Good riddance to good riddance

Published: October 7, 2010

Do we dislike Faisal Shahzad because he is a criminal or because he is an educated urban criminal?

Jahanzaib Haque’s blog post, “Good riddance to Faisal Shahzad” contains justified condemnation for a man who is only the latest in a stream of Pakistanis and Muslims engendering unnecessary shame and vitriol. While I agree with Mr Haque’s sentiment, I cannot condone it. Too often, we are quick to dismiss anything unsuitable to our tastes but fail to understand or comprehend why it happens in the first place. More importantly, we do nothing to address the problem so that similar future events do not occur. Rather, we sweep it under the rug, say “good riddance” and hope it never arises again.

This is a big mistake.

Faisal Shahzad was an American citizen. He moved to America, lived the American dream, but slowly found himself disenchanted with the process. Somewhere along the line, he returned to Pakistan, linked with the Taliban and decided to bomb Times Square. He was caught, sentenced, end of story.

No, it’s not. The story is just beginning.

Whatever Faisal Shahzad’s background, he is still Pakistani. More importantly, Faisal Shahzad is one of many so-called urban, educated and exposed individuals who have been given opportunities most in this country are bereft of. Instead, like many who fit this demographic, they are slowly indoctrinated into extremism until a desire for malice in the name of religion takes over. Why does this happen?

It is easy to dismiss Faisal Shahzad and say he’s not like us, that we will not become like him. However, the most common complaint I heard after his capture was that, “he was one of us.” This was a very disturbing realization for two reasons. The first because those uttering this were not concerned about radicalization or terrorism; they were concerned about the subsequent harassment they would undergo at US airports. It is a very myopic and selfish perspective on behalf of Pakistanis who are more concerned with their convenience than darker, more familiar realities. Where did we go wrong?

Secondly, and more poignantly, it means there may be numerous Faisal Shehzad’s lurking in social groups, living their lives as contributing members of society while mulling over dastardly, terrorist plots in their heads. This means that the only difference between one of us and Faisal Shehzad is one of will and determination. Like many of us, he was just an ordinary guy going about his life, until something happened that gave him the will to sit and study CCTV footage of Times Square to maximize damage. Something macabre ensued that prompted him to load his truck with explosives with the intention to hurt, maim and kill. How did this happen?

Faisal Shahzad may just have been one lone actor driven to the brink by his circumstances. Maybe he was paid by our popular friends in Waziristan to do this. Or it’s possible that it is something more sinister.  Maybe Faisal is the result of a society that reveres thieves and criminals, that condones hypocrisy and greed,  that stands idly while youngsters in places like Sialkot are bludgeoned to death in public. Maybe Faisal is the product of a society so obsessed with material gain that the plight of the poor around him hardened his heart and furthered his resolve for salvation, come what may. Or maybe, Faisal really is like one us, our friends or our family members.  Perhaps our society’s apathy and lethargy in confronting, discussing or debating such matters left him with few options other than violence. Is it not time that we realized that the problem is not with people like him, but with people like us for failing to recognize or rectify such instances?

Are we not to blame for saying “good riddance,” too often, hoping the problem disappears?

As Cassius said in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”


Hamza Usman

A writer with a Bachelor's in Political Science & History and a Master's in Global Communications. He tweets at @hamzausman.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hasan

    yes his name doesnt even sound like terrorist. May be he should adopt sirname Al-terroristiaRecommend

  • S. Ali Raza

    .. and yes, he is now an American national. But ure right, there are many more like him right on the tipping edge out there. So the world needs to start behaving with Pakistan. Recommend

  • The Only Normal Person Here.

    When Samuel huntington put forward the theory of clash of civilization I felt like correcting him and saying it would actually be “clash of ideologies”

    The fact of the matter is … with each passing day, the muslims are dividing into two extremes of the same spectrum. So YES there would surely be many Faisal Shehzads and even Afia Siddiqui, and even among us. But they are hard to detect. SadlyRecommend

  • A Suhail

    I recall 11 years ago while in Arizona I was harassed by a group of Tableghi’s to leave school and follow them in their quest to find allah. How hard I tried to get rid of them but they didnt stop so I stopped going to the mosque but they still had my telephone so the harassment continued for some time. Same thing happening in Pennsylvania but I was more mature so I was able to fend them off. These jihadi’s lurk in mosque’s in the west ready to pounce on any vulnerable Pakistani they can get their hand on. I believe Faisal fell victim to one of these jihadi/tableghi person and his downfall started. Recommend

  • Joe Lukawski.

    Hamza Usman, you are a wordsmith. Great to see such heartfelt writing from an old buddy. Much love and peace. Joe.Recommend

  • Deen

    Well put point janab, this is exactly the point I have been trying to make with my peers, and this is exactly the thought that I am trying to provoke amongst others, that what we see on the surface does not tell us of the complete story. We need to learn and understand the origins of that story, situation, or circumstance. We need to see the picture within the picture. In Faisal Shahzad’s case, we need to understand what set of events triggered a change for the worse. Recommend

  • Ali

    Brilliant stuff!!!!!! the best article in a long time in tribune and if tribune has to develop some credibility they have to publish stuff like this and not Zara barlasRecommend

  • Sakina

    I like it! New approach… the structural one! lol..Recommend

  • sana

    @ A suhail

    sir, this is also one of our narrow mindedness..that we see every person with a beard and topi as TERRORIST !
    the reason i figured out from this is that people are soo short on knowledge about THEIR OWN relegion that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong ; which leads to them saying stuff like you just said!
    EVERY DARHI AND TOPI PERSON IS NOT A TERRORIST ! plz try to understand that.

    my thought exactly! i wish everone can understand this fact and take steps to relinquish such possible occurences!Recommend

  • Obaid


    Couple of them are ok.Recommend

  • Hermoon Gill

    @A Suhail:
    Tableeghis are almost always non-violent and non-political.They hardly ever indulge in any violent discussion or behavior,one reason why Tableeghi jamaats from Pakistan or India have a higher rate of visa acceptance for US and Europe.
    However,personally I classify them as a cult.Recommend

  • A Suhail

    I have nothing against Tableeghi Jamaat. Maybe I should have been more clear when I wrote the above comment. My only issue was that they wanted me to leave school and follow them to find allah and one of the new comer to the school followed them and ditched school. Secondly the mosque in Arizona I mentioned was named in the sept 11 report as one of the places where few of the hijackers passed through. Again I am just giving my views not implicating anyone. Recommend

  • Talat

    too much garbage ! …………. no matter how much of it we get rid of , more of it comes along …………… Faisal Shehzad kind of garbage comes from a degenerating civilization ………… more is on the way because we are witnessing the degeneration , disintegration of what used to be a civilization once Recommend

  • sana

    yess a couple of them are.. as you’ve seen FAISAL SHAHZAD doesnt have a darhi, is not wearing a topi, and niether does he have his shalwar pulled up…IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!

    the point i made was that people everywhere (without thinking ) imply the title TERRORIST at anyone who has a darhi ! and the saddest part is that WE MUSLIMS do that too! even though everyone knows that to have a darhi is WAJAB! ( ok..i know you’ll disagree with me at that part…usually people do )
    And my answer to that is to open a fiqh book and see for yourself!Recommend

  • hu

    @ Talat

    If civilization is indeed degenerating, is it not up to those that recognize the decline to struggle to uphold, maintain and protect those values? Is society degenerating because of our indifference or apathy? With all due respect, it is easy to deem Faisal Shehzad “garbage,” but it is exactly this kind of attitude that is causing the decline in civilization to which you refer. Were you to actually respect and understand individuals, paving the way toward tolerance and mutual understanding, this form of hate and vitriol would not be as prevalent. I urge you and those like you to wake up, drop complacency and consider dialogue and personal betterment. Recommend

  • A Suhail

    So the conversation is being changed into what a terrorist look like instead of why are we producing these people. One thing is clear they might be clean shaven or wearing a jeans but when they are having their picture taken next to Baitullah or one of his kind they have a topi and their shalwar is pulled up. So not all muslims who wear topi are terrorists but all terrorists do wear topi’s. The pictures are online and the videos are online too. I personally dont care what they wear and what they say what I care about the nationality i.e Pakistani. He is from Pakistan and he dragged our name into mud by his actions. Why are we producing these deranged individuals and what can we do to stop it? Recommend

  • Talha

    It is clearly the indoctrination at the hands of extremists lurking in and around mosques in western countries.

    Like A.Suhail, some used to come to my residence in London with their half baked theories but I told them once and for all, ‘aggravate me and I will hurt you back’.

    No problem since then, all extremists must be dealt with a heavy hand before a weak minded individual falls for their sinister plans.Recommend

  • Alinawaz

    I am impressed by your way of thinking, not only is it rational but also productive. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Instead of wasting our energy condemning the terrorists (that will get us no where) we should be analyzing the psychology of the terrorist. What makes them commit such hateful atrocities? Why do they do this? It is definitely not something any rational man would do. How is it that they can be brainwashed (excuse the poor choice of word) to such an extent that they can take their own lives as well as destroy the lives of their families? Recommend

  • Hermoon Gill

    @A Suhail:
    There was no reason in stopping going to the masjid just because you’d face tableeghi jamaat people.We encounter them all the time,in masjids, in our neighborhoods,everywhere but all you need to do is to show polite dis-inclination and they usually don’t persist again.
    Tableeghi people are taught in their training not to harass people unnecessarily.

    We encounter sales people all the time and many of us actually find jobs doing door to door marketing,even though the stuff we try to sell is garbage but we do our best to sell stuff no one wants.Tableeghi people after all try to persuade people to do namaz.
    Anyway thats about it.Recommend

  • Hermoon Gill

    This idiot Shahzad has changed the way American media looks at immigrants from Pakistan.
    Those holding US passports are no longer called US citizens as once they used to.God forbid if anything bad happens we would instantly be referred to as ‘Pakistani-American who naturalized in 2009’.And this is repeated ad nauseum 24/7 on all the major networks.

    Not too long ago a Korean-American held several people hostage in the Discovery headquarters.Did you notice,not once was he referred to as a ‘terrorist’ even though he was.Unfortunately this t word is now reserved for Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular.Sad but true.Recommend