Attempted Attack on Times Square
Washington D.C., May 4, 2010 - The Pakistani American
Leadership Center (PAL-C) condemns the attempted vehicle bomb attack on
Times Square. PAL-C commends law enforcement and vigilant citizens
(including a Senegalese Muslim immigrant, Aliou Niasse, who first noticed
the suspicious smoke coming from the vehicle) for helping to prevent the
plot and apprehend the suspect. The Center also applauds the words of New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who stated,
"We will not be intimidated by those who hate the Freedoms
that make this city and this country so great. We will not tolerate any
bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers."
PAL-C also recommends the following article published today,
partly in response to the attempted attack:
Some of My Best
Friends Are Pakistanis
by Ethan Casey
SAN DIEGO, May 4 - As I write this, the
news that the man arrested for trying to blow up Times Square is a U.S.
citizen of Pakistani origin has only begun to sink in. What is this going
to mean for other U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin - and for me, as their
This article's headline is an ironic allusion to something people used to
say to disavow bigotry: "Some of my best friends are Jews." It's
also a straight statement of fact: some of my best friends are
Pakistanis. And I want the world to know that, especially in these times
and at this moment, because I think it's very important for us to remember
that not all U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin blow stuff up.
Assuming we're being told the truth about 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad of
Bridgeport, Connecticut, it might be fair to ask: With friends like these,
who needs enemies? But it's precisely because of the horrific misguidedness
of a dangerous few that we need to stay calm and remind ourselves and each
other that we're all in this together. I said exactly this, in fact, on
Sunday when I spoke in support of The Citizens Foundation (www.tcfusa.org) at the South Asian American Arts
Festival put on by Zanbeel Art at the Santa Monica Art Studios. I'll say it
again tonight, when I speak to the Pakistani Students Association at UC-San
The Citizens Foundation is one of several well-run nonprofits supported by
the largely very suburban and middle-class Pakistani-American community
that are quietly doing the most urgently necessary work: providing
education, and thereby hope and self-respect, to the burgeoning young
generation of the Pakistani poor. Too quietly: groups like TCF-USA must
start tooting their own horns more assertively to the American public. I
would go so far as to say that countering the impression of Pakistanis
conveyed by the likes of Faisal Shahzad is not only an opportunity for the
Pakistani-American community, but an obligation.
I'm not saying that Pakistani Americans have to prove that they're not
terrorists. The rest of us must remember that there is no such thing as
collective guilt, and that the presumption of innocence is a basic American
principle. I am saying that the existing institutions of Pakistani America
need to move - now - beyond inviting each other to the existing endless
round of charity fundraisers, worthy and useful as those are. Pakistani
Americans are a remarkably talented and resourceful community who pay a lot
of money to the U.S. Treasury in taxes and contribute very substantially to
American society as physicians, engineers, teachers and business people.
For better or worse, Americans listen to people who insist on being heard,
and if you don't toot your own horn, nobody else is gonna toot it for you.
My writing and public speaking are all about emphasizing to Americans the
humanity of Pakistanis, their experience of and views on contemporary
history, the complexity of their political and geographical situation, and
the enjoyable and interesting apects of my own experience of Pakistan,
dating back to 1995. As my friend Todd Shea (www.shinehumanity.org) likes to say, Americans hear 2%
of Pakistan's story 98% of the time. I feel very fortunate to have
experienced Pakistan directly at a relatively innocent time both in history
and in my own life, before the country's name became a dirty word in the
West. We can't go back to that time, but we can remember it - and we can
and should take a deep breath, reach out to each other as allies, and work
together to do what needs to be done.
What needs to be done? Young Pakistanis need to be given hope and
self-respect by way of education and jobs. This is already being done by
The Citizens Foundation, by Developments in Literacy (www.dil.org) - at whose San Diego fundraiser I'll be
speaking this Saturday, May 8 - by the Human Development Foundation (www.hdf.com), by Pakistani pop star Shehzad Roy's
Zindagi Trust (www.zindagitrust.org), and famously by Greg Mortenson.
But why is Greg Mortenson's the only one of these efforts that's well
known? Part of the answer, of course, is that he's white: church ladies and
Oprah watchers can relate to him as a virtual nephew or brother-in-law.
This is fine. But we need to get beyond the toxic supposition that America
is primarily a "white" and/or Christian country. It's not,
anymore, and that's a good thing.
So the other thing that needs to be done is that the Pakistani community
needs to ratchet up both its involvement in American society and politics
and its visibility. Call up your local schools and churches, invite your
neighbors to your home, all that good stuff, and by all means enlist me,
Todd Shea, and Greg Mortenson as envoys. But also support
Pakistani-American and other Muslm candidates for public office; insist on
meetings with existing officeholders, not only but especially those you
consider hostile to Muslims or Pakistan; and support and expand the
lobbying work of groups like the Pakistani American Leadership Center (www.pal-c.org) and the Council of Pakistan American
Affairs (www.councilofpakistanamericanaffairs.org). Get in the
American public's face, as fellow Americans, and help us all begin having a
more honest conversation about Pakistan, America, terrorism, and where our
countries and world are headed.
And I ask two things of my fellow non-Pakistani Americans: Go to the
trouble of educating yourselves about Pakistan - my books and inviting me
to speak are, indeed, good places to start. And, when you see pictures of
Faisal Shahzad over the coming days, keep in mind that, except for the buzz
cut, Tim McVeigh looked a lot like me.
ETHAN CASEY is the author of the travel books Alive and Well in
Pakistan: A Human Journey in a Dangerous Time (2004) and Overtaken
By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip (2010). They are available online at www.aliveandwellinpakistan.com/books www.facebook.com/ethancaseyfans, and he can be emailed
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