Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

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Survey of Upcoming Article Sets.

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Survey of Upcoming Article Sets.

Sajed Bhandari

I have not written in about three weeks.  I am currently pursuing my MS in Accounting.  I am a bit surprised at how much work it actually requires.  In any case, I will finally get a chance to write a series of articles in the next few weeks.  I have been toying with the idea of writing articles on these two issues of interest for quite some time now.  I envision the article sets containing an indefinite amount of articles.  I hope they will be a collection of ongoing articles.  The first issue will be reports on the discussions I have been having with various Muslim-American communities.  The second issue will be on Muslim-American food culture.

So, I try to quote Fight Club once every day, this article notwithstanding the tradition.  This following dialogue inspired my interactions with people after listening to it for the second time:

Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just…
Marla Singer: – instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?

I did not really catch the phrase the first time I watched the movie.  But the second time I actually listened to it and it changed my life.  I realized that for the 20 years prior to that point, all my conversations were two, simultaneous monologues.  I was just waiting for my turn to speak, as was the other person.  I decided that I would just start asking people questions and so began what I call my “Listening Tours”.

This is a practice I continue with people I meet and people I have known for years.  I have learned a lot about my friends and made new ones through this active listening process.  I suppose I should write a separate article on this.  I will iA.

In any case, I had this idea to take this listening tour from a one-on-one process to a group process.  A lot of gatherings that happen in the MSA’s and Mosques are gatherings of knowledge and Dhikr.  This usually has the following structure.  A speaker gives a lecture on a certain topic, some in the audience listen, and then there is a QA session afterwards.  My idea was to go to different Muslim-American settings and ask them questions I would ask during my one-on-ones.  I had the fortune, alh, to try this out at my old MSA, Stony Brook Muslim Students Association.  I had the opportunity to ask some of my questions to about 15 Muslim students at Stony Brook.  The questions mainly surrounded the emotions they felt the day of September 11th, how their life has been at Stony Brook, what the MSA has done for them in terms of personal growth and what fears and motivations do they have.

My desire for these group sessions is to get a vibe of what Muslim-Americans in New York are thinking at the colleges and mosques that are spread throughout Long Island and the metropolitan area.  I have no thesis in mind and it is not a scientific study.  It is very informal, no goals, no ends, just a conversation on what is going on amongst Muslim-American college students today.

The second set of articles is regarding Muslim-American food culture.  This has as much to do with my experiences enjoying Muslim-American cuisine, as it has to do with exerting Muslim-American soft power towards the greater American society.  Food is a way to build bridges.  I read once that the cuisine of America is the cuisine of the world.  It made me think how far Italians, Greeks and the Chinese have come with respect to bringing positive awareness to their cultures through the use of food.  I hope to do the same with Muslim-American cuisine.

A lot of time spent being Muslim-American in New York means waiting on line at 53rd and 6th to get a platter, or driving out to Astoria or Jamaica to get some good Halal Chinese food.  Some of my best experiences were having dinner with friends on the benches on a cold, New York City winter night.

But one may ask, what is Muslim-American cuisine?  Well, much like American cuisine, Muslim-American cuisine is the cuisine of the Muslim world.  Whether it is all the spicy curries I was accustomed to eating growing up in a Bangladeshi household, or the herbed chicken and lamb kebobs at the local Afghan restaurant or Halal alternatives to Americanized Chinese food, Muslim-American cuisine is as diverse as the individuals that make up Muslim America.

Fundamentally, both these projects are about normalizing Muslim-Americans and commenting on the culture that is being created by these youth.  I tell my students often that there is much more in our culture, much more from our societies than suicide bombers, stern-faced Moulanas and anger.  There is a whole culture that is being formed.  But most importantly, I look forward to writing my articles and meeting new people through this endeavor.

Written by sajedbhandari

April 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Posted in Survey