Sajed Bhandari

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Archive for the ‘Engaging Extremism’ Category

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

 

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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

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

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.

Sincerely,

Sajed Bhandari

Written by sajedbhandari

August 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Engaging Extremism

Letter to a Young Muslim

Preface

It was known in both the political science literature and in liberal news sources that Muslims in America were less prone to radicalization than their counterparts in Europe.  That notion began to change with homegrown terrorists attempting attacks in the homeland as well as seeking training in foreign countries.  It became obvious that many of these Muslims were self-radicalized through the internet.  Muslim-American groups, such as MPAC, quickly began to create an online presence to provide an alternate political understanding for these young Muslims and in the process, attack the efforts of extremist groups that had found a home online.

The letter which follows is a fictional letter.  It is an amalgam of Muslims I have met who have gone through this process of self-radicalization.  It is not about anyone in particular.  I do not expect it to make a significant difference, however, I can only try to offer a small entry on this important project of criticizing the fundamentalist foundations of a violent extremist ideology.

__________________________________________-

Dear Young Man,

You would not come up to me the other day when I visited my old school.  I had visited for the first time in months.  My friend had landed a few weeks prior and was staying there.  All the others had stood up and walked to greet me.  But you stood there, in the back not approaching.  You knew better than these other youths who were blinded by my charm and wit.  My ability to quote obscure references and convince others of the truth in my lies or falsehoods.  But you, you were able to see the kufr and nifaq that was in my heart.  I understand.  It was your principled stance against that old secularist who came back.  I would have reacted the same way when I was traveling through the stage you are in now.  After all, “Secular Muslim” is a contradiction in terms in the ideology you and I once shared.

I greeted the ones that came up to me.  I could not help however, but wonder about your protest.  Your protest did not offend me.  I respect you for your principled stance.  Your protest made me wonder more about my own evolution in thought throughout the years.  I had waited in high school to find someone like me.  I waited for someone who saw the weaknesses in man-made systems, the similarity of irjaa amongst the murji’a and the khurooj of the Khawarij, someone who understood the subtle nuances that existed in the manhaj of Abu Hamza and the manhaj of Omar Bakri.

I too listened to those lectures, printed those PDF documents (who needs glossy covers when he or she has the haqq), and visited those websites.  The process of radicalization was as much a social as it was an individual effort.  I understood you, in your protest, in your walking away.  I understood your self-righteous loneliness.  It must be a solitary experience to have the truth.  Did not Ibn Masood teach that the jama’ah is that which is upon the truth, even if it is one person?

I understood you better than I understood the ones who greeted me.

Your protest resonated with me.  For once, I understood another person’s emotions.  I empathized.  You thought you were upon the haqq and that it was your duty to avoid ahlul Biddah.  Your teachers, through their MP3’s, blogs and websites, taught you to not associate or give the Salam to such individuals.

I have been there too.  I have been on the same journey you are on right now.  But, I had to eventually ask myself, what were the intentions behind these protests of mine?  Were these the commands of Allah as I told others?  Or was it more to prove others wrong, to feel as if I was part of the firqatul najiya; better yet, at taifa al mansourah?  Was my faith only vindicated by my attacks on the beliefs of others?

Is that the basis of your own faith?

We all want the same things for our community.  We want honor, stability, a just conclusion to the struggles that plague them around the world.  But ask yourself, what are you doing to construct a better future, not only for the community, but also for yourself?  The books you are reading, the lectures you are listening to, the arguments you are having, what are they creating?  The amount of arguments you win will not help you and it will not help the community.  It will only destroy what is good in you.

And you are a good person at heart.  You only want what is best for the Muslims around the world.  That is a sign of compassion.  But ask yourself, how many of these same Muslims would the ideology you carry with you write off as mubtadi, munafiq, zindiq, murtad and worst of all, kaffir? Are the Shia in Iran in your sphere of “compassion” or are they the Rawafidh who should be killed?  Are the Turks also Muslims who should be defended or are they secularists who have sold out?  How about the Saudis or are they slaves to the Madhkali establishment?  They are not true Salafis to begin with right?  Then how about the Muslims in Indonesia?  Malaysia?  Bangladesh?  How about the Muslims in those countries?  Does your ideology teach you to be compassionate towards the Muslims who inhabit these countries?  Or does your ideology teach you that their faith, their Aqeedah is flawed?

Ask yourself then, is it love for your brother that motivates you or is it the love of your ego and hatred of those who would harm it that which motivates?

If you want to help the Muslim world and the Muslims who live in it, then learn to love the ones who disagree with you.  If you can learn that, you can change the world.

Sajed Bhandari

PS:

I will send more letters to you iA.

Written by sajedbhandari

June 5, 2010 at 2:33 am

Posted in Engaging Extremism

On Changing Perceptions: Article 3 of 3

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On Changing Perceptions: Article 3 of 3

Sajed Bhandari

For most of my life, I have had a parallel education.  I had my secular studies in mostly public institutions starting with elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.  My current graduate studies are in a private Catholic university.  These institutional courses of study taught me the basics of citizenship, science, philosophy, English literature and what have you from a Western European, post-Enlightenment perspective.  In addition to this course of study, I had the good fortune of supplementing my Western education with Islamic social and sacred sciences.  I have had, as far as I can remember, two civilizational influences in my search of knowledge.  These two influences for a time were in competition for which civilization I exactly belonged to and how these two civilizations interacted.  The shift I would like to focus on in this article is from understanding the relationship from a conflict in interest to one that is of a confluence of interest.

My formative years were spent on Long Island.  The public education in the part of Long Island that I grew up was for the most part above average (in comparison to much of the public education in New York City and the rest of Long Island).  To truly do justice to the effect that this education has had on me is beyond the scope of this article.  I will address this in a later article, InshAllah.  I will mostly focus on my classes in the second half of high school and college.

The classes that really affected my thoughts and worldview were usually the ones related to literature and social studies.  Needless to say, both the literature and the approach to history were from a Western perspective.  In high school, we read much of the traditional books.  Catcher in the Rye, A Farewell to Arms, and Angela’s Ashes are a few of the books that come to mind.  We learned about the American Revolution, the Civil Rights struggle of the Black American population, and the structure and function of various governmental institutions in America.  In the background were the science and mathematics classes that I never really paid attention to yet somehow managed to do well.

I began my undergraduate studies at Stony Brook University, located at the eastern reaches of the Long Island Expressway.  I studied economics, government, philosophy and with the need of being a good Muslim boy, the Pre-medical sciences.  Again, all of these classes belonged to the traditional secular curriculum.  I learned about Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes and neo-classical theories in my readings of economics.  The European Union, American Foreign Policy, the Cold War, Congress and Political Economy remained much of my focus in my readings of government.  With respect to philosophy, I studied Philosophy of Religion with one of the few believing Christian professors in the Philosophy Department, learned about Hobbes, Locke, Hume and Spinoza and took a class on Aesthetics.  And again, in the background were my science and mathematics classes.  This time however, I did not do as well in those classes.  (For any pre-meds reading this article, which I am assuming is most of you…  FOCUS ON YOUR SCIENCE CLASSES).

In the long nine years from high school to the first year of graduate school however, there has been a parallel education.  In high school I began reading the Quran, biographies of Rasulillah (SAW), works on Islamic politics and renaissance by Dr. Israr Ahmed and Syed Qutb.  I listened to many lectures by English speaking scholars on Islamic governance, history, biographies, jurisprudence and any other branch of Islamic sacred studies.  In college, I had the opportunity to take a few classes with Al Maghrib Institute (The link is in my blogroll) as well as a few months with Sheikh Khalid Abdul-Sattar.  But for most of this time, my Islamic studies were focused on the sacred sciences with teachers who already believed in the truth-claims of the religion.  It was not until my last year at Stony Brook that I began to read about Islam as a social and historical force.  Much of this later reading was in the history of Muslim societies, the role of colonialism and secularism in Muslim societies and the influence that Muslim societies have had on pre-Modern Europe.  Again, the subtle effects that this education has had on my identity are beyond the scope of this article and will inshAllah be addressed in a subsequent one.

Throughout this parallel education, the spheres of study were separate and often times competing.  Education it seems is the process of passing on the intellectual legacy of a civilization to a new generation.  If we understand education from this perspective, then it follows that this parallel education that was once separate and exclusive in their spheres of influence, passed down to me two different intellectual legacies, thus creating two separate identities.  For much of my life this was true.  The social implication of this dual-education was the “need” to choose sides or to choose a civilization.  The political manifestation of this choice was seeing the two civilizations in conflict.

Reading the news, I could not help but see the two civilizations I belonged to in conflict.  Whether it was the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Palestinian struggle for liberation, or the occupation of Iraq and invasion of Afghanistan, it seemed like the two civilizations that had educated me were in conflict.  This conflict of interest that I saw meant that there could only be one victor in the struggle.  It meant that the interests of the Muslim world and the interests of America and the Western world were inevitably bound to clash.  It did not help much that at this time, the neoconservatives were dictating American foreign policy; the neoconservatives being a group with a philosophy that rested on this assumption of conflict of interest.

But the rise of President Obama and his campaign begged us to ask, are our interests truly in conflict and is this game only capable of having one victor?

The then-Senator begged us to ask if the Palestinian struggle for humanity was necessarily in conflict with Israeli security.  He asked us if the unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq would be a legacy of neo-colonialism or would it be the dawn of a democratic age in the Arab world.  He asked us would the Muslims be okay with Afghanistan being a breeding ground for extremists who have killed more Muslims than they have any Westerner or non-Muslim.  The now-President in his inauguration and speech in Cairo offered the Muslim world a new beginning.  A new beginning that would see the Muslim lands as an equal partner in the creation of a new world; a new beginning that would see a confluence of interest as opposed to a conflict in interest.

The Palestinian struggle, in only my mind, shifted from a conflict of Muslims fighting Israeli oppression to a human struggle for basic human rights.  I now saw the tragedy that was forced upon the Iraqi brethren as perhaps an effort to gain certain liberties that were not available underneath the rule of Saddam.  Although, the lies that were told to the world to justify the invasion or the massacre in Haditha should never be forgotten, I cannot help but be happy for the Iraqis who now have a chance at self-determination.  The only thing I can do now is pray that the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds work towards creating a peaceful Iraq with shared interests in mind.  I have to understand the resolution to these conflicts as in the interests of both the Muslim world and the Western world.  I have to understand that a peaceful state for the Palestinians is in the interests of both “civilizations”.

But more pertinent to my current situation was the new understanding that this nation is a nation I share with Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and non-believers.  That it is in fact, my nation.  I have known no other homeland but America.  I know no other faith other than Islam.  So how do I go forward then?  Are my interests in as far as my being American in conflict with my being Muslim?  I cannot see it that way.  Being a good Muslim to me means being a good American.  I follow the laws of my land but speak out when there is oppression and when non-violent dissent becomes not only a patriotic duty, but also a religious obligation.

Rasulillah (SAW) said that Hamza (RA) was the Prince of the Martyrs because he spoke truth in the face of the tyrants.  Thomas Jefferson had said that freedom and liberty require eternal vigilance and that every generation is in need of a new revolution.

There is nothing more American than this. There is nothing more Muslim than this.  And this is my understanding.

Written by sajedbhandari

March 9, 2010 at 5:27 am

Awesome article by Sh. Yasir Qadhi

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http://muslimmatters.org/2010/03/01/gods-law-and-man-made-laws-muslims-living-in-secular-democracies/

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi being awesome again…

I’ll be posting a video of his soon… It’s old, titled Debunking the Male Bias Myth

Written by sajedbhandari

March 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm