Saleem Reza Noor is a native of Bangladesh who came to the U.S. 25 years ago after receiving his Master’s degree in English and American Literature with honors from Dhaka University. His father, Serajuddin Hossain, was a famous journalist and news editor of the largest circulated daily newspaper, Daily Ittefaq. He was a confidante to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who fought to liberate the country from Pakistan in 1971.
Noor worked in the marketing departments of two prestigious law firms in the U.S. and is now a Bengali interpreter and translator with the State Department and for various courts, hospitals and schools.
Noor was raised in a liberal, free thinking Muslim family. His father fought against the Jamaat-e-Islami party and Political Islam and was killed by them. Noor is a writer on internet forums against Jamaat-e-Islami and its ideology.
The following is ClarionProject.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Saleem Reza Noor:
Ryan Mauro: Why do you feel it is your duty as a Muslim to stand against the Islamists?
Saleem Noor: I would like to make a clear distinction between the religion of Islam and the political/perverted/extremist/jihadist Islam. If these two are mixed up, it will make our job harder.
As a devout Muslim, I do believe that Islam lost its course because of many historical reasons. Those who are doing all the killing, raping, plundering and misdeeds in the name of the religion of Islam are perverting it.
It’s a natural trend for people to remain ignorant about their own religion and instead rely on someone else to teach them about it. This is exactly where the problem lies in Islam. These so-called religious teachers are manipulating our religion and taking the fullest advantage of our ignorance and thus established an Islam that is preaching things contrary to the real religion of Islam.
Mauro: What made you take on this cause?
Noor: My father was a newspaper man in 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. He was very excited about that great scientific adventure and was publicizing the news day and night with alluring headlines and photographs, but the Jamaat-e-Islami was telling ignorant people in villages that it was a ploy by Jews and unbelievers.
They said the moon was a “holy place” so no human being could make an imprint on it and if they tried to do so, then Allah will take revenge with unthinkable destruction to them and humankind. They confused people by representing Allah and the religion of Islam in such a way that made people believe conquering the moon was only possible in the imagination.
My father went to the village and encountered all the confused people who were eager to know what was really going on regarding the moon expedition because they were afraid of a looming doomsday due to the Jews and unbelievers’ misdeed.
One day, my father took the bully pulpit of the mosque from where the imam preaches during the weekly prayer on a Friday afternoon. He quoted from the Holy Quran that Allah had created human beings in His own image and made us the superior beings in God’s world, as we are the only one creature on earth that can explore and achieve everything it desires. Conquering the moon is a minor event among the entire capacity of humankind that Allah gave us.
Mauro: How can Muslims fight against that type of preaching?
Noor: This is first and foremost a war of ideology. We need to preach what the original and real Islam says and teaches us by referring to the Quran itself. We have to counter the mullahs by referring to the exact quotes, like my father did a long time ago. We have to counter the belief through belief.
We have to understand these extremists/jihadists are not afraid of dying because they fully believe in the afterlife that will supposedly give them all happiness and peace eternally. The present world is a transitory life for them. How do you counter a belief system like that then?
Our main objective should be to make sure less and less people can hear them and get close to them and feel affinity for them with their false representation of Islam. We have to unmask their evil purpose and intentions by showing the real context in the Quran.
We need to stop this ignorant impression, which is common in practicing Muslims’ minds, that we are against their religion and accusing them because they believe in Islam. If that happens, then the general mass of practicing Muslims will turn towards this evil force and embolden it.
Mauro: What should the U.S. as a whole do?
Noor: We need to make sure that U.S. policy is consistent. In 1971, at the time of our liberation war, the State Department knew about the evil role of Jamaat-e-Islami. You can easily find out about their inhumane killing, torture and plundering and how they killed innocents like my father and three million people without discretion.
We are surprised to see, from time-to-time, U.S. officials accepting the vicious force of Jamaat-e-Islami as a “moderate” Islamic party. It does not make any sense to us. The party should be reprimanded by U.S. officials without any hesitation but that’s not happening.
The Jamaat-e-Islami party in Pakistan established political Islam from which sprung all the extremist forces like the Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. If we had countered and eliminated Jamaat-e-Islami in the 1960s and 1970s in Pakistani politics, we would not have the vicious Islamic extremism of today.
I also want to address the religious schools called madrasses that need to be eliminated or have better supervision. They are producing illiterate, unscientific religious bigots who are completely out of touch with the modern civilized world and its values and norms. Sometimes U.S. money goes to these madrasses, which is really counterproductive.
U.S. policy-makers need to emphasize including modern curriculum so that Islamic scholars can understand and cope with the modern civilized world.
Mauro: What is the role of the major Muslim-American organizations in the U.S. and their relationship with Political Islam?
Noor: As far as I see and know, the major Muslim-American organizations are basically led by questionable characters that are connected with political Islam and some have Bangladeshi origins. Some alleged killers from the 1971 Bangladesh genocide are in the managing committees of various mosques here in America. These people have their own agenda and that is spewing religious extremism and anti-American sentiment. In private conversations, if not publicly, they always bring up geopolitical matters to rationalize their activities. Using the religious bully pulpit, they express extreme disgust towards the secular parties and governments of Bangladesh and other countries. They politicize everything in the name of practicing religion, which is a really alarming thing.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.