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     Volume 8 Issue 57 | February 13, 2009 |

  Cover Story
  Current Affairs
  Special Feature
  Food for Thought
  Ekushey Grantha   Mela
  One Off
  A Roman Column
  Star Diary
  Book Review
  Write to Mita
  Post Script

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On 'Musings at Midnight’'
In Neeman Sobhan's Musings at Midnight, her comment about women wearing Hijab on TV shows a lack of understanding and respect for Muslim culture. The Hijab is not an "Arab culture". It is worn in plenty of Non-Arab countries. Hijab or head scarf is farz or compulsory in Islam. I don't wear it myself, but I respect my sisters who choose to wear it.
Isn't democracy all about freedom to choose? What next - a call for banning hijab because it is "alien"? This comment by Ms. Sobhan just goes to show that being "progressive" is no guarantee of enlightenment. Our progressive elements can be just as reactionary as the fundamentalist ones.
Shireen Khan
Dhanmondi, Dhaka


I would like to express my appreciation for this week's A Roman Column (Jan. 30, 2009), focusing on the recent Gaza tragedy. Ms Sobhan's keen insight and lucid language vividly sums up our feelings of helpless distress for the victims and the deep resentment against those in authority who might have done something, specially, in the Muslim world.
However, I think the writer is rather severe in her stance against Bangladeshi women wearing Arab-style 'hijaabs'. Most of us wear abayas and hijaabs because they are convenient and effective. Beneath our abayas we wear saree or shalwar-kameez, not the long dresses of our Arab counterparts. And we cover ourselves thus because, from our understanding of Islam, we believe that our religion requires us to do so. I use the word 'believe' because I don't want to go into a debate on the rights and wrongs of the issue. Neither do I want to argue on whether or not dressing this way is a step backwards for women. I only want to stress that, contrary to the assumptions of westerners, the hijaab is not like a symbol to us; it is an essential part of our clothing, without which we would not step outside.
There may be Muslims who have a different interpretation of the Islamic code of dressing, but surely, it is unjust to dismiss the motive of hijaab-wearers as a case of “identity crisis” or “disowning their own culture” or having a “holier than thou” attitude? Doesn't it undermine the intelligence and integrity of these women, many of whom are well-educated, in secular as well as religious terms? Would it be right for a saree-clad Bangladeshi woman to scorn her jeans-donning sister lunching on pizza and coke, for blindly adopting an alien culture or trying to be 'cooler than thou'?
Fowzia Akhter
Lahore, Pakistan

On the cover story "A Spiritual Sojourn"
Despite the era of modernism, religion is on its triumph through its practice of enhancing the beauty of soul, consciousness of mind and fitness of body which inspires a man to search for the greater meaning of our life and existence.
Considering all of its criticism, religion is one of the transformative forces in the history of humankind which aspires to seek both spiritual and material purposes and religious congregation is a crucial part in fostering the true messages of a religion by which people not only strengthen their understanding about different common practices, but also receive the guidance to cope up with present world issues.
As the Muslims are in an unfavourable condition for many political and religious aspects especially the allegation of terrorism imposed upon them, such gatherings will be effective to foster the true message of Islam among the Muslim and non-Muslim communities which will tremendously reduce the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.
The government and other authorities concerned have many things to do to facilitate the sound arrangement of such a globally significant congregation of the Muslim world in Bangladesh and this pilgrimage greatly helps strengthen the fraternity among the Muslim countries which will be a powerful weapon to combat the adversities and discrimination against the second largest religious community in the globe.
Sheikh Abdullah
Department of Finance, University of Dhaka

Response to "Being Liberal in Dhaka"
Reading Faruq Hasan's piece, "Being Liberal in Dhaka", caused some of my latent thoughts to bubble over. First, I would like to state that, in my opinion, politics in the West is really no different. Here in North America, it is treated more as a spectator sport with blind fans cheering for their team. Here too there are "liberal" and "conservative" stereotypes that the majority willingly mould themselves into. For the purposes of this rant, let's stick to the text book right vs. left definitions of conservatism and liberalism.
Since the beginning of civilization, politicians and leaders have identified and used choice words to manipulate their followers, telling them what they want to hear. Liberals push Utopian concepts such as wealth redistribution, equal opportunity, financial and industrial nationalism, entitlement to what many would call privileges (as opposed to rights) etc. Conservatives promise comparably romantic ideas such as personal responsibility, minimal government intervention, guaranteed success solely through hard work, military and cultural nationalism etc. Once elected, all these "ideals" are conveniently forgotten and it's business as usual. No foresight or long term solutions to pressing problems are found or discussed. People in office tend to be reactive rather than proactive, and nobody knows whether or not their proposed band aid remedies to the country's many ailments will be temporary or permanent, effective or pathetically misguided. It's simply high stakes gambling.
To reach the masses and pull at their heart strings, the few aim for the lowest common denominator of the many. In the US, promises of low gas prices are made. In Bangladesh, promises of low rice prices are made. Americans talk about selling the homeland to China - Bangladeshis talk about selling the homeland to India. Liberal rule tends to favour the poor (some poor by choice!) while a conservative government usually brings good fortune to the wealthy. In the end, the middle class almost always ends up at the sharp(er) end of the stick.
Our country has come a long way since independence. The various social classes I grew up seeing no longer exist. Fortunately, today, there are very few families that have to go hungry. However, along with the dirt poor, the middle and upper middle classes have also diminished. In the West, the middle class has lasted longer due to various social safety nets, but has now dug itself into a hole with credit cards and loans (which is beginning in Bangladesh as well).
What I find odd is, people actually swallow this! As a discerning voter, I want to know not only the "Whats" but also the "Whens", "Hows", "Whens", and "Wheres". Is this too much to ask for when I would like to make an informed decision on who I want to be led by?
Farhad Quassem
Halifax, Ns

Ekushey Grantha Mela

It is a matter of great pleasure that the Ekushe Book Fair is doing very well from the beginning of this month. This is an exceptional year where on the very first Friday the stall owners say that they have sold plenty of books. It is good to know that young generation read books along with listening to FM Radio and their MP3 players.
Unfortunately, this venture is very centralised inside Dhaka city. We could not be a part of this fair from Sylhet. Time and also the costs involved in travelling do not allow us to be a part of this noble venture. We would like to request Bangla Academy to arrange book fairs in all the major districts. Everyone all over the country should be a part of this movement and not only those living in Dhaka.
Md. Abdul Hamid
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Business Administration
Shahjalal University, Sylhet.

A few words were inadvertently omitted at the end of page 11 in last week's Cover Story. The sentence should read: “The Movement formally and actively believes that travelling to engage in missionary activity fully discharges any religious obligation to engage in Jihad.”

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