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.