In December 2009, less than half a year ago, I wrote that education will not save us from terrorism. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Christmas Bomber” thwarted as he tried to detonate a bomb as he flew from Nigeria to Detroit, was not a rough kid from a broken home radicalized by Islamists in the ghettos of Nigeria. He was in fact a member of the uppercrust of Nigerian society, his father was a former Minister of Finance for the Nigerian, and he had studied at university in London.
And it is with that introduction that I introduce the Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad, the person believed responsible for parking an SUV full of fertilizer in Times Square earlier this week.
Faisal Shahzad is the son of a Pakistani military official born in 1979, but he had lived in the United States since the age of 19. He had a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from US institutions.
Like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, he didn’t leave much of an impression with those who knew him. He was quiet and kept to himself. He managed to obtain an H1B visa for the US in 2002, a stunning achievement after the 2001 recession and 9/11, when the number of these visas being issued was reduced dramatically and were only available for very few skilled workers. Cosmetics firm Elizabeth Arden, where Shahzad worked as a temporary clerk and then in the accounting department, applied for the visa on Mr. Shahzad’s behalf through an employment agency called Accountants Inc.
He went on to marry a Colorado-born wife of Pakistani background, and they had two kids together. After Elizabeth Arden, he worked for more than three years as a consultant in a Connecticut financial marketing company. He obtained US citizenship last year through his wife, a natural born US citizen. Things went sour recently — he gave up his home in a foreclosure and left his job — and his family is back in Pakistan, and he was bound to join them when he was captured by the FBI on a Dubai-bound plane.
To all of this, I can only repeat my Robert D. Kaplan-esque conclusion from my previous post–education will not save us. The long-term battle against Islamist terror is actually fueled by the promotion of education. Whether it be 19th century France, 20th century Russia and China, or 21st century Islamic World, education is not the cure for political extremism but often the catalyst to violence. Pursuing the mass education of the poor as policy to counter the spread of extremism, is misguided.