Thursday, December 01, 2005

What's Happening To Bangladesh

I try to keep things light in this blog. There's enough gloom and depression around the world if you look for it, and I consider myself an optimist. However, today, I am going to post about something that I feel very strongly about.

Even though I have lived abroad all my life, feel like a foreigner when I am there for a visit (technically true) and can never comprehend actually living in Bangladesh, that country has always held a special place in my heart. I have loved the fact that Bangladeshi culture and language is one of the oldest and richest in the world. When people pointed to radical so-called 'Islamic' governments taking over peoples' lives in the Muslim world, Bangladesh shone as a brilliant example of democracy taking fruit in the Muslim world. Our communal harmony was something to be proud of during the 1947 bloody partition of India.

I have always been proud of the Sufi, moderate Islam that Bangladeshis have practiced. There are no bans on listening to music, TV commercials featuring beautiful women, music at weddings, hanging out at malls during prayer timings and so on. Live and let live.

That all started to change sometime ago. Change has been slow and steady, but now its ominous. When my Pakistani Ahmadiyya friends emailed me stories where an Ahmadiyya mosque was torched down, where some Ahmadiyya books were banned, I would always reply with a comment, "These are isolated cases."

Their reply: "Bangladesh is going the way of Pakistan. You wait and see."

Then came the election. The BNP won, but in their coalition they had some religious parties affiliated. Uh oh.

My uncle is a professor of an university in Bangladesh. Once there was a dance program featuring Bengali literature, organized by him. The local self-styled 'defender of the faith' party sent him a letter stating that unless he stops these 'un-Islamic activities that are incompatible with the moral standards of the country' they would kill him. It was a death threat.

There were reports of Taliban finding safe haven in Bangladesh. All false, I assumed. Propagated by nationalistic Indian agencies like RAW, some said.

Then came the mega explosion of terror. For the first time, some people joked, Bengalis were on time. They could afford to joke as no one died. That changed too. The extremists started to target judges. Judges who have ruled that the Ahmadiyya book ban was unconstitutional.

Then we got hit by suicide bombing, till now a foreign entity. These were aimed at lawyers. As if it wasn't enough, they did an encore. People have now started to ask if Bangladesh has a problem with terrorism.

I hope, for their sake, the Bangladeshi people wake up from this nightmare. The law and order situation has been bad already. We have consistently topped the list of most corrupt nation. Having accepted those as a fact of life due to poverty, Bangladeshis should be in no mood to accept radicals in their midst. Once, a grave and powerful force began to oppress Bangladeshis and try to wipe out their culture, tradition and history. The Bengalis rose as one to tackle the threat and drive it out. Let's hope that spirit of '71 is still alive.



estarz said...

What up? I see your comments on other sites...just wanted to check out blog and say Hi.


mezba said...

Estarz: Welcome!

Anisa said...

mezba, so sorry you're dealing with this. i admire the way sufis practice as well...the beauty of the relgion really comes out. that's too bad the direction that it's going. i pray to God that it will change soon.

mystic-soul said...

My dad had business in jessore !!. I still have little memory of been there when I was 4/5 yrs old but jessore continue to come in my dreams after so many years. Wish I can visit again atleast one time..Jessore, khulna, Decca..

Have you recently been there?

mezba said...

Thank you all. At the moment the situation in Bd is in flux, we will have to wait and see until elections next year. The problem is that the opposition does not want to wait a few months but wants to force the election now (Canadians, sounds familiar?). Except ofcourse it won't be as peaceful as here.

Zainub said...

Just to clear some confusion Mezba, there are no bans on listening to music in Pakistan, and the TV commercials here do feature beautiful women, there is also music at weddings, and people can also hang out at malls during prayer timings.

mezba said...

Hi Zainub,

No, the comment about Bangladesh going the way of Pakistan was limited to the freedom of speech curbs placed on Ahmadiyyas there. My Qadiani friends tell me its quite restrictive, though I have no way of knowing for sure. I hope those reading the statement did not get presume I was talking about the other curbs in Pakistan. To my knowledge it's not like that.

The other curbs, about music, women etc. are usually curbs placed in stricter countries. Some of them have an appeal in some parts of Bangladesh, and already the NWFP has several of these in place, according to BBC.

- Mezba

zainub said...

I don't think the Hizba law got approved in the Frontier but I am not sure, I'll have a look into that later, when I have a bit more time, and then drop over my thoughts on that. Over all though Pakistan is probably more socially open now then it ever has been in its history. It's not to say I approve of all of Mushy's 'enlightened moderation' bandwagon, but if I can go on this any further it will be akin to opening a hornet’s nest.

Em said...

Salaams, bro.
You must have already heard, but we didn't bottom out on the TI table this year, Alhamdulillah! While we may not have improved in absolute terms in the corruption measure (in fact TI says corruption in the Desh has worsened, if anything), what's more important in a global perspective is that we're no longer bottom. That's the kind of publicity we need right now, particularly in wake of us hogging even the BBC front page headlines with our pre-election antics.

From one Bangladeshi to another (well, at least at heart you are), congratulations!! Remember to thank Allah.

Anonymous said...

Islam is not what Sufis said and you will not be asked on the judgement day about what Sufis said. Islam is what Allah said in the Quran. So if you worship only one GOD, then I will ask you to study (listen to the meaning if you don't understand Arabic) Quran. There are sites which posted quran in mp3 with english translation and also in other languages.