Feds raid Connecticut madrassa for vegetables

From the Sept. 30 edition of the New York Bangladeshi community paper Bangla Patrika. Translated from the Bangla by the NY Independent Press Association:

Federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, raided the Darul Ulum Shady Brook, a Madrasha (an Islamic institution) run by Bangladeshis, located at Connecticut.

On the morning of September 23, a large number of FBI, USCIS and Alcohol & Tobacco Bureau agents burst into the compound and searched the grounds for close to four hours.

During the operation the agencies seized 19 computer disks and many different kinds of documents. The vegetable garden in the Darul Ulum Madrsha, which sits on 18 acres, grows a kind of vegetable called Danta Shak. Apparently, the agents — suspicious about the nature of this plant — decided to raid the Madrasha. Many organizations of the United States, including the agricultural department, have questions about this kind of vegetable. It seems that the confusion rests on the similarity between it and the opium plant.

During the operation the agents have also collected samples of Danta Shak [green vegetables] and its seeds, which will be tested the seed and vegetable at laboratory to determine whether the Bangladeshis have broken the law.

Mujibur Rahman, a Bangladeshi immigrant who is the care taker at the Madrasha, described his experience: “I got up from bed after hearing a dreadful bang at the main gate. I became afraid seeing a large number of uniformed agents when I approached to the gate. They had the warrant to confiscate the seeds of the farm and raid the house.”

He added: “It was astonishing to me to find out that the agents questioned the Danta Shak, which Muslims in the South Asian sub continent love to eat. Only a few days ago there was a group of 20 young Muslims here, and on the menu for their meal, Danta was main the attraction.”

Mujibur Rahman said that it would take about one week to test the Danta Shak. The agents would let them know what they should do after completion of test.

Federal Magistrate Dona F. Martinez had signed the warrant which was used to conduct the raid. Government officials said that they would also examine bank documents and travel documents which they have confiscated.

FBI spokesperson Lisa Bul said that their main issue is to test the vegetable , its ingredients and its quality.

Aziz Jaffrey, a Dobbs Ferry resident, and Faruk Sardar, a resident of Queens, purchased the locale for $550,000 in 2003.

Faruk Sarder said that he was astonished to see so much action about such a mundane green vegetable. He said that the seeds are sometimes brought from Bangladesh, and can sometimes be procured at local stores. The seeds are sold in Bangladeshi stores in New York.

Many people have compared the incident to “firing canon to kill a mosquito.”

Banglapedia indicates that danta shak is the stem of the amaranth plant. Yummy-sounding amaranth recipes are online at Chet Days’ Health & Beyond vegetarianism website.

Chalk this little fiasco up as another episode in the official policy of domestic Islamophobia—and the idiotic obsession with criminalization of plants.