The arrest and charging of Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, for a botched bombing attempt at Times Square in New York is the reiteration of an old story. A well-born and well-educated individual goes wrong, charmed by an ideology that has expired its shelf life but continues to attract new recruits.
Shahzad’s case has all these ingredients. The son of a Pakistani air force officer, he was born into comfortable middle-class existence. He went on to chase the American dream and nearly managed to get it. Yet something went horribly wrong. Between a home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a good job, came a sojourn to Waziristan, Pakistan, hardly a tourist spot for a financial analyst. The rest, as the old cliché has it, is history. A Nissan SUV loaded with propane cylinders primed to blow up was caught in the nick of time. Shahzad nearly managed to escape to Dubai and thence the badlands of Pakistan.
The episode illustrates a well-known pattern: That of well-educated, middle-class Muslim youth falling prey to Political Islam, a controversial way of looking at and rejecting the modern world. In this world, it is not poverty and destitution that drive youngsters to violence, but a rejection of the modern world. This can only mean one thing: inability to adapt in societies based on individual values that prize individual achievements. That failure is then projected on an imaginary enemy: “Western imperialism” against Islam.
This has been seen before. The London bombers of 7 July 2005 came from a similar background. They, too, made fateful visits to Pakistan and returned infected with the same pernicious ideology.
Which brings us to the second link in this deadly chain: A country called Pakistan. Even after Shahzad’s arrest with literally a truckload of forensic evidence against him, there were angry denials in his country of birth. The country’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, chose to blame, albeit indirectly, the US government. His claim: Shahzad was a US citizen and hence it was incumbent on the government of that country to “keep an eye on him”. That is not how liberal societies function.
That denial has deep roots and this is not an occasion to go into them. Here it is sufficient to say that unless this rabid ideology is checked, it will only consume Pakistan.
Why is Pakistan in a state of denial on terrorism? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org