Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

Revolution: Egypt

“Revolution: Egypt”
Sajed Bhandari

 The great thing about waking up every day is not being completely sure what one will take part in during the subsequent hours. I woke up yesterday thinking I would get some work done for my Accounting Theory class, but I ended up getting a phone call from a close friend of mine; an Egyptian guy who like every good Muslim boy, is going to medical school next semester iA. He called and asked if I wanted to go to the protest in front of the Egyptian consulate in Manhattan. I, wanting to be a revolutionary as badly as can be possible, decided to tag along and go yell and carry signs for a few hours. I am going to leave out the bit about his horrible driving and parking skills and just skip to the part that really mattered; the protest. We walked along 46th street trying to catch up with the protesters who marched towards the consulate from the UN building. In all honesty, I was not expecting a large protest. At the most, I thought it would be my two Egyptian friends, a family or two and I yelling at the consulate. I have never been happier about my expectations failing to comply with reality as I was last night. I was beautifully wrong, my expectations failed marvellously. As we walked along the busy street, I noticed an endless procession of signs and loud Arabs (redundant) turning a corner about two city-blocks ahead of us. I was excited. There are very few times in this life that I have become visibly excited. (Lost Season 4 premiere, getting an offer from a great accounting firm, and waiting on line for the Simpsons Movie being the only three times.) But watching this gathering of so many people, marching in solidarity with the demands of the Egyptians in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in that ancient country was short of nothing but beautiful. It is the only word that would describe a motley crowd of individuals marching for human dignity and liberty. It was beautiful. I intend on keeping this article short and devoid of as many political thoughts as I possibly can.

 We walked, hundreds of Muslim, Christian, religious, secular, Arab, non-Arab, veiled and unveiled individuals along the wintry streets of New York with solidarity with the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutionaries (at least I was, a Tunisian started this whole thing). We marched, socialist and capitalist to remind others of what the Egyptians are fighting for. They are fighting for far more than their daily bread. They are fighting for the right to life, to disagree, to live as life is meant to be lived—with liberty and dignity. They fight for fundamental human rights and democracy is the institution from which all human rights can find any true practice in this world. It is easy for those who do not take part in any form of activism to criticize those who do as hopelessly idealistic and providing no material change in the world. But it took one individual ready to submit to immolation so his countrymen could be free and subsequently spark a revolution that will bring about reform throughout the Muslim world. This revolution emerged from the ashes of Mohamed Bouazizi and the world is a better place for his sacrifice.

 I offer no political commentary or insight because at the end of the day this is not a political issue for me, rather it is an issue of basic human existence. Why am I, a Bengali American, so enthralled by the revolution in Egypt? It is because the revolution is liberty manifest on the ancient streets of Egypt. Liberty is surrounded by risk. The comfort a tyrant offers with his security is beautiful to so many. But at what price? Do we offer atop the tyrant’s altar the dignity of the individual in hopes of the tyrant’s providential hands offering stability? What life is it that requires as the price of security the basic human rights of an individual? The freedom to speak, to worship as one sees fit and to live without coercion are basic human rights. It is time we rid ourselves of the slave mentality and attain the dignity that every human being deserves. The slave mentality is that which states “the stability offered by the tyrant is superior to the risks associated with fighting for liberty”. At its core is the belief that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know. The Egyptians and Tunisians fighting on the streets disagree. They rise up against the slave mentality. The devils have ruled far too long over the lives of man and it is time we too rise up against all those who seek to deny life to the living.

Written by sajedbhandari

February 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Fareed Zakaria on Leadership

Fareed Zakaria on Leadership

Sajed Bhandari

I watch too much MSNBC for my own good.  This Sunday however, I had a chance to watch Fareed Zakaria’s special, “How to Lead” on CNN.  Yeah the name is kind of ostentatious but the hour long show was amazing.  I have read two of Zakaria’s books and am in the process of finishing his first book, From Wealth to Power along with watching his show and reading his articles as much as I can.  I was on the fence about him for a while, but his support of religious freedom and property rights in the middle of the Fox News-generated chaos that was the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy this summer solidified my affinity towards Fareed Zakaria.  The man is a genius.  A naturalized citizen of Indian origin, Fareed Zakaria studied at both Yale and Harvard, completing his PhD in politics and international relations underneath Samuel Huntington (of “Clash of Civilizations” fame).  His work, The Future of Freedom, does a good job of “refudiating” (<- Yay Palin) his professor’s clash of civilizations claim.  I probably should write a review of that book too.  In any case, what follows is a brief summary of the program.

The show consisted primarily of interviews of leaders and their experiences leading in government, commerce, academia and war along with their various definitions of leadership.  The two leaders in governance and politics interviewed by Zakaria were Prime Minister Tony Blair and former New Jersey Governor and Bush Cabinet member, Christine WhitmanLou Gerstner, formerly the head of IBM, discussed crisis management and how his leadership style brought IBM from an 8 billion dollar loss to an 8 billion dollar profit at the end of his tenure with IBM.  Richard Levin discussed leadership as the president of Yale, particularly his difficult task of managing academics (a class of people who went into the profession so they would not be managed) and the obstacles created by leading a body of faculty and students who cannot be fired.  Finally, Admiral Mullen discussed leading men into war and the difficulties associated with asking an individual to risk his or her life in the defense of liberty and the republic.

At the end, the guests offered their take home messages and thoughts on leadership.  If one wants to create change, then he or she must figure out the essence of an individual—what drives him, what motivates him, understand what makes him tick, what do they value and what makes them come to work every day.  In addition, one of the guests urged to have a strong vision, communicate it clearly, set goals people can imagine reaching and go forward step by step.  What is essential is to pick a great team and empower them to do their job.  A leader can empower his team by knowing his or her subordinates.  This is particularly important because a leader needs to realize that he or she will not always have the answer, but it is equally important not to worry about this—figure out the gaps in your knowledge and find people who advise you on those matters.  A leader’s integrity should always be intact and this can only be achieved by holding one’s self accountable.

Overall it was a great show.  If you come across it online or CNN definitely watch it.

http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/

Written by sajedbhandari

December 29, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Book Review: Traitor to his Class

Book Review: Traitor to his Class- The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Sajed Bhandari

Who: By H.W. Brands, an American historian and professor at University of Texas at Austin.

What: Biography of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Rather large book at around 800 pages.

When: January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945

Where: The biography initially covers FDR’s privileged life in New York and Boston.  The biographer subsequently covers FDR’s rise to power in Washington DC and his years abroad during his presidency.

Why: FDR’s New Deal set the progressive tone for Democratic politics in America.

Recommendation: Was not a big fan of this book.  It reads quickly, but I think the subject matter bothered me more than anything else.  FDR was a great man, and worthy of the respect that he gets, but disagreed with the President’s expansion of federal power, particularly in the executive branch.  I don’t recommend reading it.

http://www.amazon.com/Traitor-His-Class-Privileged-Presidency/dp/0307277941/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293601351&sr=8-1

Written by sajedbhandari

December 29, 2010 at 12:45 am

Soft Power and Shawarma: Hicksville

Soft Power and Shawarma: Hicksville

Sajed Bhandari

I almost drove off Old Country Road and hit the sidewalk by Blimpies the other day.  Driving on Long Island, I expect to see the random pedestrian or a busboy riding his bike to his job.  But the other day I was driving back from somewhere and what I saw was the greatest thing ever.  An old white restaurant truck with bright letters advertising Halal Meat! (This is when I almost drove off the road.)  In any case, I did not get around to eating there until a few days later but this is my quick review of the gyro stand.  This place was so good I ended up having it twice in the same week.   I watch Food Network and Travel Channel like it is crack, but for the life of me I would never be able to write a review the way those guys do it.  Not because they are professional writers and I am a budding accountant, but because I either like a dish or I do not.  I have a hard time describing all the layers of flavor or what have you—as I said I either like it or I don’t.  And this, this I liked.

Who: SVM Halal something or other

What: Gyros, chicken, rice, falafels and combo platters

Where: Abandoned Gas Station on the corner of Newbridge Road and Old Country Road in Hicksville

When: Monday through Saturday – 11AM to 9PM

Sunday- 11 AM to 6 PM

Why: I ordered a combo platter with bbq, white and hot sauce.  Chicken was actually good—only the second time in my life where the chicken was delicious at one of these places.  The Gyro was cut thick and not dried out.  The rice was a yellow pilaf type of thing. The platter is served with grilled peppers and onions (def gets a plus for this.)

Recommendation: This is definitely my favorite stand until I find something better. I like it and if you’re my friend you’ll go too.  Side Note: Ran into this white girl and her mother who has been there five times in the two weeks this place has been open.  Had a good conversation with them while we waited for our food in the cold!  I’m glad we finally have something like this on LI (first one I know of).

 

 

 

Written by sajedbhandari

December 28, 2010 at 12:06 am

Posted in Cooking

American Muslim organization applauds FBI for actions in Portland, OR

I wont be posting until January iA.  Read this!

Sajed

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American Muslim organization applauds FBI for actions in Portland, OR

December 1, 2010
American Islamic Forum for Democracy
AIFD

Whack-A-Mole approach needs greater offensive counterterrorism strategy against Islamist radicalization

 

PHOENIX (November 30, 2010) – Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) issued the following statement regarding the FBI’s actions with regard to Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s attack in Portland, OR.

“The thwarted attack of Mohamed Osman Mohamud continues to highlight the ever-increasing threat that the ideological slippery slope of political Islam (Islamism) poses to America. The comments that Mohamud made to investigators and that have been released to the media demonstrate a belief in Islamist supremacy that is in conflict with American values and our very way of life. Despite the courageous work of our FBI agents and Homeland Security the threat of homegrown terror from radicalized Muslims continues to exponentially increase.

 

We are only playing defense against this growing threat with no signs of an offensive strategy. More and more, our homeland security strategy is turning out to be nothing more than a whack-a-mole program. This cycle will only be broken by the development of a national strategy that will counter the true root cause of Islamist terror-the ideology and continuum of political Islam that lies within the Muslim consciousness. This again calls for an American Muslim led strategy for reform against political Islam.

 

The FBI’s tactic of using undercover agents to contact and target Mohamud is more than justified and more than likely saved the lives of thousands of individuals. Mohamud clearly demonstrated a desire and a will to attack Americans. As we have seen with Nidal Hasan, Faisal Shahzad and Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, it is only a matter of time before he would have reached terror leaders such as Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki and secured the means to wreak his destruction. The FBI has a duty to protect our citizens from such attacks and at AIFD we applaud their efforts to disrupt Islamist terrorism.

 

As we move forward into 2011, Americans and particularly American Muslims need to wake up to their responsibility to frontally address the ideological threat that we are facing today. Mohamud’s radicalization is not uncommon because the separatist ideology of political Islam is ubiquitous in Muslim communities. Condemnation of violence or terrorism is not enough. We can no longer allow the sound bite to be ‘it is one deranged individual’. This is a Muslim systemic problem that needs a Muslim systemic reform.

 

American Muslims must teach our youth that the ideals of America and the principles embodied in our Constitution provide the best environment for Muslims to practice their faith. We must teach our youth that the idea of the Islamic State and governmental shariah (Islamic law) has no place in modernity and no place in America. Any other approach is mired in denial and avoidance of this core ideological problem.”

 

About the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

 

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at

http://www.aifdemocracy.org/

contact: office 602-254-1840, email: info@aifdemocracy.org

 

Written by sajedbhandari

December 3, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Engaging Extremism

Book Review: Lipstick Jihad

Book Review: Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in American and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni

 

Who: Azadeh Moaveni is an Iranian-American woman who wrote this book after living for a few years in Tehran.  She worked as a journalist for Time magazine in Iran.

What: It is a memoir by an Iranian-American woman struggling to reconcile her Iranian heritage with her life in America.  She travels and lives in Iran to discover what being Iranian means to her.  The bulk of the book takes place in Iran, as she covers the life of the youth underneath clerical rule in Iran as well as discovering where her “home” is.

When: Takes place during the Khatami years and ends right after September 11th.

Where: Mostly in Iran, but touches upon her life in California, New York, Cairo and Beirut.

Why: To understand herself.  In the process, she offers a glimpse and critique of Iranian life without it being a thinly veiled, neo-conservative attack on Iran and Iranians (what a lot of other memoirs seem to be about).

Recommendation: My favorite book I have read this year.  READ IT.

Comments: I tagged too many pages in this book, as there were countless passages that touched upon the frustration I feel with conservative society, the façade of piety that forced religiosity creates, but also the beauty that does exist in so many Muslim societies.  The ending of the memoir is particularly powerful as Azadeh talks about the immediate aftermath of being Muslim in America after the terrorist attacks.  There is too much to say about this book, but my rule on book reviews is to keep them short, not be pretentious and encourage you to read for yourself.  Definitely read it.

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lipstick-Jihad-Growing-Iranian-American/dp/1586483781/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290515619&sr=8-1

Written by sajedbhandari

November 23, 2010 at 7:39 am

On Muslim Public Intellectual Culture in America

On Muslim Public Intellectual Culture in America

Sajed Bhandari

            It is exciting being Muslim in America these days.  Since the terrorist attacks in 2001, Muslims in general, and Muslim-Americans in particular have been the focus of much media coverage (most of it negative).  It is nothing novel to say that many American Muslims are looking to reconcile their ancient faith with their new homeland due to an external pressure to create a new identity.  Much of this collective soul-searching comes with the territory of being a new immigrant group or emerging minority in America.  America does powerful things to the people who have the fortune of immigrating here, and Muslim-Americans are no different in this regard.  The experience of Catholic and Jewish immigrants and their struggle for indigenization, their struggle for normalization in the American context, in its essence was not very different from the current struggle that Muslims are facing.  Muslims have much to study about the indigenization process of their earlier counterparts.  They have much to learn about what it means for them in their new homeland and what it means for the rest of the Muslim World.  This collective soul-searching connected with a 1400-year history of public intellectualism, I think, has created the vibrant public life that exists for so many Muslims in America. 

            I would be delusional if I was arguing that all American Muslims are consciously forging a new identity for themselves.  Many go about their days going to school, trying to find a career and the normal trappings of modern day life.  All they want is a good job, a good family and a good way to live the rest of their days.  In all honesty, they may even be the great majority of Muslims in America.  But for many of us, (and most of my friends), we each have searched for what it means to be Muslim and American.  This question has many answers and it provides the necessary environment for the public intellectual culture that Muslim-Americans enjoy.  A friend of mine, before he converted, spoke to me about how interesting he thought it was that college age Muslim students would take time out of their busy schedules to go for two weekend seminars with Al Maghrib to learn about a certain aspect of their religion. 

The various MSA’s do a great job of connecting young Muslims with many clerics who were born and raised in America and an increasing amount that also received much of their clerical training in America.  Secular and progressive Muslim figures, such as Khaled Abou Fadl, Omid Safi, Vali Nasr and the various local individuals hold vibrant circles and gatherings, connecting less orthodox Muslims with a different form of Islamic studies; a form less didactic and authoritarian.  Sufis sit around their leaders in an upstate New York mosque listening to him speak about the love of God and the love for man.  Closer to home, in that New York City university, the American-trained Imam teaches his students about how to be more humble, how to serve their community, how to be constructive members of this republic.  Salafis sit in mosques packed with their friends and fellow students, listening to a Sheikh who after finishing his sacred studies in the Middle East started his PhD in religious studies at Yale University.  More traditional minded Muslims sit cross-legged on lush carpets in front of a black convert, who served in the Air Force, taking notes on their newly bought iPAd in sunny California.  Just at my local mosque, an organizer from Atlanta came up north and spoke to a PACKED house (literally a house) of men and women, boys and girls, about the injustices of domestic abuse.  He quoted verses from the Quran, critiqued arguments of some classical scholars, and brought real life examples of his struggle with counseling abused Muslim women in Georgia.  Various statistics and cases from psychiatric studies dotted the young organizer’s speech to the Muslim public. 

In conclusion, the diversity in thought and the passion with which so many of my friends approach their identity search, I hope will continue to foster the vibrant public intellectual life of Muslim-Americans.  I did not write this entry in order to say Muslims are some how unique in this experience.  I did write this entry however, to express the hope I have in our community, a community diverse in thought and skin colors, diverse in belief and in practice, a community of individuals that will embrace both their ancient Muslim heritage (in whatever form the individual sees appropriate) and their proud American one.  I am very hopeful and ever the optimist.  For my friends who are not so active in this public life, the only thing I can say is get out and find what works for you!  Not everyone is going to be a Salafi.  Not everyone is going to be a Sufi.  Not everyone is going to find peace in secular and progressive Muslim circles.  Not everyone will find what he or she is looking for from the Shia clerics.  It’s not so important to me where you go to find answers to your identity; what is important to me is that you realize that there is something out there for you.  As Ali (RA) said, “There is enough light for he who wants to see.” 

Do not sit idly as history is made around you.

Written by sajedbhandari

November 1, 2010 at 11:56 am