Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

Archive for August 2010

Prominent Israeli Rabbi calls for Annihilation of Abbas and the Palestinians… Again

Oh dear


Written by sajedbhandari

August 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Engaging Extremism

Second Letter to a Young Muslim

Second Letter to a Young Muslim

Sajed Bhandari

Dear Young Man,

I write to you again after not having written to you in months.   I had a chance encounter with you in Queens as I walked out of the kebab house on 74th by the train station there.  You and a few of your friends preached behind a police officer who protected you and your rights to speak in public and in assembly.   One of your friends held up a sign saying, “TO HELL WITH YOUR FREEDOM” in, if you will allow me to be frank, terribly shaky handwriting.  The red ink did express the severity with which your friend intended his words, however.  I watched you for a while.  You went on speaking passionately, like a young Reverend Martin Luther King about the incompatible identities of “Muslim” and “American”.  Had I not known better and had it not been for your flowing white dishdasha that you wore so proudly, I would have thought I accidentally walked into Gainesville, Florida on “International Burn a Koran Day”.    You made some points that, if you allow me again, I would like to address with you.

You so sincerely expressed the anger you felt when you saw a Muslim waving the American flag.  I could almost empathize with the sense of ambiguity that you felt seeing such an image.  The internet is not short on sites that carry videotapes of Muslims being killed and murdered throughout the world.  A quick search offers countless sites on the raping of Muslim women, the torturing of Muslim men, and the confiscation and occupation of Muslim lands from Palestine, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Kashmir, to Checnya and the Phillipines.  I understand that you have a sense of solidarity with those being persecuted as should any compassionate and understanding human being.  I also understand that the suffering that is played so powerfully throughout the internet implies that the persecution of these Muslims is underwritten with an American hand.  As is normal, any human being confronted with such an image will have a strong emotional reaction.  That emotional reaction needs someone to blame, someone to direct one’s anger towards.  After all, how does one go about becoming an activist for justice if there is no tyrant to rise up against?

You, as you have told me before, were born and raised in America but do not consider it your home.  I asked you why it is not your home if you were born here, lived her and most likely raise your family and die here.  You said because it was America who sold the Israeli tanks which wrought destruction through the Palestinian territories, it was America who trained the Philippine armies, and it was America who supported the Russian war against the Chechen insurgents.  Most particularly, it was America who fought in and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.  You said, how can I be a Muslim and American?  How can the two identities ever combine?  How can I be Muslim and American when America is at war with the Muslims?  Your line of questioning initially bewildered me.  The media, and my own struggle, often claims that the dissonance between Muslim and American identities is caused by the reconciliation, or lack thereof between Constitutional principles and the all-encompassing nature of Islamic belief and practice.  Yet, here, in front of me you argued that the issue was not of principle but rather of current events and a recent history of warfare.   America had become your tyrant.

I left you with your thoughts, although disagreeing with you immensely.  I went about my work until I saw you again at a gathering in support of the Park 51 project.  I saw you standing and yelling through a group of Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis.  A group of international socialists stood alongside you.   A small group of homosexuals and hijabis stood behind you (they did not arrive at the gathering together).  You all, with one collective voice, defended the rights of these Muslims to build the Park 51 project.  But this letter to you is not about that project.  Rather, this letter to you my friend is about your patriotism, indeed it is about your very American and very Muslim attitude towards the whole thing.  I wanted to approach you and talk to you during the protest, but I lost you in the crowd so I walked home instead and wrote this to you.

What was American about your actions that day?  You stood with a group of homosexuals who in your worldview should be executed; Catholics who you believed were destined to hell because of their deification of Jesus, godless socialists who you would have otherwise written off as angry atheists who refuse to do anything productive in society, and Jews.   If I went and wrote to you a letter about your issues with the Jews then I would have to dedicate a whole book to you my friend so I’ll just leave it at that.  Yet the most striking, and yes American, aspect of the whole thing was that you, a self-proclaimed Qutbi and follower of Ibn Taymiyah and Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, you, the staunch Salafi-Jihadi stood at a protest with all these “kaffirs” to protect the rights of a group of Muslims you wrote off as deviants and innovators.  I did not ask you how you felt about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf but his teachings on Sufism and his belief in the Abrahamic ethic I am sure are more than enough for you to think of him as a heretical innovator.  Yet, you stood there, your beard portraying your piety, your jeans folded above your ankles yelling for their right to establish that community center.  You took time out of your day, indeed you made a sacrifice, to go out and protest with people you would normally never associate yourself with to protect a mosque you would never go to and pray in because you most likely believed your prayers would be invalid there.  Well either you worried about the validity of your prayer or you just did not want to be associated with those damn sufis.

What was Muslim about your action that day?  Because your actions exemplified the principles for which Rasulillah (SAW) labeled Hamza (RA) the Master of the Martyrs.  Because you stood up and spoke out in the face of a tyrant.

So I ask you.  For someone who considers himself anti-American and finds it impossible to reconcile being Muslim with being American, why then did you find it so easy to be both on that day?  I concede that there are flaws within our foreign policy, flaws that have led to much suffering around the world (not just in the Muslim world).  However, you should take something away from your day at the Park 51 protest.  What is indeed very American is to see that when there exists a flaw in your nation, you do not seek violence to remedy the situation; rather, you seek democratic means for a just end.  You organize and protest injustice to raise awareness of a situation.  You get out the vote.  You speak out and you write.  You spread discussion and most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, build coalitions.  Coalition building, finding alliances, requires you to understand that there are people in this society who live very differently from you, i.e. Catholics, Jews, liberals and etc.  But beyond just understanding there are differences, one must accept the differences and fight for the rights of an individual and social group to live as they see fit.

If you are going to affect any change into the world, then it starts with understanding how a pluralistic and democratic society works.  It works through civic reason being the ultimate arbiter of debates, not through race-based provocations, special interest politics, hatred and fear.  Change has come through consensus building and grass roots efforts to build those coalitions.  And if history can teach you anything, particularly the history of our Nation, then it should teach you that we are a flawed nation like any other nation.  Yet what makes us exceptional, and in my opinion is the basis for our strength as Americans, is the ability to be introspective.  The American path is the inevitable triumph of justice and reason over tyranny and emotion.


Sajed Bhandari

Written by sajedbhandari

August 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Engaging Extremism

Three Links… If you’re my friend, you’ll go

It’s that time of the year again.  Campaign season is in full swing.  It’s open season on Muslim-Americans.  In the spirit of these (un)holiest of days, I’d like to provide you all with three very important sites.  They are all watchdog websites.  The first two focus particularly on Islamophobes, while the latter focuses more on right-wing hatred in the media (which includes, along with Islamophobia, Homophobia, and anti-Immigration/minority sentiments.)

I have not offered any descriptions, but these links will be found on the right of the screen under Watchdogs.




Okay, have fun.

– Sajed

Written by sajedbhandari

August 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

“MOSQUE HYSTERIA: Park 51, Cordoba House, Ground Zero Mosque”


Sajed Bhandari

I have been taking a break from writing on my blog for the summer.  I needed some time apart from rambling on my blog and focus on other things.  I will update you all on what I was up to this summer iA in the next article.  I wanted to come back and write an article in two weeks, however, watching and reading the news has bothered me too much and I need to yell somewhere.

This article is on the formerly named Cordoba House, currently named Park 51 and the erroneously named “Ground Zero Mosque”.  Before I continue, I would like to reiterate that the articles on this blog are not edited so there may be grammatical errors and shortcomings.  I say this because this issue disturbs me the way a Holocaust survivor would be disturbed by Holocaust denial or a Civil Rights Era African-American who would be disturbed by efforts to denigrate the struggle of their people.  I am not one for similes and metaphors and I rarely indulge in them, however I think only these aforementioned types of people can understand the emotion that I feel as I write this article.

The political discourse about the issue of the Park 51 is argued on two levels.  The first and weaker argument is arguing against the community center from a Constitutional basis.  The second argument, although less weak, is much more striking and dangerous of a position.  The position is to argue that American society is not ready to have such a project in such close proximity to Ground Zero and that it is indeed inappropriate, although not illegal, for a minority group to build such a building.  This article focuses on the latter position.  The Republicans and right-wing of our country have changed their rhetoric.  They have lost the Constitutional argument and now are running to an appeal to emotions.  The argument is that a Muslim-run community center by Ground Zero is Islamic Triumphalism and that if Muslim-Americans truly want to build bridges then, they should build the center elsewhere.   I will argue that this position is hypocritical, a convenient campaign issue, and is indeed an exposition of a broader anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiment.

Newt Gingrich, a Republican and right-wing ideologue, was on Fox News comparing Park 51 to allowing Nazis to build a site by the Holocaust Memorial or the Japanese building a site by Pearl Harbor.  The former example is not comparable to the Park 51 situation.  The assumption in Mr. Gingrich’s comparison is that the Nazis are similar to the whole of the Muslim community.  It would be reasonable to compare the Nazis to Al Qaeda (both fascist organizations) and if Al Qaeda was trying to build a community center, then Mr. Gingrich’s comparison would be appropriate (understatement).  The Nazis cannot be compared to the whole of the Muslim World, no more than Al Qaeda can be compared to the whole of the German-speaking peoples.   The latter example of the Japanese falls apart along similar lines, except “Japanese” in Mr. Gingrich’s worldview is just as monolithic as the word “Muslim”.  Mr.  Gingrich argues that it is not illegal, rather inappropriate and insensitive for Muslims to build near the site.  He goes on to say that because a group has 1st Amendment rights, does not mean it is appropriate for a group to actually realize and implement those rights.  I do not think I need to actually go into why this is hypocritical but I am sure we are all aware of which side of the 1st Amendment right these xenophobic individuals fell when the Muhammad Cartoon issue was the in-thing.

Secondly, beyond any real social crisis or security issue, the Park 51 Hysteria is about being a convenient campaign issue.  Facts are, the recession has ended (some fears of a double-dip recession to exist), the unpopular TARP legislation cannot be attributed to President Obama as it was not his administration that enacted it, the Iraq War is ending with our last combat battalions coming home,  and an increasing amount of citizens are being aided by Loan Modifications for their homes and Federal loans for their education.  The world is beginning to see America’s position as the leader of the free world with an intelligent citizen as the Commander in Chief.  With that said, we should not pretend that our Republic is in the order it should be (“A more perfect union.”).  Marriage equality still does not exist, LGBT citizens are not able to serve their country openly in the Armed forces, and states, such as Arizona, are passing legislation on racism and not reason.  With that concession however, I return to my original point.  Frankly, we are better off now than we were two years ago.  The Republicans have decided on a strategy of xenophobia and racism in order to win the mid-Term elections.  There was no outcry in the beginning of the year when Daisy Khan went onto Fox News and spoke about the community center.  Yet, now because the Republicans cannot ever run on anything other than fear, they have stoked the flames of animosity in their simple followers.  A MEGA-MOSQUE BY GROUND ZERO they say!  ISLAMIC TRIUMPHALISM AT THE WAR MEMORIAL!  ISLAM IS A CULT OF HATRED!  Those are the slogans their monkeys are holding up in protest while they take over the media discourse and have every Democrat who is running against them offer up an answer to a ridiculous and vengeful question.  What do you think of the Mega-Mosque at Ground Zero? (Never mind that 2 out of the 13 floors would be for prayer use and that is not at ground zero… those details are not important).  The Democrat can either affirm the civil rights and liberties of the Muslim-Americans and lose in the general elections because of how unpopular that is, or they can do what Harry Reid did and say THEY SHOULD JUST BUILD IT SOMEWHERE ELSE.  (If Angle was not your opponent and for the desire I have to actually visit Nevada, I would have hoped you, Mr. Reid, lost the upcoming election).  Keep in mind what this is above all else, a political ploy to win seats in November.  Never forget to remind our Republican citizens about their dirty tactics.

Finally, and most important, this is not at all about whether the community center is appropriate or not.  Tennessee, Wisconsin, Long Island, Staten Island, and California are all battlegrounds for the broader Anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia that exists in our country now.  They say build it somewhere else, well where would we build a community center?  What is appropriate? Four blocks? Sixteen?  In the Hudson?  The distance is not the issue.  Ask yourself what you are saying.  That we as a society refuse to be okay with a community center because we associate all things Muslim with all things Terrorist.  That is not America, that was not America, and all of us will fight to ensure that  that will never be America.  Newt Gingrich, Angle, Fox News, and any other politician who opposes the community center does it to exploit the emotions of the true victims, the ones who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks.  They exploit and encourage anti-Muslim sentiment.  We are living in a time where we must ask ourselves, who do we want to become?  Will we continue to be the country that offers freedoms, not just by law, but by society or will be go the route of the Europeans and begin to legislate hatred and xenophobia?

The right wing was at once an ignorant collection of individuals.  Now they are the leaders of fascism in this Republic.  They seek to change the birthright clause in our Nation.  They seek to ban private development because of prejudices and hatred.  They, as an ideology and yes as a POLITICAL PARTY, have nothing to run on except fomenting fear.  Republicans in the post-Civil War era have been on the wrong side of history on almost every major crossroad our nation has confronted.  Wrong on the Great Depression.  Wrong on Civil Rights.  Wrong on the Iraq War.  Wrong on Health Care.  And history will judge them to be wrong on Marriage Equality, Don’t ask Don’t’ Tell, Immigration and finally, the Park 51 Community Center in Lower Manhattan.  The time has come that we confront the right wing, the Republicans and everyone else who stands against a tolerant and just society.  Muslim-Americans are the scapegoat today.  But if history shows us anything, it shows that a nation driven by fear will never cease to find and persecute its imagined enemies.

Speak up now. Rise up now.

Written by sajedbhandari

August 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

On Break

Still on break.
Will start writing in two weeks iA.


Ramadan Mubarak/Happy Independence day for my Pakistani friends.

Written by sajedbhandari

August 16, 2010 at 12:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized