Considering the fact that more than 14 % of my all time views on this blog consists of views from Bangladesh (out of 70 countries), I’m sure that many of you are aware of what’s going on in Bangladesh right now. For those of you who don’t; it’s been a tumultuous time for the country as election time is here, and a couple of days ago a war criminal (from the liberation war) was hanged. This is something many people have been waiting for for a very long time (Bangladesh became independent in 1971). On February this year, a movement began in Dhaka called the Shahbag movement (Shahbag is a place in Dhaka, which is where they held their protests) demanding that the war criminal, named Abdul Quader Molla, be hanged.
Now many of you might be cringing, just like I did before I had any idea what all of this is about, when you read the word “hanged”. For us in the west, the concept is so alien – locking someone up for life should be enough, shouldn’t it? Well Bangladeshi politics is like an onion, layered with corruption, and as Abdul Quader Molla was the assistant secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami (the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh) which is covering BNP’s (main opposition party) back, people are fearing that if BNP comes to power after the election, all those war criminals will be let loose. So in a country like Bangladesh, the only acceptable punishment according to a huge chunk of the population is execution.
This has set off the “religion versus culture” dilemma in Bangladesh where people have been divided into those who consider themselves Muslims first and Bangladeshis after or Bangladeshis first and Muslims after… which is just as ridiculous as it sounds. How could you possibly measure something like that? Growing up in Scandinavia yet with strong roots, religion and culture has always merged into one big ball of the-part-of-my-identity-I-got-from-my-mom for me. I’ve seen my mom pray regularly my entire life, I have pictures from when I was around three years old sitting down on the floor having iftar (breaking of fast) with the whole family, I’ve been to Bangladesh around twenty times, and speaking Swedish with my parents has never been an option for me. I’m well aware of which parts belong to religion and which parts belong to culture, but I haven’t had any reason to separate them. I know that some “Western Bangladeshis” (who are brought up in the West, that is) are against the culture part because they think it somehow goes against religion (I don’t know… ask them!), but I’m sorry I just can’t imagine having a crayfish party (typical Swedish summer tradition) for iftar! We have dangerously unhealthy Bengali fried food for iftar and rice for suhoor (meal before starting the fast) – and I wouldn’t want it to be any different!
Anyway… returning to the current situation part… I don’t know where I stand. I only know that many innocent people are being killed and injured for life when buses are being set on fire and cocktail bombs are being thrown here and there. I know that an innocent kid got killed in the crossfire the other day, and I know that most of the people being subjected to these unnecessary crimes are the poor and unprotected in society. I know that both smaller and larger businesses are being affected by the countless hartals, and that it’s affecting the economy of the country. That’s what I know and that’s all that matters. These people are in dire need of our prayers right now.