When I saw the Reuters article “Paksitanis pose as Indians after NY bomb scare” in my Twitter feed, my first reaction was “Really?!”
However, a closer look at the story shows that it’s nothing more than a fake trend story.
Here’s the story’s lede (as always, all emphasis is mine):
Pakistani merchants and job seekers in the United States, still reeling from economic hardship since the September 11 attacks of 2001, are posing as Indians to avoid discrimination in the wake of the Times Square bomb attempt.
Sounds shocking. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t provide the reader with any evidence that this is actually the case.
What the reader does get is a brief overview of the Pakistani community in the United States and the sad fact that many small businesses in Brooklyn have closed since September 2001 due to a drop in sales.
It isn’t until the eighth paragraph that these mysterious Pakistanis-turned-Indians are brought up at all:
“A lot of Pakistanis can’t get jobs after 9/11 and now it’s even worse,” said Asghar Choudhri, an accountant and chairman of Brooklyn’s Pakistani American Merchant Association. “They are now pretending they are Indian so they can get a job.”
The last half of this quote is just weird. The Times Square bomb attempt occurred on May 1, Faisal Shazad’s arrest was two days later. Are we really supposed to believe that droves of Pakistani Americans have convinced themselves to conceal their country of origin over the last four days?
Regardless of the strangeness of the quote, the next paragraph would have been the perfect place for the reporter to introduce readers to some Pakistanis-turned-Indians. So what do we get?
Nothing. At no point do we meet an ordinary Pakistani-American who has decided to change his identity in order to avoid discrimination. The entire headline is built around that quote I mentioned above.
So, dear readers, it is up to us to fill in the blanks. How would a Pakistani pose an an Indian (or vice versa)? Anyone else uncomfortable with the article’s assumption that all Pakistanis are Muslim and all Indians are Hindus? Or did you just find this article ridiculous?
Updated on 5/11: Slate’s Jack Shafer has chosen this story as his “Bogus trend story of the week.”