In the wake of 9/11, Muslim-Americans across the nation felt a measure of scrutiny, but by and large officials and the public had the sense, if not immediately realized, that the attackers fit into a very specific subset of ultra-fundamentalists.
Not so with the failed Times Square bombing. Though on a much smaller scale the implication of Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American with no particular history of ties with militant groups or obvious inclination toward radicalism, has had dramatic ramifications on the Pakistani community in the US.
In fact it is Shahzad’s very ordinariness that has caused serious problems for other very ordinary Pakistanis living in the US, who are finding themselves subject to enormous suspicion on the basis of their similarity. If Shahzad, a mild-mannered financial analyst living in Connecticut, could become a terrorist, everybody becomes a potential suspect.
That endless, unavoidable suspicion is already having an impact, as students no longer want to come to the US to study, graduates no longer want to come to the US to work, and there is a belief that tourism to the US will likely drop as well.
For the hundreds of thousands of Pakistani-Americans, this adds up to fewer visits from relatives in Pakistan, more hassles at the airport, and a growing sense of isolation. For some this means trying to pass themselves off as Indians to avoid scrutiny. For others, it means trying to live life as normally as possible and hope that the suspicion of them eventually passes. With the Obama Administration constantly escalating the fight in Pakistan, however, this could be a long wait.