Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday: Fixing The System

"I was on vacation. I didn't want to think about that sort of stuff."
- A friend, recounting how a relative told him of his financial burdens.

It's Friday, and I am eating an apple during lunch hour. Blogging is good for sticking to a diet. I want to go out now and pig out at the dim sum place, but I ... must ... blog. And read the other blogs I read. By the time I am done, lunch hour is over.

I was thinking my friend's comment while stuck in rush hour today. You see, my friend is a good person. Even though his statement may sound insensitive - you are in Bangladesh, you are on vacation, you have stuff to buy and lots to see. And along comes someone you have never heard of but is distantly related to you in some manner, complaining about life. What are you to do? I wanted to explore that a little further.

Whenever our elders will meet, talks will evidently switch to how bad things are back 'over there', with all the corruption, all the breakdown in law and order and so on. As a youngster who has been brought up abroad, I can only listen to it and shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, what do you want me to do?"

Typically, solutions will range from one of the following.

  1. We must go back.
    This is the Swades solution. In my opinion this does nothing. What are you going to do upon going back? Whatever option you choose, soon you will be faced with corruption. Want a phone line, pay a buck to the phone guy on the side. Want to open a business? Pay the hafta to a local mastaan. Soon, you are not fighting the system, you are part of the system. And let's face it, we are not going back. We are too used to our comforts and lifestyle here.
  2. Return to true Islam.
    Whatever that vague statement means.
  3. Nothing will be ever fixed so just get out of the country.
    Usually the attitude taken by those who are already out of the country.

In my mind, there is one way to fix the issue. Education. We must churn out educated people by the droves in our home countries.

Think about it. Of all the many religious instructions we are given, praying, remembering Allah, giving to the poor and so on, what is the first revealed instruction of Allah to mankind?

"Read". (96:1)

What is the first thing Allah did when he created Adam? He taught him the names of everything. Knowledge.

For no other reason did the Prophet stress we have to seek knowledge, even to the 'borders of China'. He also taught us that the "ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr", from which we get the "pen being mightier than the sword". The early Muslims (male AND female) were some of the most educated in the world.

And how can we, individual expatriates, help?

We all send money to our poorer relatives to help them out. Then there is the Zakaat money. I personally spend Qurbani here in Canada, so I am contributing locally, and I give the Zakaat money to relatives in Bangladesh. Next time, when you send money to your relatives, keep a portion of it dedicated solely to their education purposes.

In our villages, there is great pressure on young men to abandon their education and help the father with his business, and for women to not have any education at all. Next time I am in Bangladesh, I would like to use a portion of the Zakaat to help offset the cost of education for any of my needy relatives.

And how would everyone helping their relatives get educated solve anything? Think about it. If you are educated, and get a decent job, will you be an extremist? A racist? A mastaan? If there are a huge number of educated people working, they will demand clean services, proper infrastructure, good law and order, where they live, and the government will be forced to provide these services. Most educated people would continue to live in their home country, helping it develop and prosper. If you are educated, you will be comfortable with your religion, and someone else's religion, and this improves tolerance.

T forwarded this video to me, called India Rising (ABC). India is a great example on how to move forward. This was a country that not too long ago was equal to its neighbours. Yet, a perseverance with democracy and education for its poorer folk are now reaping rich dividends. Check out the parts of India that are educated (Kerala, Bangalore) and the parts that are not (Northern states). You will find that the problems with infrastructure, corruption, law and order are far less serious in the former. If they can do it, anyone can.

I leave you with two sayings of the Prophet (pbuh):

"Seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Muslim."

"Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years."



Kamrul said...

You have made a very good point about Education. For the poor & the illiterate, it is the ONLY way out of poverty.

There are a few strings attached to this simply stated statement. I will post them some other day. For now, I am about to head out to Mississippi !!

Shabina said...

"In my mind, there is one way to fix the issue. Education. We must churn out educated people by the droves in our home countries."

That's a great idea...except I thought the subcontinent suffered from 'brain drain'? I don't blame educated people for wanting to move themselves and their families to a country with more opportunities (my folks did it, and yours too, I'm sure), but then where does that leave the country they left behind?

Mariam said...

Yeah education could do wonders. It's very hard to manipulate educated person, but it worries me a lot when I see there are not enough persons left in Bangladesh and Pakistan to educate the masses. They have altogether destroyed the education system there. But it dosen’t mean one shouldn’t try.

Is it just me but Pakistan and Bangladesh shouldn’t have created. IF India hadn’t divided then I am sure it was an even bigger entity then today. Anyway it can’t be changed but one can hope that we all can work together for a peaceful region.

mezba said...

Kamrul: Look forward to your thoughts on this.

Shabina:I don't think we have to worry about a brain drain. Not everyone has the opportunity nor the options to leave the countries. As surveyed by ABC, most Indians who are educated now want to remain in the country, as compared to before when most wanted to run away to Silicon Valley. Even in Bangladesh I heard from my cousins now, people with good education and jobs would rather be at home in their own culture and surroundings, as compared to a foreign land. Bangladesh has done a good job in recent years in aping India - and that includes technological education and outsourcing centers - and many would never dream of getting out of the country. Some would, but not a majority.

Mariam: I can agree that Pakistan (and that includes E. Pakistan now Bangladesh) should not have been created in 1947. The breakup of Pakistan proved that the Two-Nation theory was rubbish. However, due to circumstances and the stupidity of rulers like Bhutto and Yahya Khan, who had started an ethnic cleansing campaign, the formation of Bangladesh became a necessity.

Zainub said...

I don't think Pakistan should not have been created, there are a lot of problems in my country, but I'd still preffer to live in Pakistna then in India. Plus, think of what it would have done to our cricket teams, trying to pick only 11 players from the millions and gazillions in India, Pakistan, B'desh combined, would have been a nightmare for the selectors.