Tiny Minority of Extremists Update: Aafia Siddiqui is a heroine in Pakistan. One would think that if the vast majority of Muslims there rejected the ideology of Al-Qaeda, as Charles Krauthammer and so many others assume they do, she would not have attained this exalted status. “U.S. Sees a Terror Threat; Pakistanis See a Heroine,” by Salman Masood and Carlotta Gall for the New York Times, March 5 (thanks to all who sent this in):
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Relations between the United States and Pakistan often have a through-the-looking-glass quality, where almost nothing appears quite the same from the other side. The latest example is the case of Aafia Siddiqui.
In the United States, authorities say Ms. Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who once studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is suspected of having links to Al Qaeda. She was convicted by a New York court in February of trying to kill American military officers while in custody in 2008 in Afghanistan. She faces life in prison when she is sentenced in May.
In Pakistan, she has become a national symbol of honor and victimization so potent that politicians of all stripes, Islamists, the news media and an increasingly anti-American public have all lined up to champion her claim of innocence.
In a rare display of unity, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who has described Ms. Siddiqui as a “daughter of the nation,” and the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, have promised to push for her release. Last week, senators passed a resolution to demand her return to Pakistan.
Her sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, a neurologist who studied and taught at Johns Hopkins University, has led a countrywide campaign on Aafia Siddiqui’s behalf. In recent weeks, hundreds of people, including professionals and civil rights campaigners, have taken to the streets in support.
The broad outpouring has forced the government, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, to publicly assure Ms. Siddiqui’s supporters that it will continue its legal assistance, which has amounted to $2 million already. […]
“The prime minister has suggested to visiting American delegations that releasing Aafia Siddiqui unconditionally would greatly improve the image of the Americans in the public’s eyes,” a close aide to Mr. Gilani said. […]
She had a long involvement in jihadi causes, even while a student at M.I.T. and, later, at Brandeis University. The F.B.I. has accused her of opening a post office box in 2002 in the name of Majid Khan, who is suspected of being a Qaeda member and is being held in the United States military prison at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba.
Divorced from her first husband, Dr. Muhammad Amjad Khan, the father of her three children, she married Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of the professed orchestrator of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in early 2003, according to court documents filed in the United States. […]
She was arrested in July 2008 in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with her eldest child, Ahmed, then 12, who told Afghan investigators they had arrived by road from Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, two days before. While in custody, prosecutors said, she grabbed a rifle from a police station floor and fired on Army officers and F.B.I. agents, hitting no one. She was shot in the abdomen. […]
“The iconization of Aafia Siddiqui as an emblem of Pakistani womanhood represents the kind of female rebel acceptable in a rapidly Islamizing Pakistani society,” said Rafia Zakaria, a columnist for Dawn, the leading English daily newspaper….
Rapidly Islamizing indeed.