The Enigma of Faisal Shahzad

By Gabe Pressman
|  Tuesday, Oct 5, 2010  |  Updated 11:03 PM EDT
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The Enigma of Faisal Shahzad

Even as he begins a life term in prison, Faisal Shahzad is defiant and arrogant.

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Even as he begins a life term in prison, Faisal Shahzad is defiant and arrogant.

“The defeat of the United States is imminent,” he told Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum after she imposed sentence.

She replied: “You appear to be someone who was capable of education and I do hope you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Quran wants you to kill lots of people.”

Shazad tried to set off a bomb in Times Square. His plan was defeated by an alert street vendor and the bravery and quick thinking of our police department.

There is a strange photograph of the terrorist with his family taken in Times Square about two years before his frustrated effort to kill people in that very place. What emotional and psychological factors led him from that moment to the day when he tried to kill people visiting the heart of New York is a mystery.

But there is no doubt that the bravado Faisal displayed in the courtroom showed how dangerous he was. Judge Cedarbaum engaged in a kind of debate with Faisal in the courtroom.

When she recommended that he consider whether the Quran wants him to kill “lots of people,” the Pakistan-born defendant countered with: “The Quran gives us the right to defend and that’s all I’m doing…We are only Muslims…but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists and we will keep on terrorizing you.”

It’s hard to understand how, in the 21st century, in the name of religion, innocent people have to be slaughtered. We can only assume that it’s against the ethical principles upon which Islam is founded.

His former neighbors in Shelton, Connecticut, saw a family man with a wife and two small children. He told them he worked on Wall Street.

A man who bought a two-bedroom apartment in Norwalk from Shahzad in 2004 said:  “He was just a normal dude, You wouldn’t have looked at him twice.”

Another neighbor, in Bridgeport, talked about how Shahzad acted at a time when he was beset by financial troubles and banks were foreclosing on his house. “He always looked on edge,” she said. “We knew something weird was going on.”

Prosecutors said Shahzad spent five months in Pakistan and returned to the United States in February, educated in how to carry out the Times Square car bomb plot.

Was he a “like a normal dude” or was he  “always on edge”?  These were wildly different perceptions at different times. Or maybe it shows that hindsight is always 20-20. It could be, too, that both perceptions are correct.

The sad fact is that, in the free society we treasure, a man like Shahzad can move around freely and plot our destruction.

Thanks to the NYPD under Commissioner Ray Kelly and the FBI and other intelligence agencies, we are protected against the likes of this man. But nothing is 100 percent certain. That’s the price we pay for living in a free country. Most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.
 

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