The Pakistani Doctor Who Worried That He'd Be Racially Profiled Reacts to the Tsarnaev Manhunt

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 19 2013 3:45 PM

The Pakistani Doctor Who Worried That He'd Be Racially Profiled Reacts to the Tsarnaev Manhunt

Haider Javed Warraich is a resident at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. When he arrived at work today, he learned about the fate of a patient who'd arrived, been treated for 15 minutes—even given an open-chest massage to stimulate his heart—and pronounced dead. The patient was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, "Suspect #1" in the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Technically speaking, he was "white."

That didn't really matter, but it was relevant in this way: Warraich had worried that the suspect would look like him. As he wrote in a widely shared New York Times column, he's a "20-something Pakistani male with dark stubble," a look that usually appears in movies when a terrorist or archvillain is called for. Tsarnaev didn't look like that, but would it matter?

"I was disappointed and angry because I don't know what the motivations of the killers were," says Warraich. "I was disappointed because they do belong to a Muslim majority—they came from a Chechen background.
And I just feel angry, because I want this guy to be caught. I'm sure the Chechen people are angry, because they aren't responsible for this, but everyone from a Muslim country is bound to be disappointed. His background and his motivations are extrapolated to other Muslims, other people from Muslim countries. It's been done in the past."

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What would happen this time? "I don't know. My wife and I were hoping to have a baby this year. I don't know what the effect will be. If our parents wanted to visit us, could they? In the past, when something like this has happened, visa issuances, visa policy, become much more strict. That's very true when you're coming from Pakistan."

But Warraich is impressed by how calmly everyone at work is handling the crisis. "Not many hospitals do much prevention to help residents who were involved in taking care of this sort of thing," he says. "On Tuesday, instead of doing the regular conference we do every day, we had this hour when everyone talked about what their feelings were. This is not something that has happened before."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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