Faisal Shahzad

Faisal Shahzad

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Faisal Shahzad


Faisal Shahzad is a naturalized US citizen of Pakistani origin who attempted the botched car bombing attack in Times Square on May 1, 2010. The man’s primary cause was to participate in the Islamic holy war against the West, especially the United States, in retaliation for its role in the Afghanistan War (Berlatsky, 2011). Therefore, his grievances included avenging the deaths of Muslims in the war mentioned above because, according to him, they were ”innocent” and America was to blame for their ”murders”. Consequently, he felt compelled to avenge their deaths and hoped to stop the ”oppression” of Muslims through his actions on US soil because he had an opportunity that most of his fellow countrymen and followers of Islam did not.


The recruitment of Faisal Shahzad into a terrorist network followed a similar pattern that most extremists located overseas use: the internet. Notably, Shahzad came from an affluent family since his father was a two-star general in the Pakistan air force, a senior military rank that enabled them to live a lavish lifestyle. Moreover, he attended elite schools and was even able to come to the US in 1997, although he always had poor grades (CBS NEWS, 2010). Therefore, Shahzad’s involvement in terrorism can be linked to an ideological shift because he was materially comfortable.

However, his disdain for America was entrenched immediately after the 2008 global economic crisis in which he was a victim of foreclosure. As a Pashtun, his frequent short trips back home cemented his resolve to join a terror network, and a single online connection with the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, marked his entry into extremism. The cleric mentioned above was a well-known figure within the intelligence community for spreading vicious anti-West hate messages and always encouraged his followers to participate in the mujahedeen holy war against non-muslims in any way they could. Therefore, the trend of motivating lone-man terrorist attacks is a significant departure from the previous modus operandi in which terrorists acted in groups.


Faisal Shahzad traveled to Peshawar, a tribal Afghan region well-known hideout for hosting terrorist training camps, on Jul 3, 2009, and returned to the United States five months later. Therefore, at this camp, he made vital contacts with other extremists, learned bomb-making techniques, and indulged in the immoral, evil, and wrong interpretations of Islam. For instance, at such camps, volunteers are fed misinformation about non-Muslims and encouraged to be ”martyrs” in the pretext of fighting for the freedom of all Muslims. It is a warped ideology that is illegal, against all tenets of humanity, and causes untold suffering to innocent people globally while also destroying property (Khan, 2006). Notably, this case follows the constructivist model in which an individual undergoes an identity change based on the evolution of a new concept (Winter & Feixas, 2019). For example, Shahzad suddenly changed his opinion of the US and its citizens despite his earlier desire to become an American.

Result of Extremism

The return journey on Feb 3, 2010, on American soil marked Shahzad’s execution of his terror plot in which he bought, in cash to avoid it being traced to him, a Nissan Pathfinder, loaded it with a crudely-assembled bomb of fireworks, propane, and gasoline and parked the vehicle in a busy section of Times Square, New York on May 1, 2010 (CBS NEWS, 2010). He also had a 9 mm pistol and several rounds of ammunition. However, since he was on the FBI watch list, he was arrested aboard an Emirates flight 202 bound for Pakistan through Dubai after the failed bomb plot.

Court Case

Faisal Shahzad was charged with five terror-related crimes; shipping an explosive device, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, using and being in possession of a destructive device,  and attempting to destroy buildings, cars, and other property, and attempting to decapitate and maim people in the United States. The case was filed by the Justice Department and tried and ruled by Southern District of New York federal judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum. The defendant faced and was convicted to life imprisonment without parole on Oct 5, 2010, because he pleaded guilty to all charges, was unremorseful, and the case occurred at a time the US faced a growing extremist threat and needed to deter such attacks in the future (Adams & Nasir, 2010). Consequently, the case demonstrates that an individual of sound mind can use the internet to gain and create terrorism links which can lead to disastrous consequences to the society.

However, the trial and conviction of Faisal Shahzad raised serious issues about the enforcement of the Miranda Rights, which guarantee the freedom of any American citizen of their right to remain silent during interrogations (CBS NEWS, 2010). Nevertheless, Shahzad’s cooperation led to the arrest of other international facilitators of the bomb plot in Pakistan, and the Taliban, a known terrorist network, claimed responsibility for the failed attack (Kuriakose, 2017). Therefore, the case provides useful insight into the radicalization process for unsuspicious individuals who later transform their ideologies into extremist tendencies, thereby becoming a threat to the safety of others and endangering the security of nations globally.


Adams, L. & Nasir, A. (2010, Sep 19). Inside the Mind of the Times Square Bomber. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/19/times-square-bomber

Berlatsky, N. (2011). The Taliban. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

CBS NEWS (2010, May 4). Holder: Faizal Shahzad Admits Role in Bomb Plot. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/holder-faisal-shahzad-admits-role-in-bomb-plot/

Khan, L. A. (2006). A theory of international terrorism: Understanding Islamic militancy. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Kuriakose, K. (2017). Globalization and Economic Justice: From Terrorism to Global Peace.

Winter, D. & Feixas, G. (2019). Toward a Constructivist Model of Radicalization and Deradicalization: A Conceptual and Methodological Proposal. Frontiers in Psychology,10, 412. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414560/

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