Conspiracy theories abound about Faisal Shahzad on a daily basis but only a minimal amount of credible information can be sifted through all the speculations. After all these days, we still do not know Faisal Shahzad’s real story. We don’t know whether he really had a connection with a terrorist organisation or was he, as many suspect him to be, a ‘lone ranger’. We don’t know what his family and friends, who are facing scathing interrogations, no doubt, have to say about how their son and dear friend ended up as a perpetrator of mass destruction. We don’t know what motivated Faisal- was it the money, or was he misled and brainwashed into believing that he was rendering Islam great service by killing innocent people?
Its mind boggling, not to say downright scary, how an educated man like Faisal fell for it. How was he made to believe that he could kill people in the middle of Times Square , hop onto the next flight to Dubai, and make a clean escape? This chap had a lot going for him we are told, but then, why did the thought of spending the rest of his life in prison not scare him? Did he not think of how his children would have to go through life being known as a terrorist’s children? And what about the repercussions this would have for our country, Pakistan, and us Pakistanis? Guilty by association, all of us. I don’t know Faisal Shahzad and I don’t know what went through his head. But like all other Pakistanis, my life too has been affected by him and others like him.
Living in a foreign country and a multi cultural society, criminal acts of violence perpetrated by Pakistanis have become a constant source of embarrassment and shame for us, the non- violent, moderate majority of Pakistan who have to face accusatory glances whenever our countrymen bring us all down with such abhorrent acts (and please don’t tell me that Faisal Shahzad is not a Pakistani. He is as much a Pakistani as any one of us. The colour of one’s passport does change one’s identity).
In an effort to counter the image that Pakistan is a terrorist-producing vending machine, we find ourselves trying to make a point at any given forum that all Pakistanis are not gun toting, explosive strapped freaks who kill and destroy in the name of religion.
Some of us here in the UAE, through our own personal efforts, are doing what we can to show the world “the other side of Pakistan”. We hold art and literary events such as book readings, plays and theatre, art exhibitions, sufi music and qawwali concerts etc. which appeal to foreigners and Pakistanis alike. We want non-Pakistanis to know that we have talent which can compete internationally in the field of creative arts and we want Pakistanis to take ownership of people who have contributed to Pakistan positively and be proud of our fellow countrymen.
As a citizen of Pakistan, this is our counter punch to the blows being inflicted to our image and our identity. This is our way of educating the world as well as ourselves about who we really are. It’s a journey in self discovery as much as in self portrayal. The educated, affluent Pakistanis, often berated for being slack about coming to the forefront and actively partaking in nationalistic activities, have stepped out of their private lives and are taking measurable initiative to highlight through our art, music and literature a side of Pakistan which often surprises people.
We try to impress upon them the best we can that ours is not a violent religion, and that contrary to what it seems, we do not see loss of innocent lives as a victory for Islam or Pakistan. We hope that our voice will be heard over the din of blasts and wails.
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