WASHINGTON: A Pakistani-American girl, only 12, refused to go to school on Tuesday, saying she fears other students will ask her questions about the suspect held in New York for a failed attempt to bomb Times Square.
Another girl, 11, went to school when her mother persuaded her to but the mother had to go back to school during the lunch break to counsel her.
A 53-year old man throttled his laughter at a dinner in a Virginia restaurant as a US television channel identified the suspect as a Pakistani-American. “That’s it. We are cooked,” he remarked.
“Sad, very sad,” said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US and Britain who is now working on a book in Washington. “It will hurt all Pakistanis, particularly those living in the United States.”
The Pakistani American Public Affairs Committee condemned the Times Square attempted bomb plot and appreciated the efforts of the US enforcement agencies for saving hundreds of lives.
“PAKPAC is shocked and saddened to learn that the prime suspect is of Pakistani heritage,” said a statement issued in Washington.
“This individual or any accomplice should be tried and punished under American judicial system. Whether this is an act of a lone individual or a group, it harms everyone and benefits no one.”
As a community, Pakistani-Americans have “zero tolerance for such acts as they damage and disrupt the way of life of all Americans”.
PAKPAC also welcomed the full cooperation offered by the Pakistani government.
America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation, CAIR held a special news conference in Washington to condemn the bombing attempt.
CAIR leaders assured other Americans that Muslims living in America were as “peace loving as any other group” and stood ready to assist the administration’s efforts to root out terrorism.
These immediate reactions in and around the US capital reflect the fears and trepidations of the Pakistani and Muslim communities in North America as they brace themselves for possible repercussions of the involvement of yet another Pakistani in an alleged terror plot.
Raza Jafri recalled walking near the White House a day after 9/11 when two men stopped him and his wife and shouted: “Terrorists, terrorists. Arrest them.”
The first thing he did was to ask his wife not to wear Pakistani dress in public until it was safe to do so. “It can get worse now,” he said.
At a religious gathering in Springfield Virginia, Imam Wali prayed that “all those who are giving a bad name to Islam and Pakistan may be shown the right path.”
Muhammad Younas Ansari of Lahore asked his Pakistani-American friends, “why are you so unhappy here? I have never heard of Indian or Bangladeshi Muslims being involved in such activities, why?”
One of his friends thought that some Pakistanis living in America suffered from a major cultural shock. “No matter how unhappy a Pakistani says he is in America, he does not want to go back,” said the friend.
“The Pakistanis enjoy the benefits of living in America. Love earning dollars. Love the prosperity that the dollar brings. They love showing off their dollars when they go to Pakistan. Yet, they never tire of criticising America. They think Pakistan is a paradise but all are afraid of returning home.”
Hamza Muhammad of Falls Church, Virginia, noted that the entire Pakistani society shared the blame for allowing religious extremists and fanatics to function. “They never tire of condemning the extremists but also never take any practical step to purge them,” he observed.
“How should we, living in America contribute to the fight against terrorism?” asked Tahira Mussarat Hussain, a Maryland resident.
“We are against fanaticism but our voices are not heard. We want the whole world to know that we oppose all messages of hate.”
Mr Siddiqui, another Pakistani-American who only gave his last name, said that Pakistan needed to “deal with the root cause” of terrorism.
He suggested massive reform of the education system, which should include “revision of textbooks that preach hate against other religions, closure of all those madressahs that indulge in hate-mongering and more money for the right type of education”.