Educated and radical: Why Pakistan produces Faisal Shahzads
In Pakistan, educated middle-class youths such as Faisal Shahzad, the accused Times Square car bomber, have ready access to jihadist and other radical, anti-American resources.
What turns the affluent and educated offspring of the Pakistani middle-classes – young people such as Faisal Shahzad – toward militancy?Skip to next paragraph
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That’s a question some Pakistani analysts are mulling following the arrest last week of the accused Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. If found guilty, he would add to a string of high-profile college-educated terrorists of Pakistani origin, including “Lady Al Qaeda” Aafia Siddiqui and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
While the United States and the international community attempt to combat religious extremism through economic development, such as a recent American aid package to Pakistan pledging $7.5 billion of nonmilitary aid over 5 years, some argue that fighting poverty and illiteracy are not enough. Instead cultural factors, such as a virulently anti-American media, “toxic” syllabi at public schools, and the general availability of jihadist material may have become dangers as well.
Mr. Shahzad spent his formative years in Pakistan during the rule of the hard-line Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who instituted a school curriculum that bred intolerance toward religions other than Islam and glamorized militancy, notes Pervez Hoodbhoy, a social commentator and professor at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University.
“Murderous intent follows with the conviction that the US is responsible for all ills, both in Pakistan and the world of Islam,” he writes in Dawn, a leading English-language daily.
'Pakistan's answer to Glenn Beck'
Unchecked hate speech and rampant conspiracy theories in Pakistan may also play a part in radicalizing some of the nation’s educated youth, says Sherry Rehman, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party who was until recently the country’s Information Minister.
“These [programs] need to be looked at and reviewed. Instead of demonizing the Taliban, they glamorize them,” she says.