<%-- Page Title--%> Opinion <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 149 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 9, 2004

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The Case against
DB and the Prostitute

M Zaman

Recently I had the opportunity of going through the interesting ‘book review' on JD Salinger's, The Catcher in the Rye under the attractive title “My brother DB is a prostitute”, published in the Star Weekend Magazine of March 12, 2004.

The unprovoked and brutal attack on Dr Azad, one of our most innocent and talented intellectuals by 'persons unknown' shocked the entire nation. This act was condemned by all sensible citizens and the intelligentia has not yet recovered from the shock. The nation has not yet fully recovered from the traumatic experience, especially because the true identities of the cruel young men who attacked the Professor have not yet been fully established as a result of lukewarm response of the agencies deputed for this purpose by our national government. People also have not yet been presented with the true purpose of the dastardly attack on one of our scholars. What a shame!

The reviewer of The Catcher in the Rye too has also not yet recovered from the shock. The pleasure he expected to derive from the teaching of his favourite novel has, I believe, not yet started overwhelming him and his eager students. I hope that he soon regains his calm and pleasure which are the gifts a teacher always covets.

I too was a teacher but not of English language or literature. However, I have been always a great admirer of the classics written in English by past masters and also by accomplished authors of the post- colonial period.

To me the choice of the title 'My brother is a prostitute' was not very appropriate. The thoughts resulting from the episode of the attack on Dr Azad must have naturally focused attention of the reviewer to the plight of writers and their insecurities in Bangladesh. He has chosen to declare that some of our writers like DB, once 'a terrific writer' later by 'selling his soul for material gains', 'has become a prostitute'. Who are these writers? At least Dr Azad was not one of them and many of my fellow readers will agree with me on this point.

At one point the reviewer states that, 'A suicide bomber knows that death is the inevitable outcome of his actions'. This is true, but the entire western world does not understand from where a 'suicide' bomber of modern days gets his inspiration to undertake the journey towards death. Westerners have a history of seeing Muslims as ‘political murderers’. It is the belief that ‘Muslim extremists’, under the of influence hasshish and in the hope of getting rewarded in the after life that led to the word assasin. Westerners invented the word Assassin from "Hashishin" -- meaning users of Hashish and introduced it into the English language to mean the extremists working under the influence of the drug. But, to my knowledge, this has never proved to be an actual fact based on solid evidence. Does the western world think that the modern Hashishins (Assassins) work under the influence of drugs? I do not know. I know that modern science has given the westerners hundreds of potent new narcotics, hallucinogens and nerve rattling synthetics with which the human mind can be effectively manipulated and influenced. I am sure the modern so called suicide bombers have no access to the vast array of modern 'drugs' and human behaviour controlling agents discovered by the westerners. Thus the motive forces behind the action of suicide bombers is still a mystery.

The reviewer admits that, 'a religious martyr willingly lays down his life for his faith'. But the question remains--what inspires the 'secular' martyrs?

He further says that 'I do not know of any writer who knows that death is the outcome of his writings, yet writers have died for what they have written'. I am sure Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin did not know that their creations would affect certain sections of Muslims here in Bangladesh and in other countries to make their lives insecure. It happened just like that. Now they know that it was their writings which made them search for safe sanctuaries abroad. I do not know what still inspires them to harp on their old tunes. I wonder whether their motives are only commercial or there is some element of faith which they want to profess and declare.

Yes, many times in the past 'writers have died for what they have written'. The history of Christianity abounds with instances of witch hunting, burning at stakes, torture and even the killing of people who practised and preached revolutionary ideas. Even Jesus Christ and many of the earlier Prophets were killed for what they preached. But the world has finally recognised the merits and Divine nature of the messages. I wonder whether Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin and their kind believe that in future they will be hailed for their writings as saviours of mankind almost like Prophets, Saints or great men of other faiths.

Even in this modern world, those who venture to flout the existing approved social norms suffer the consequences. It is, therefore, not advisable to play with the sentiments of people.

Accomplished writers and reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and even the so called 'secular politician' Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru were always careful not to invoke displeasure of people of other faiths. One of the exceptions was Bankim Chatterjee who in his attempt to win the favours of his British masters had always tried to vilify the Muslims who had ruled over the Hindus for seven centuries. I understand the purpose of Bankim but fail to understand the motives of Rushdie and Nasrin and their likes.

I would always be in favour of the freedom of speech of writers but would never like the kind of writing that is done mainly for commercial purposes or to attack the beliefs and faiths of particular sections of the society. Writers and poets should emulate Rammohan, Tagore, Vivekananda, Iqbal and the Mahatma and should not follow the examples of Bankim, the modern Zionists or the militant Hindus.

I fully condemn the dastardly attack on Prof. Azad. I pray for his health and long life. I fully sympathise with his family members. But I would also caution the media and others not to use these episodes for creating distrust between readers of differing faiths and beliefs for their commercial or other heinous objectives.

I would congratulate the learned reviewer of The Catcher in the Rye. I know that because of my deficiency, I shall never be able to fully understand the true meanings and real ideas of an expert of English. But I would humbly request that such scholarly pieces penned by an eminent expert should not carry such an eye-catching and cheap title. I feel honoured to pay the reviewer my regards.



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