Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The NPR Transcript
This is a transcript I made of the NPR interview that Day-To-Day's Madeleine Brand conducted with Nina Bernstein of The New York Times who has written four articles on the two detained 16-year-old girls:
Madeleine Brand: "Nina Bernstein, who are these two girls? Tell us a bit about them, where they came from..."
Nina Bernstein: "One girl is from Bangladesh. She came when she was four with her parents I believe on a tourist visa that they overstayed and she grew up really entirely in Queens and became increasingly drawn to her parents' Muslim faith. The other girl is from Guinea and I think has been in the country even longer. She was a baby really when she came here and all her brothers and sisters were born in this country and are American citizens and she attended - both of them attended - New York City high schools. The Bangladeshi girl seems to be the one who drew the FBI's attention initially."
Madeleine Brand: "So it's unclear that they even know each other, these two girls."
Nina Bernstein: "That's right it's unclear that they even know each other. In fact the Bangladeshi girl's mother, who spoke with her briefly in detention, reported that they only met - according to the girl - at 26 Federal Plaza, the immigration headquarters, where they were taken separately on the day of their arrest, March 24th, and that the Guinean girl seeing this fellow teenager in Muslim garb gave her a traditional Muslim greeting and, presumably, federal agents watching this imagined that they were friends and possibly even co-conspirators."
Madeleine Brand: "How did they come to the attention to the FBI to begin with?"
Nina Bernstein: "Okay, this Bangladeshi girl who had become increasingly religious and had wore a full veil to her Manhattan high school decided at the beginning of her junior year that she did not want to continue in school. She couldn't deal with just the normal teenage banter of - through sexually latent I guess - between boys and girls at a co-ed high school. It offended her religious sensibilities according to the parent-teacher coordinator that I interviewed."
"And the parents confirmed this, that she would come home upset and she wanted - she insisted that she wanted - to do a home-schooling course instead - a correspondence course. But, in this case, these parents, these Bangaledeshi parents, were not at all happy with this. You know, this father really describes himself as someone who doesn't pray as a Muslim, and he believes firmly in secular education and he wanted his daughter to complete public high school. So there was tension over that."
"And then one day she tells him that she's met this young Muslim man who wants to marry her - now she's 16. And you know he says "you're much too young" and he refuses these overtures and the daughter seems to accept this. Then comes a day when she - she's perhaps run away. The father is worried, he's afraid she's eloped, and he goes to the local police precinct seeking help. And he told me he trusts the police - you know - he believes in the American system and this is what he now believes set off the whole investigation."
"While the Bangladeshi girl was turning more to her religion, the Guinean girl seemed to be opening to the world. And she was so popular in her school that she came in second when she ran for student body president."
"It's really - you have a whole school now of teachers and parents and students who are wrestling with the fact that we wanted the government to be vigilant, we want to have tools to protect us in a potential like suicide bombing. I mean there's probably nothing more scary, especially to New Yorkers who ride the subway every day. But, on the other hand, neither do we want to see civil liberties eroded. They're confronting the idea that someone can be plucked from their midst who seemed and - by all accounts - is just a normal teenager."
End of Interview.