by Abdullah Qazi / January 10, 2016
Sayed 1 Shafie Ayar is an Afghan-American activist, author, and the host of a very popular and controversial show on YouTube called Shafie Ayar Show. The show, which is primarily in Farsi, also airs on Sunday mornings on Ariana Afghanistan TV. The show mostly covers politics, religion, current events, as well literature. Part of what makes Ayar’s show so popular is that he uses simple language, which helps him connect with the everyday person. His show is also popular because he regularly embeds bits of humor and music into almost every episode.
Ayar is the author of five books: Hamasa-e-Eman, Paqnjal Hae-e-Khoneen, Nawrooze tan Behrooz, Afghanistan – Jihad and Peace, and Afghan Hearts & Minds. He is also a founding member of the Aab Organization, based in San Ramon, California. According to the organization’s official website, the mission of Aab is to “provide knowledge and educate people in promoting peace and prosperity through the divine commandments of God during these volatile times“. The organization says they are against extremism and are for tolerance, diversity, and coexistence.
Ayar uses his show as a plaform in which he regularly criticizes the current Afghan government, being led by President Ashraf Ghani, as well as what he refers to as extremists Mullahs. Ayar tells his viewers that Ghani is corrupt and incompetent, and that he, as well as the extremist Mullahs are being used to destroy Afghan society and bring it under Pakistani control.
In December 2015, Ayar sided with Donald Trump when he said that there is a “Muslim problem” in America, and that all Muslims must be tracked. He voiced his support for Trump on his regular Farsi show, and additionally, he made a separate show in English to be sure that non-Farsi speakers also understood his position. Ayar said that he agrees that there is a “Muslim problem” in America, and that he will even vote for Donald Trump because of this. Ayar argued that Muslim extremists are being “incubated” in America’s local masjids. Ayar wants these masjids to be monitored and cleansed from extremists. He even volunteered to have himself physically marked if it will help Trump separate out “bad Muslims” and “good Muslims”.
Shafie Ayar is what many refer to as a “Quran Only Muslim”. This term is meant to describe a Muslim who follows only the Quran, and rejects the Hadiths, which are collections of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad compiled by past Muslim scholars such as Muhammad al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj. Ayar argues on his show that all the Hadiths, even ones classified as “sahih” or authentic are fake, and that he doesn’t believe that they are the true words of Prophet Muhammad. Ayar says that the Hadiths are nonsensical, anti-women, and that they make the Prophet out to be intolerant, an extremist, and a pedophile.
Because of his views on Islam, Ayar has clashed with some conservative Afghan Muslims, like Noorullah Kawsar, who is the director of Kabul University’s Islamic Studies department. Kaswar has publicly labeled Ayar a Kafir (or infidel), and some of Kawsar’s more zealous supporters have even called for Ayar’s death over his views on Islam. Ayar says he regularly receives death threats because of his views; however he is not afraid or intimated by these threats, and insists that he will not stop exercising his freedom of speech.
Other conservative Afghans complain that Ayar’s comments not only insult the prophet, but that he is ignorant about Islam’s history and doesn’t understand Islamic law. Ayar sees Kawsar and some other popular clerics, such as Mawlawi Azizullah Mufleh as extremists and says people like them poison young minds, making them intolerant and militant. Ayar says that they are the cause of the backwards mentally that afflicts many not just in Afghanistan, but the whole Muslim world.
Early and Personal life
Shafie Ayar was born in 1961, and his family comes from Paghman, in Kabul province. He was a medical student at Kabul University when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Ayar, like most intellectuals who didn’t support the invasion, was imprisoned at the age of 19 by the pro-Soviet communist government that took over, and was unable to complete his degree in medicine. During his time in jail, Ayar writes in his book Afghan Hearts and Minds that he was severely beaten and tortured on a regular basis. Ayar spent 4 1/2 years (1980-1984) in jail.
In 1985, he fled Afghanistan and arrived at the United States, where he eventually became an American citizen, and got involved in the real estate business. He didn’t return to Afghanistan for a visit until December 2003, which was after the Taliban were overthrown and a new Afghan government was put in place under Hamid Karzai.
Ayar is married and has 2 daughters. Besides Farsi, he speaks English and Pashto. When Ayar is not working on his show, or participating in seminars or conferences, he enjoys hunting with his dog named Chuck.
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