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                Volume 10 |Issue 33 | August 26, 2011 |


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Eid with a Missing Difference

Shah Husain Imam

Ramadan and Eid have always had an international side to it. This is not just because Islam is a world religion and its followers are resident in different continents. But major religious occasions across faiths and cultures have an auspicious and universal ring to them. Pursuit of happiness is an inner urge of all human beings cutting across faiths, cultures, castes and creeds. That is why greetings are exchanged between peoples of different religions on special occasions exuding goodwill.

Each religion has its own day, so that there is mutual respect and sharing of joy on the festive occasions of each other. That is what human bonding and brotherhood is all about. This time though, the international spectre cast a bigger shadow over Ramadan leading to Eid-ul-Fitr than perhaps anytime before. The NATO air strike in Libya has made possible the fall of Gaddafi. When war had been in full swing in Iraq and Afghanistan, deference would be shown to Ramadan once in a while by public announcement. Yet invasive and interventionist it always has been. Indigenous solutions were never allowed to evolve. People felt wronged.

The religiosity of the month on the other hand, instead of sobering down the extremist streak of the militants, seems to step it up. For instance, Pakistan reels in suicide blasts in mosques in the holy month of Ramadan! The aggressive jihadi cult is the farthest from what Islam stands for: Peace.

To add to our dismay, this Eid is set against the background of warlike in Syria and Libya with the military machine of the government brutally crushing anti-government sentiments. The death, injury and rape figures are a blot on the world's conscience. Earlier, Yemen, Egypt and Bahrain have had their ordeals, they are still unsettled. What do Ramadan and Eid mean to the brothers and sisters in those countries, particularly the children who are the worst victims?

With them in the backdrop, our own Eid is poised to be much less joyful than before.

Compared to them, we are lucky, all the more reason that our hearts would go out in sympathy for their plight. Our diplomatic missions should reach Eid greetings and if possible gifts to them. Much as we extend our shoulders for others to cry on, who do we turn to for relief from a man-made abyss we have willy-nilly dipped our feet into? Our internal mismanagement of the prequel to the Eid is tellingly unnerving. With about two-thirds of the road communication networks in dire straits of disrepair, hundreds and thousands of Eid driven homebound people may have to settle for the festival either in Dhaka or somewhere beside the highway.

As it is, the ticketing scandal stalks their footsteps as mobile calls have hijacked tickets that were supposed to have been on the counters, never mind the frustration staring in the face of sleep-queuing folks on the floors from the night before.

A full-blown law and order situation is in the making centering around scrambles for road, railway and riverine journeys being planned by thousands to their village homes. The well to do might have been smarter arranging trips to neighbouring countries.

Indeed, Eid only reinforces the escapist attitude among the Dhakaites. The other side of the coin is exclusivity rather than inclusiveness, which is the underlying message of Eid. We have long been accustomed to a stock question: What is Eid to the hungry, the poor and the pauperized (thanks to river erosion)? Would most of them have new clothes to wear by virtue of zakat or fitra? Perhaps not, but still they will put on a smile, if only we help them to.

Two exclusionary features that have crept into the society need to make us sit up and take note: one, the warming ritual of embracing each other (kolakuli) after Eid prayers that had been a fixture has all but vanished as an endearing art; and two, why must we be so feudal to have a VIP enclosure, (sort of) in high profile prayer maidans. Barring security concerns for a miniscule select few who might need some kind of a cover, there is hardly any rationale for the rest not to line up anywhere they want. Eid is completely antipodal to we – they differentiation.


The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.


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