A Tribute to Begum
I was touched by Perween Rasheed's article. I felt that I was reading about my own childhood and my own mother. Those of us who were born and brought up in the western wing of the then united Pakistan will agree with me about how important it was for us to keep in touch with our language and culture. My parents subscribed to another weekly newspaper apart from Begum -- Purbodesh. Thanks once again to Perween Rasheed for reminding me about how important one's culture is.
A Response to HIV Alert
As one of your readers living in France, I was amazed to see the letter about HIV that appeared in the Internet edition of SWM, published almost 10 days ago (unfortunately, due to the fact that SWM is only put on the Internet seven days AFTER the published version, I just saw this issue a couple of days ago).
This story has been circulating on the Internet as a "horror story" for some time, but I have never seen it credited to any reliable source, and most of us believe it to be complete fiction. Even in the unlikely event that there was some truth to it, the whole idea is based on very dubious science, i.e., the HIV virus remains active for a very short time after it is removed from the body, so leaving it on syringes in cinema seats would be a completely ineffective transmission method!
More importantly, I was very sad to see the attitude taken in the letter, which clearly sees "these HIV positive people" as mad and vengeful. The fact is, living with HIV and AIDS is a painful and stigmatising experience, and those of us who do not have to live with it should be sensitive rather than prejudiced, discriminatory and condemnatory towards those who do. NOBODY "deserves" to get HIV or AIDS, and the vast majority of those who are living with it have had no choice in the matter, e.g., many monogamous married women who have been infected by husbands with more than one partner, and children to whom the virus has been transmitted by infected parents. Under the circumstances, I would strongly urge people to think more in-depth about these issues, and SWM to be more careful when publishing this kind of letter.
Detached From Reality
There is a hand-written leaflet called GHD being passed around our college. Its appeal was to reject all western goods and to drive foreign investors out of the country. It also urged all students to unite for the protection of Islam and to stop any kind of ' idolatry '. However, what surprised me was that some of my friends actually supported the contents of this particular leaflet. They said that they believe that Islam and extremism are necessary and unavoidable and that militancy is the most effective way to establish religious laws.
Contrary to their beliefs, I firmly believe that militancy is the most effective way to destroy the acceptability of any religion. Only tolerance and a logical expression of principles can spread a religion in people's minds. But painfully, a number of young people are being stimulated and misguided by some fanatics. These people are trying to plant their own theories in order to reap their own benefits in the name of religion. Some of my friends do not even believe in coexisting with members of other religions. They think that all other religions are unacceptable with the exception of Islam. I reminded them that our Constitution states that everyone has the right to practise their own beliefs and faiths. As a result, it would not only be inhuman but also unconstitutional to try and stop them. I tried my best to make them come to their senses but unfortunately they were not willing to change their rigid attitudes towards religion.
Perhaps, they are detached from reality. Bangladesh is still a developing country with poor progress in trade sectors. It definitely needs foreign investment to strengthen the national economy, in which westerners are ahead. Moreover, our annual development programmes depend on their aid. So it is not wise to be hostile to foreign citizens in this current age of globalisation. We have to step forward together and it is infallible. Those who want to reject their goods should think about the consequences had these foreign investors rejected our goods. Only a simple embargo on the garments sector can paralyse our economy. So my appeal to them is to get back into reality and to be more practical.
I am always extremely proud to say that I am from Bangladesh. There is no other country that is comparable in my eyes. We have so many special days to celebrate our pride. Again and again, we can feel the importance of our mother language, our culture, our heritage as well as our origin when we celebrate on one of these days. Such a day is Pahela Boishakh. It is an exceptional day for all, especially since we are surrounded by our own cultural atmosphere. However, I have seen that some people start their days with so-called "Panta-Ilish", and wear Bangali traditional dresses, but they spend the day watching Hindi cinema and listening to Hindi songs while they are supposedly enjoying Pahela Boishakh. I cannot understand this hypocrisy and I find it slightly offensive. We are a culture that must be proud of what we have, rather than feel something on the inside and show something else on the outside.
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