Little Pakistan Reacts to Arrest of Times Square Bomber

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By Althea A. Fung

New tickers in Times Square announce the capture of Faisal Shahzad. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

New tickers in Times Square announce the capture of Faisal Shahzad. (Photo Courtesy of AP)

As more information about the attempted car bombing in Times Square emerges, the mood of the Little Pakistan neighborhood has changed from indifference to concern about their adopted country’s safety and how the community will be perceived.

The humid rain kept many of the residents of Little Pakistan on Coney Island Avenue inside on Monday morning. A few women wearing saris shuffled down the street pushing shopping carts. In an area community center a group of women wearing black burqas learned how to conjugate “to have” in English.

The few people that were on the streets said quick hellos and goodbyes.

No one was talking about the attempted car bombing in Times Square that was originally believed to have been a terror attack perpetrated by the Taliban in Pakistan.

“We don’t really read the paper,” said Little Pakistan resident Omar Farooq “It’s too upsetting. We are just business people that do our business.”

As community residents woke to hear the bomber was a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, many were in disbelief.

“The community is shocked,” said Asghar Choudhri, a local accountant and president of the Pakistani American Federation of New York. “I couldn’t believe a Pakistani could do this.”

Faisal Shahzad was arrested late Monday night at Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a plane to Dubai.  Shahzad admitted to placing a bomb in a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder he bought two weeks earlier from a Connecticut college student.

The car was parked haphazardly in Times Square on Saturday about 6:30 p.m. with the engine still running when a couple of street vendors saw smoke coming from the car. The vendors flagged down a police officer and the police subsequently evacuated the theater district surrounding Times Square. Though the earlier reports that the bombing was affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban was disputed, Shahzad claims he was trained in Waziristan, law enforcement officials said.

As the story of Shahzad develops, the Pakistani community in Brooklyn is waiting anxiously to hear if anyone else was involved.

“The guy said he is the only one but I don’t think he could have done it alone,” said Choudhri. “Someone must have brain washed him.”

Though Shahzad said he worked alone, police in Pakistan made arrests in connection with the bombing.
Similar feelings are expressed throughout the community. At the Council of Peoples Organization, a multicultural organization that was originally formed to assist Pakistani Americans in New York after Sept. 11, many believe others are involved.

“I am relieved and grateful for the FBI’s swift capture,” said Mohammad Razvi, the organization’s executive director. “Hopefully they will get to all of them. I was just on the street talking to people. We were saying ‘Thank God.’”
Though many in the neighborhood are breathing a sigh of relief, there is worry that the Pakistani community in New York will receive more negative attention.

“One dirty fish can infect the whole pond,” said Choudhri. “I don’t know what the people will think of the Pakistani people.” Choudhri recalls the way Pakistanis in Little Pakistan were treated following Sept. 11.

“A lot of people left after 9/11. A lot were arrested. The FBI, immigration would come here and search people. Men were deported. So some went to Canada and other countries because here they would be asked ‘what is your status?’ We have suffered a lot. Businesses suffered. People started saying don’t go to Coney Island Avenue. They were afraid to come here,” Choudhri said.

Under the Special Registration policy implemented immediately after Sept. 11,, immigrants were required to register with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. However, many Muslim men who registered were then deported to their native countries. “People are being targeted currently,” said Sameer Ahmed, an attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

According to Ahmed the police and immigrant agents are constant fixtures in the neighborhood. Many residents complain to the local organizations that affiliate with the AALDEF about the police questioning them.

“We work with a community in Flushing, there is presence of NYPD, FBI and immigration. People are being targeted. Street vendors are questioned. There are some people with precarious immigration status, the police convince them to become informants,” said Ahmed. “In this case I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t an increase in harassment of Pakistani. It is very soon, it will take time to see.”

At the Makki Masjad Mosque, the largest mosque in the area, few came to speak about the arrest. But Mushtaq Ali, the general secretary of the mosque, is hoping for a quick trial and immediate punishment of the Shahzad so the community can move forward.

“This is a fair, lovely land. I don’t want anyone of those to come in this country,” he said. “They should be hanged or whatever punishment. This whole episode is unfortunate. Luckily the police found him. Now we can continue to build our network.”

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6 Responses to “Little Pakistan Reacts to Arrest of Times Square Bomber”

  1. Jaq kactuzi
    May 5, 2010 at 1:05 PM #

    “I couldn’t believe a Pakistani could do this.”

    And why not? Is it that Pakistanis have never done this in their homeland? Have they not done it in Europe? Why should they not do it here? What is new about a bomb in a market, mosque or hospital, or Times Square?

    The simple fact is that this is about your religion. You come to America and you bring your values with you and your values are not those of the West. The ideals of tolerance, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, equality and separation of religion and state are alien to you. Your values are those of Muhammed. Read your own hadith if you don’t understand those simple words. You might want to also consider Quran 9:111 – perhaps Shahzad was just doing what his god told him to do.

    Then, when evil happens, you pretend you don’t understand. You say that you are being targeted and complain about profiling and harassment. You talk about suffering in America yet you are treated here a million times better than under your sharia law. You do evil then pretend it has nothing to do with you.

    Tell me, is there a single Muslim anywhere that is honest about Islam and its teachings? Why is is so hard to ask yourself about a religion that makes people target men women and children?

    Or you can blame it on the evil infidels or people like that ask questions that you prefer not to hear.

  2. Bushra Asmar
    May 6, 2010 at 1:21 PM #

    Dear Jaq,
    Being a Muslim and Pakistani, I cant say that didnt hurt but I can absolutely understand where your coming from. Some extremists who dont know jack about Islam are going around pretending to be the ambassadors of Islam and justifying their cruel acts in the name of Islam.
    I humbly request you to kindly direct all your hatred towards the evil-doers and not the religion, cast or creed to which they claim to belong. Injustice and atrocity has NO RELIGION! Infact, its the very lack of religion that causes it.
    I dont know if I’ve been able to make my point clear here but I do hope that you will try and come into my shoes and see the what i’m trying to say.
    Thank you and God bless you.

  3. Damian Toppen
    May 7, 2010 at 5:14 PM #

    Yeah, I like what the series presumes to do. I simply hope they don’t run out of time again and have got to close the series when it is just passing the climax…like with Sora no Woto. I also wouldn’t position it on the same level as Yojouhan, but perhaps 2nd or third among all the anime this season. It has guts and it is fun to observe. A little spot of Bond, a tiny bit of Indie Jones…It’s merely reasonably entertaining and I haven’t seen some anime have that combination.

  4. Dennis H. Bennett
    May 11, 2010 at 12:55 PM #

    Bushra:
    I suggest you reacquaint yourself with Muhammed and the spread of Islam,. Hiding in a little section of Brooklyn and pretending to be a religion of peace is an absolute denial of your roots and practices-worldwide. Your use of the word God as a substitute for Allah clearly identifies you. The Quran is studded with references to hate nonmuslims, er, excuse me, “infidels.” While your social justice spin dumps the accusation of hatred on Jaq, it permeates your response. Once you become an American who has muslim roots and a Pakistani heritage then you will have successfully made the transition into citizenship with honesty.

  5. Anna
    May 17, 2010 at 7:34 PM #

    This is comment to Jaq Kactuzi, what if people came over to feel what it is like here. Because it is change and some are afraid good change doesn’t last long. So maybe some want this to be their last memory. Also, others the first day it’s great, but then it’s culture shock, they don’t want to go back but what is all they know and see in their life?
    I can’t say I understand them because I don’t know them all, but I do know a good friend of mine.
    Have a great day.

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  1. Midwood, Brooklyn: ‘Little Pakistan’ « Creeping Sharia - May 11, 2010

    […] Despite the incessant violence and jihad waged in Pakistan, Muslims of Little Pakistan are shocked that a Pakistani would do such a thing, via Little Pakistan Reacts to Arrest of Times Square Bomber: […]

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