There are so many things written about Faisal Shahzad, some write about his childhood as a military baby, others write the timeline that led to the incident in New York, but most try to understand why and how he ended up as the Times Square would-be bomber.
The interest that stems from understanding him, comes from a greater place – knowing where Pakistanis stand among themselves and in the world.
In order to get some insight I emailed a few friends, more specifically Pakistani and Pakistani-American males who are at different stages of their lives, in Pakistan and in the US. The responses were grim, angry, and genuine.
Some of the respondents were born and raised in America and have Pakistani origins, some were born and raised in Pakistan and went abroad for an education, some are trying to go abroad, but all of them have a similar backgrounds like Shahzad; they come from ‘good’ families and are educated individuals.
Taaha from New Jersey wrote, “I think Faisal Shahzad represents a dangerous and one-off occurrence. But this one-off occurrence has repercussions for us all. He was a naturalised Pakistani American…News reports say he was from an upper-class Pashtun family in Pakistan and while at school here – was considered a womaniser and a party-er. He may, in fact, have acted more American than many of us who choose not do drink or socialise in the same way.”
“I believe this would-be terrorist is just that, a WOULD-BE terrorist ... whether his mind was already warped or whether someone warped it in its fragile state, the truth is, he was turned, and turned quickly. I fear the power that these people have to label entire generations of Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans.”
Taaha mentioned in his email that his family was concerned about the possibility of a backlash and during a family gathering, did express their desire for him and his brothers to call themselves Indian if anyone asks about their origins. His friends and their families had also shared the same sentiments.
Shoaib from New York wrote the following, “I do believe he was guilty of planting the bomb there, but his motives are unclear. He was educated here, had a house here and a family including a daughter – leaving your family so suddenly after investing so much in them isn’t easy. I want to know what the real reasons were for him doing what he did. Was it really to strike a blow to America or was it something insane? Would his parents be in danger if he didn’t agree to it? Everything as it stands seems too convenient. Regardless of the motive, I don’t believe spilling innocent blood would have been the right move. Ergo, I think he’s a d**** bag.
When I asked Shoaib in an email if he feared any repercussions from society for being a Pakistani male, his answer was different than most of the respondents who did have some fear, he wrote back, “No. I believe we’ve learned a lot from our American history, enough not to stereotype.”
But what did concern him was the possibility of other Faisal Shahzads, “I fear him being an inspiration to the weak minded. I think change comes from within. If you don't like the system, work on it from the inside. It'll take longer, but slow and steady wins the race. Although, recently it seems whenever we make progress from the inside, some d***** like this comes along to screw it up for us again.”
But Taaha and Shoaib live in the United States, how similar are their concerns to the Pakistani male living in Pakistan? Actually, their concerns are similar.
A doctor, a Pakistani citizen, harbored strong resentment against Faisal Shahzad. He wrote the following, “What was he thinking? Did he change anything? But I can tell you what he has done. He has made sure that all the Pakistanis (and Muslims) in the world are not misquoted as “Peace Loving.” He has embarrassed Muslims all over the world and most of all, closed all doors of opportunity for young, enthusiastic, educated and progressive Pakistanis.”
The doctor is actually in the process of applying to research positions abroad, and has started to feel the difficulties of applying as a Pakistani citizen, “It was never easy to travel to a foreign land and get an education because of the finances and current visa issues but this will definitely make it worse. In fact we can already see the effects. Someone should ask Faisal, how anxiously he waited for his visa when he went to the US? The US visa clearance time has increased by 6-12 months because of SECURITY ISSUES.”
Another doctor, who is a Pakistani national in the US, remembered from his med-school days that people who lived seemingly normal lives and made radical decisions which endangered that lifestyle were classic signs of having schizophrenia. It could be something to think about.
Faisal Shahzad had all the benefits of any immigrant who migrates to the United States; he acquired an education, started a career, got married, made a home, and then created a family. Yet despite all of his successes – he was still unhappy. But only Faisal Shahzad can answer for the life he chose.
In the meantime, what does the Pakistani or Pakistani-American male have to do now: pretend to hate his own country when he applies to go abroad or change his ways so that some ignorant neighbor doesn’t think he is the next Faisal Shahzad and call the authorities on him the next time he returns home from a trip to Pakistan?
Sadef A. Kully is a Reporter/Associate Producer for Dawn.com.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.