair for religious leaders. Those praying occasionally stood up with their hands outstretched toward their faces.
Female mourners were given their own time at the casket before moving behind a partition to observe the remainder of the ceremony. Televisions broadcast the event. A female family member who had draped herself over the casket had to be pulled off.
Inside, Army officers stood in socks, their arms hanging, hands locked and heads down.
"Allah Akbar," the crowd repeated.
Mohsin Naqvi, who moved to the U.S. at age 8, joined the Army four days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He wanted to improve relations between the cultures of his youth and his adopted homeland.
Naqvi was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment out of Fort Benning, Ga.
He fought in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and re-enlisted for a tour of Afghanistan. The 2006 graduate of the State University at Geneseo, deployed a day after his wedding, which was attended by Imdad Imam, president of the Islamic Center.
"I was stunned by his passion, energy," Imam said Monday. Mohsin Naqvi also was known for an enthusiastic spirit and a sense of humor that knew no bounds, family members said. It was that same determination that helped him weather constant mean-spirited insults from Army leaders and soldiers over his ethnicity and background, his father said adding "Everyone called him names."
The Naqvi family opened up the services to the media but requested that women in attendance not be interviewed or photographed.
The Army coordinated the planning of the services with the Naqvi family, the mosque, the funeral home and others to respect Muslim religious and cultural practices while still maintaining Army protocol, said Capt. Doug Baker, the Army's casualty assistance officer for the family.
The prayer service lasted less than a half-hour. Soldiers carried the casket to a waiting vehicle.
At the cemetery, male mourners lined a walkway and helped carry the casket to the grave site. They set it down three times on the way. Men chanted. Women cried uncontrollably.
An Army rifle salute ensued, followed by the playing of taps. An officer handed Raazia the flag from her husband's coffin, and she broke down as she received it.
"There are no greater patriots than Lt. Mohsin Naqvi," the officer said. He presented the Purple Heart and Bronze Star to his widow. Nearby, 18-year-old Hassan Naqvi wore his late brother's dogtag around his neck.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Mohsin Naqvi's mother had to be led away from the burial site. The casket was opened for a last time and another prayer made. After the coffin was lowered, the soldier's family and friends took turns shoveling dirt into the grave. A dirt loader finished the job.
"I am proud of him. Not just me, but all of us here," the late soldier's father said.