Friday, May 14, 2010

The breathtaking contrast between Shah Faisal and Faisal Shahzad

It's the stuff legends are made of. Two men, born and raised thousands of miles apart in worlds that couldn't have been more different yet connected by a common, unseen bound.

The stories of Faisal Shahzad and Shah Faisal remind me of Jeffrey Archer’s fantastic novel, Kane and Abel. The Pakistani American and Indian Kashmiri doctor are both young and share a name that is one of the most popular in the Muslim world. Faisal literally means someone who speaks or upholds the truth.

Faisal One, the Pakistani American who refreshed and brought home the horror of the 9/11 last week for Americans with the Times Square bombing plot, ostensibly got the best of everything that the great American dream could offer.

Yet something went wrong somewhere and he snapped. His innocent, likable cherubic face with an infectious smile that stares out of television screens and newspaper front pages doesn’t quite fit the profile of a killer or a terrorist who could bomb a square full of people.

Apparently, in these extraordinary times being an Arab or Muslim is in itself a crime, especially when you also sport a beard and are found within the striking distance of a plane or other equally dangerous flying objects. But if Faisal Shahzad is indeed guilty of the crime he’s being accused of, it would come as no surprise to anyone, including his folks back home in Pakistan — or Muslims around the world.

If this is a war against the US and its Western allies for their blind and unquestioning support and mollycoddling of Israel, as we all understand it to be, it has yet to make the West revise or amend its wretched policies.  In fact, every attack, successful or not, makes Americans and rest of the world even more hostile toward Muslims everywhere and strengthens their enemies.

Faisal Two or Dr. Faisal, named after the ascetic Saudi king much loved for his vision and courage, is an incredible success story in a country where Muslims find themselves increasingly marginalized politically and economically.

Faisal Two stood first in perhaps the toughest and most grueling aptitude test on the planet, beating impossible odds and millions of competing candidates from across the billion plus country. Faisal not just comes from a religious minority, he grew up in a state that has been at the heart of the bitter India-Pakistan conflict. He didn’t go to any fancy convent or “English-medium school” and was educated along with other siblings by his mother after she lost her teacher husband early to an unknown assassin’s bullet.

The breathtaking contrast between Dr. Faisal and Faisal Shahzad, his Pakistani American namesake, amazes me no end.  They are in the same age group and are Muslim. Yet the trajectories they have charted for themselves are as poles apart as Kane and Abel could have been.

I am sure men like Faisal Shahzad when they decide to take the plunge are driven by anger and a misplaced sense of sacrifice. But with their Ivy League education and talent, they could have done more for their people, making an invaluable difference if only they had positively articulated their anger and concern.

If Muslims are keen to take on the world and confront the injustices heaped on them all these years, violence is not the way to do it. Sowing peace, not chaos, is the mantra. Construction, not destruction, is the way forward. Honesty, hard work and excellence, and not violence and strife, are the way forward.
If we wish to find our way and our lost place in the world, we can do so only by following the path of Shah Faisal, and not Faisal Shahzad.

From Aijaz Zaka Syed's article in Arab News
To read the full article click here.

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