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Recently, I've been reading a lot about Islam and its terrible "truths", as portrayed in various websites, forums and newspapers. Many of them (and their authors) express their grave fear on the way Islam is bringing out the "evil" side in man, how the Quran is prejudiced against Jews and Christians, how it confesses racial ideas and how innocent Muslims are being guided by the wrong "book". Usually, I enjoy reading such one-sided, half-true opinions and derive great pleasure from mocking such irrational views from different people; but seriously, enough is enough.

I guess most of the current "buzz" started off with Eliza Griswold's article on Bangladesh (The Next Islamist Revolution?) published in New York Times a few weeks back. For people who haven't read the article yet, it's basically about Bangla Bhai, his leagues and plans, his extremist "mollah" gang and his doings in Bagmara, Rajshahi. At some points, the author even tried to link up Talibans and Osama Bin Laden with our Bangla Bhai. It was a well-researched, organized piece that deserves compliments (which I thereby, bestow her with); but what was so very wrong about it was the image it attempted to project regarding Islam.

I'm not disagreeing with Griswold's information. Bangla Bhai does exist and he dominates a particular region in Rajshahi, and practices extreme fundamentalist ideas. He murders those who go against him, he punishes people who don't follow Islam and he is a figure, feared and hated there. He is a criminal and a threat to the populace. He follows Islam and says that what he does is in the name of Allah the Almighty. WAIT. Does that mean Islam is bad and all who follow Islam are culprits that need to be caught and put in jail?

Yes, this is the point where everybody goes wrong. Just because he follows Islam and says that he is doing things in accordance to Allah's will, doesn't necessarily make Islam wrong. He is a single being who is a sinner and a wrongdoer, and he doesn't represent Islam and all Muslims from across the globe. He is using the label of "Islam" for his criminal activities. Why does anyone have to blame Islam for someone's personal mistakes and crimes?

Considering the wider world, the image of Islam is being harmed in every possible way almost everywhere. After the Twin Tower bombing and Osama Bin Laden being blamed for it, there's a common misconception everywhere that all Muslims might be dangerous. That's what is unfair. If one Muslim is bad and commits crimes, it doesn't necessarily mean all Muslims are criminals and should be handled with care and extra-security.

If Osama bombed the Towers, then I believe Bush bombed Afghanistan and Iraq. If everybody was so concerned about religious backgrounds of criminals, then it's only logical for me to hate all Christians and consider them threatening, only because Bush is a Christian who ruined an entire nation and has nearly destroyed another. But that's not happening. Nobody is saying Christianity is a religion that should be hated and feared. Then, why is everybody so hyped up about damaging the image of Islam on earth? Why is there an obvious discrimination?

In order to answer that question, I'd have to explain theories, world politics, trade, jealousy and hypocrisy between world leaders. That'll be another story all together. For now, in short, let's just say it's about Muslims bringing in much development and radical changes that was unacceptable to America. Muslim countries even had resources, which America didn't have; thus, they needed an "excuse" to destroy them and cripple our power. Even if Osama hadn't bombed Twin Towers and there wasn't a fuss about nuclear weapons, I'm sure Bush would have figured out another reason to destroy Iraq for its oil.

Well, Iraq is not my point or what I'm trying to tell you through this piece of writing. What my point is that Islam cannot be blamed for what individual Muslims do to the rest of the world.

It is irrational and completely biased; if only Muslim criminals were questioned about their religious backdrops and beliefs, whereas any criminals from any other religion were just mere culprits. That's called prejudice, in my eyes.

Many question Allah's words and the scriptures from the Holy Quran. I've myself been often given quotes from many segments of the Quran and asked about its truthfulness and how it's so against modern world ideas. My answer had always been this that what I am being shown and what many of us are reading are nothing but mere human translations or interpretations of what is actually written in the Holy Quran. Allah cannot be wrong, yet people who interpret His words to us in our language can be wrong. Few of us are actually reading the real words or understanding the meaning of what's written in the Quran. Most rely on translations collected from the Internet or bought from bookstores; thus, being guided by mistakes made by simple human beings while they put these in print. The very same segment of the Quran can project two contrary ideas, only because it has been interpreted by two different human beings.

If that is so, then is it justified to blame Islam and the Holy Quran for what people's translations tell us about it? Or is it, by any means, acceptable that core Islamic beliefs and ideas should be put in trial for what some Muslims do?

I strongly believe that the answer to all the above-mentioned questions are "NO". If a person is wrong, then he is wrong in his heart, in his ideas and in his doings. He cannot blame his religion for what he is doing. No religion on Earth teaches you to murder, hate, lie or act wrongfully. Islam also doesn't tell you to do any of that. It teaches you to love, be honest and be truthful; just like any civilized religion would tell any ordinary person to do.

I didn't try to defend my country and prove Bangla Bhai's activities as a great contribution in the welfare of the people. Neither, am I trying to show my patriotism by concluding that Bangladesh has no chances of being an extremist Islamic regime.

Patriotism is that when we accept our failures and lacking and try to correct our faults and bring out a better, improved country in the future. I do accept the fact that our government and police force had failed to stop his heinous crimes and what he is doing are not just crimes, but sins as well. He is a disgrace in the very name of Islam. The least I can hope is that he will soon be caught or better, will die in a RAB "crossfire".

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Into The Groove

Aman was an only child. He went through a major transformation and it started when he entered his teens. He learned to view life from a broader perspective; he learned what it was to be important, popular and exuberant. He gives credit for this major turnaround to all his cherished friends and family.

His parents were rather old-fashioned and too possessive. Maybe it was because he was their only pride and joy. They always kept an eye on him in his early days. He was given a lot of toys to play with, but, there was no one other than his parents to share his joy, sorrow and feelings. The servant boy in their house was not encouraged to spend too much time with him.

When he entered school, he began liking his life a little bit more. He made some friends and had some fun with them during break-time. One day, the class-teacher informed him that the students would be taken to a day-trip. Aman became all excited and couldn't wait to go home and tell his parents. The response, however, was not very positive. His parents did not want him to spend too much time with his contemporaries, fearing that many of them would be bad influences.

His later school years followed in similar fashion. He was never allowed to go on any field-trip. He regretted this very much and continued being annoyed with his parents. He became rather a loner as none of the students got to spend much time with him and thus did not pay much attention to him. Suddenly on his 13th birthday, his parents announced, to his utter surprise, that he would be allowed to spend time with his friends .He could even bring them over to his house.

Previously, his father and sometimes the servant-boy took him to the playground and played football and cricket with him. He was never given permission to play with his friends in the evening. Life suddenly was full of joy and excitement for him. He always felt that there were many things incomplete in his life. Slowly, that gap would be filled.

Aman learned that playing outdoor games with friends was not only a physical activity, but, a social one as well. It was a source of obtaining companions and making some dependable friends. His athletic performance improved drastically after the first few days. He played well, and, made a lot of friends. Life was much more enjoyable than before.

He entered the natural process of growing up. Earlier, there was a barrier preventing that from occurring. He took part in a lot of extra-curricular activities in school that he never engaged in before. He participated in debating and many other group activities He started developing an attraction towards the opposite gender. He realized that while guys were great friends, guys and girls are not the same. The girls simply loved him. To them, he was charming, smart and intelligent.

Aman stepped into the natural process of life at a much later stage. Thinking back, he realized that his anger with his parents was justified. While they provided him with all the things that he wanted and fulfilled his materialistic needs, they were a restriction in his proper social development. Although, there was no doubt in his mind that they loved him dearly and did what they thought was best for him.

He confronted his parents about his understanding. They stated that they were probably not totally justified, but, earlier he did not have the capacity to make informed decisions. He was prone to danger and other dire consequences. Presently, he was older and comparatively more matured; he could be allowed to interact more freely with others. But, they reminded him that they would keep some track of his whereabouts and tell him when he mixed with the wrong company and did something wrong.

Aman turned a fulfilled and satisfied young man. He was a good student, great player, popular with the girls, admired by the guys. He was very grateful for the change in his life. He was happy that his parents had become more liberal and less possessive. Most importantly, he did not fell unimportant and lonely anymore.

By Arbab Quadri

Book review

Mrs Murphy hires a cleaner

Emily Murphy thinks life couldn't be better. With a loving and caring husband Alexander Murphy and two wonderful children Gareth and Mary, she is absolutely at peace with herself and the world. Everything is peach shaped till Alex suddenly discovers money. Overnight Emily finds that Money had replaced her in her husband's affections, and a steady gap between her and her children as well, as she keeps getting morose and drifts away from them gradually.

The bomb drops one morning when she suddenly wakes up, and realizes how her life has become a wasted cause. She looks into the mirror and sees a ghost of her past looking back at her. And then Mae McNulty (a cleaner she hires) breezes into her life, changing everything. Mae is everything Emily isn't. To cut a long story short, she has four children with four absent husbands, a flirty father, an irascible grandfather and an illegally enlarged council house. Yet, in spite of their differences, we can soon see a strong bond of friendship between the two women, a friendship that is responsible for the unique turn of events that follows.

In a nutshell: Alex loses his money and job, with the entire country turning up on his doorstep on his son's wedding, and he narrowly escapes arrest; there's a scene involving mistaken identity and two pounds of Semtex (an explosive); the four husbands of Mae turning up on the day of her Daughter's wedding, providing an eventful drama; the police turning up anywhere and everywhere; and last, but not least, a health and beauty salon called Cleopatra's.

If you're looking for something that's full of surprises and laughter, don't forget to pick up 'Mrs. Murphy Hires a Cleaner', by Kath Kincaid. It starts innocently enough but the climax at the end is unbelievable! You laugh till your stomach hurts, and go to bed with a smile on your face. What more does one need, huh?

By Jennifer Ashraf (Kashmi)


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