The media in the US as well as in Pakistan is abuzz about Faisal Shahzad and information pours in so fast that it is very difficult to keep track of it. In these moments of information overload – when we know much and understand little – at least a few things should be clear to all and beyond dispute: the bombing attempted in New York City was heinous in intent and we should all be thankful that it was neither well-planned nor well-executed and the mayhem and murder that was intended was averted.
Authorities in Pakistan have done the right thing by assuring their counterparts in the US that they will cooperate fully in any investigation of this incident. Pakistanis in America should do the same. More than that, we need to be thinking about what happened here, and why. If, indeed, Faisal Shahzad was the man behind this attempted terror attack he may have (thankfully) caused no actual damage to New York City but he could deeply mutilate the reputation and selfconfidence of the Pakistani community in the United States.
One hopes that just as the citizens of New York did not let the car bomb blow up, Pakistanis in America will not let him destroy the self-confidence that this community has been so painstakingly reconstructing since the tragedy of 9/11. Even as new information flows in and pieces of the puzzle get put in place there are going to be many important questions about exactly what happened, when and how and why some of this does or does not fit into expected patterns. All of these are important – even critical – questions.
But equally important – and critical – for Pakistanis in America is the need to begin understanding what all of this means for them, now and into the future. Let us not shy away from the tough questions that we need to ask ourselves. But let us also not be tougher on ourselves than we need to be. Let us work very hard to understand how someone from amongst us could even contemplate such a horrible act.
But let us not let the horrible nature of this contemplation lead to the condemnation of an entire community. Let us understand him for what he is accused of being: a criminal; let us condemn him for what is charged with having done: a crime; but let us not allow his alleged criminality with our own identity. (This is an edited version from a longer piece on the writer's blog, Pakistaniat)