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A sad January

For me, like many around the globe, the advent of the New Year was deeply saddening.
When I heard that America had assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, I panicked. I thought this would be the beginning of another spate of long-drawn conflicts in the Middle East and Gulf regions, which would leave millions more homeless and many, many dead. The conflict, I thought then and still believe, would spread across a region where both Iran and the US have their own allied nation-states.
It was an audacious killing that brought both states close to war.
I had feared full-scale conflict after the Soleimani killing, but fortunately, both nation-states were seen to de-escalate the tension — for now, that is. That was good news. But a Ukrainian passenger aircraft being destroyed was perhaps the most unfortunate incident of 2020 so far. I was annoyed and sad to learn that a tech-empowered army thought the aircraft to be an American missile.
Iran’s internal discontent with the regime had almost evaporated, but the accidental downing of the aircraft brought it back. Now, the protestors are back on the streets. But we mustn’t be complacent that the eagerness for war has been slaked for these two states.
And so, the beginning of 2020 hasn’t told brought any happy tale for people around the world.
In our nation-state, Bangladesh, things aren’t very happy either.
A student of the University of Dhaka was raped in the capital city’s Kurmitola area on January 5. The students of the university, as well as the intelligentsia, erupted in protest against the acts of rape across the country. The rapist was quickly tracked and arrested by lawmen. We gave a round of applause to the law-enforcers for detaining the alleged rapist in next to no time.
Rape isn’t alien to Bangladesh. Neither is the oppression of women. Our women keep suffering at the hands of rapists and men who grew up thinking that it’s OK to inflict other kinds of violence upon women. There’s a serious problem with the concept of manhood in Bangladesh.
Rape, in our society, has risen to an epidemic level.
However, to my utter horror, I discovered that our senior law-makers in the parliament recently sounded completely helpless in the face of rising sex crimes. They demanded that the rapists be killed in “crossfires” in order to stop rape incidents, which have increased alarmingly in recent times.
I felt sad seeing that our members of parliament, as a result of their inability to prevent a heinous crime from taking root, consented to extra-judicial killings instead.
We wonder how legal their demands were as well.
This is an example of how we allowed a state of lawlessness to prevail as far as serious crimes are concerned. The rapists had seen other rapists go free even after committing the crime. And that was how would-be rapists were inspired. Now, we are demanding an extreme solution that is not humane, proper, or logical.
Logic is perhaps the last thing on our minds as we lead our lives. Recently, we detained a baul musician who had challenged Islamists, demanding they prove whether or not singing has been prohibited in Islamic scripture.
The video of the challenge hit YouTube and became viral. No one bothered to prove it; instead, one of them filed a case against the boyati, alleging that he had hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims.
He was arrested under Digital Security Act. The baul didn’t say anything derogatory about religion. He vehemently criticized those who abused the religion. That’s what hurt them, and led them to become outraged. It hurt their ego. They should have been courageous enough to respond to the baul’s challenge.
It has often been observed that the scripture, namely the Holy Qur’an, is hardly explained to followers properly. The followers aren’t encouraged to read the holy book thoroughly, or with proper understanding of its meaning. Many a time, the real spirit of the scripture is lost due to our ignorance, and new ideas, which may not be what the holy book actually says, creep into our minds.
This is very unfortunate and sad. We cannot deny the fact that there are many among us who use religion as a tool for earthly gain. We need to understand that religion may be a sensitive subject, but at the same time, since it plays a very important role in forming the psyche of a society, we must know and follow its true form.
Otherwise, unfortunate incidents such as these will happen again.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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