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Shahzad's arrest: What American Muslims say

May 18, 2010 22:48 IST

Since South Asians look similar and unofficial racial profiling still exists, the Times Square bomb and Faisal Shahzad's arrest has sent shockwaves through the community.

Many lamented that the plot came at a time when the aftershocks of 9/11 were waning. They fear that this will lead to more harassment of people from south Asia, irrespective of the country they come from.

'Cowardly, un-Islamic'
"My first reaction was that Junoon performed only a week ago in Times Square for Earth Day promoting a message of peace, unity and pluralism and then some wacko goes and ruins the atmosphere by trying to blow up Times Square," said Salman Ahmad, founder of the Pakistani rock band Junoon, who lives in New York and teaches at Queens College. "It is sad to see young Muslims across the planet being brainwashed by murderous thugs masquerading as holy men. It is cowardly and un-Islamic to kill innocent men, women and children and there are clear fatwas against wanton violence. The people who attempt to kill in the name of religion are the enemies of Islam and humanity, they are terrorists, not heroes.

To defeat brand Taliban and Al Qaeda we need more communication across cultures and promote more interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue. That is the message of Junoon's music, the story of my recent book Rock and Roll Jihad and the work that my wife Dr Samina Ahmad and I do through our nonprofit organization Salman and Samina Global wellness Initiative."

'Maligning the entire Muslim community'

"More than anything, I am shocked that the perpetrator of this terrorist act happened to be a Muslim youth," said Kalim Kawaja, for president, Association of Indian Muslims of America. "It ends up maligning the entire Muslim community, the overwhelming majority of whom are very peaceful and constructive people. The 5 million American Muslims and especially my community of a quarter million Indian-American Muslims, categorically condemn this most heinous terrorist attack.  It reminds us that all of us need to do more advocacy with the Muslim youth to protect them from the poisonous propaganda of the handful of terrorists, and to propel them on the right path."

'What is it that motivates them?'

"I am not surprised because it is not the first time but I am very distressed to see young, healthy, good-looking and educated people ready to kill and get killed," said Jeevan Zutshi of the Kashmiri American Federation. "This young man is not doing it because he is miserably poor and needs to raise money for his family at the cost of his life. What is it that motivates them? Is it the religious indoctrination and/or perversion?"

'Policy about terrorism may need review'

"Attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes are often root of conflict and feed into a cycle of hostility, and these conflicts tend to shape daily interactions and relationships between different groups, especially different ethnic groups, ultimately compromising the progress of the human race," said Atlanta-based community leader Subash Razdan.

"But in the short term a carrot and stick policy may be needed. The American policy about terrorism may need a careful review. Not too long ago, the same Talibans were pampered by the US/CIA for their vested purposes to defeat the USSR in the region.

Likewise, when the US — and NATO allies — took the pro-Israel stand against the Islamists/Palestinians, it pampered the Islamists of Pakistan at the expense of India during the Cold War era, for the balancing act. Now all are playing with open cards.

US long-term policy on Pakistan is probably not clear to anyone — not even the US strategists — because Pakistan cannot be presently perceived as one entity but very diverse and complex. I think Pakistan may be a bigger problem to handle for the USA than Afghanistan and thus it may not be that easy for US and its allies to genuinely pull out from the region and claim victory."

'High time US re-evaluated its policies towards Pakistan'
"May be it is high time US re-evaluated its policies towards Pakistan," said
George Abraham, general secretary, Indian National Overseas Congress. "It is a known fact that Pakistan has a terror infrastructure within, that targets countries like India and some in the West. Pakistani military and intelligence establishments turn a blind eye towards those militants. Unless these terror networks are totally dismantled, persons like Shahzad will continue to derive the benefits from their training that is basically to kill and maim innocent civilians."

'Moderate Muslims should speak up'

"The Almighty does not want innocent civilians killed using His name," said Houston-based community activist Sam Kannappan. "Moderate Muslims should speak up against terror related activities. Otherwise, these acts will make Muslims lose their due place in the future. Countries such as the US and India would put curbs on (individual) freedom for extremist groups."

'Hopeful that this is the last attempted terrorist attack'

"The Obama administration vouched to fight terror till it is defeated. We, the immigrant Americans, pledge our solidarity with the administration towards this goal,"  said Dr Najma Sultana, psychiatrist and founding member of Non Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India. "I am hopeful that this is the last attempted terrorist attack not only in America but around the globe. Stereotyping a community and wholesale suspicions are alienating and demoralizing and divisive.

The administration wisely highlighted  this issue by pointing out that the backlash against the innocent
immigrants/Muslims should be protected. We  also must urge the world leaders to resolve all outstanding political conflicts through peaceful political negotiations in earnest. This will also take the winds out of the potential terrorist sails."

George Joseph in New York