New York, NY —
Now that Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad is in federal custody, accused of an attempted car bombing in Times Square, conversations are happening all over the city about him -- especially in the Pakistani community. WNYC's Habiba Nosheen listened in on one conversation at Farrah's Gold and Diamond on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn.
Standing behind a glass counter that glitters with gold jewelry, two women who appear to be in their forties discuss the news of Faisal Shahzad's arrest. They speak in Urdu. Both women wear the traditional Pakistani salwar kameez. Referring to Saturday's incident, Haseena Alizai says, "It shouldn't happen.... It's very wrong.”
Her coworker, Meera Malik, seems skeptical of American news and says “whatever happens, straight away they blame the Pakistani community.”
She questions whether the suspect is even Pakistani and asks, “Has Geo news confirmed this?” (Geo is a leading Pakistani news channel and for some Pakistani immigrants like Malik it remains the only source of trusted news.)
When I tell her it has been confirmed the suspect is Pakistani, Malik shrugs and says, "Oh."
When the conversation of Shahzad’s status as a Pakistani-born naturalized American comes up, the women discuss what that means to them. Malik says the only reason people come to the U.S. is to get citizenship so they can make money. "Even if they are an American citizen," she says, "they would never sympathize with America. A Pakistani’s inner feeling and emotions will be towards Pakistan."
Alizai doesn’t see it that way. "No," she says. "We should think positively. Americans have given us citizenship. Yeah, we come here to make money, but we also live here! We live here like it's our own country."
But Alizai also says she often finds herself feeling alienated in her new country. She says when Americans come to a Pakistani store they are treated well, but when Pakistanis go to their store, the Americans have people follow them because of their clothes.
Alizai and Malik may disagree about the issues that have surfaced since the Times Square suspect was arrested, but they do agree on one point. Both say they hope the incident doesn't make life harder for them in their new country.