Jewish Journal


May 20, 2010

If you read one story about the Times Square bombing suspect ...



The must-read story of last weekend was The New York Times’ massive profile of Times Square suspect Faisal Shahzad. You should read it, but before you set out to do so, make sure you have a free day or so. The tome written by The Andrea Elliott, and reported by a big team that included her, weighs in at 3,111 words, and it’s jam-packed with rich details:

The wide, maple-shaded streets leading to the University of Bridgeport seem a long way from Karachi. The quiet, tidy campus overlooks a tranquil stretch of the Long Island Sound, where ferries pass in the distance.

When Mr. Shahzad started classes there, more than a third of the college’s students were foreigners — 15 of them from Pakistan. Mr. Shahzad stood out. He walked with a confident air, showing off his gym-honed muscles in tight T-shirts. He carried the air of a privileged upbringing, coming off as aloof and, at times, snobbish.

While the Pakistani students stuck together, playing cricket and collecting free meals at the campus mosque, Mr. Shahzad had a wider circle of friends and a fuller social calendar. A skilled cook, he drew students to his dorm room with the scent of his simmering lobia, a Pakistani lentil dish. He worked out obsessively and, on weekends, hit New York City’s Bengali-theme nightclubs. He loved women, recalled a former classmate, and “could drink anyone under the table.” He showed little interest in Islam.

Mr. Shahzad rarely seemed pressed for cash — he had a large television in his dorm room and drove a Mitsubishi Galant. But he still looked for work. Nimble with his hands — he would later take to gardening and painting — he landed a job designing intricate gold pendants for a jeweler at a mall in Milford. While Mr. Shahzad did not seem to distinguish himself academically, he came across as witty, street smart and “fast on his feet,” recalled one classmate. He and his Pakistani peers were chasing the same dream, the classmate said: “Back then, it was all about fast cars and becoming something.”

While Mr. Shahzad seemed eager to carve out a life in his host country, his anger at America flared early. The classmate recalled walking into Mr. Shahzad’s apartment a few days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to find him staring at news footage of the planes hitting the towers.

“They had it coming,” Mr. Shahzad said, according to the friend, a Pakistani-American. The friend said Mr. Shahzad believed that Western countries had conspired to mistreat Muslims. “He would just go off,” said the friend, adding that he paid little heed to Mr. Shahzad’s eruptions, dismissing them as a product of his fierce Pashtun pride.

Read the rest here.

I wrote a bit more about the article at GetReligion, but, in reality, I found the article to be so excellent that I had little to no criticism. Check it out here.

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