The Obama Effect
I would like to thank the Star for looking into how Obama's re-election affected Bangladesh and our people, here and abroad. Interest in US elections is nothing new, but this month's presidential election was talked about by everybody, from my building's guard to the prime minister. My guard asked me if I supported Obama and I was struck by the thought, 'what difference would it make if I did or didn't?' Obama's return to office does not directly affect us and yet we are so happy to have him instead of his competitor, Mitt Romney. What we get is hope and happiness that his stance on immigrant communities in the US and on foreign policy is positive and friendly. He is a face of a friendlier America and that is something we can be grateful for as the world attempts to save the economies suffering from recessions or meltdowns.
the Star's use of a vox pop was also a pleasant change from an otherwise text-heavy page. I was surprised by how many people on the street based their support of Obama on a 'Muslim ancestry'. Obama has been defending and insisting on his Christian faith ever since being accused of being Muslim by people who did not want him to win. Just as Sharmin Khan in one of the cover stories points out, no one, including Obama, said 'so what if he was Muslim? There's nothing wrong with it.' While he might be preferred by the world for his policies, he shouldn't be supported for something he doesn't defend: his Muslim ancestry.
Celebrities Up to No Good
I was so surprised to read about Ananta Jalil and his wife Barsha's public fight in a restaurant in last week's issue that I actually thought it was one of the Star's satire pieces. It was only when I spoke with some friends that I found out the incident actually happened and there is a video of the altercation going around privately on Facebook.
While I don't think the couple did themselves any favours by getting riled up, I do feel kind of sorry for them as they were basically being bullied by the 'youngsters' in the restaurant. What are they supposed to do when faced with people teasing Ananta for his bad English? Taking the high ground and ignoring jibes by the public clearly isn't possible for the couple, who have been laughed at a lot more than they have been laughed with. He is really in a bubble, immune to reason, and celebrity status has done him no good. Can people just leave him alone? If we stop giving him the attention to make a fool of himself, the less we'd be faced with the ridiculousness of his words. That and no one else would risk being hit by his clearly belligerent wife.
Superstar Ananta Jalil
I would like to thank the writer of “The Stranger That Lives Within” last week. In today's busy life who has the time to think about him or herself? It's true that we know very little about ourselves. We always think how to become more successful and how to earn more money but we never think about our inner characters which sometimes come out. Day by day we are becoming machines, forgetting that we are human beings with a unique mind inside all of us. There may live a child inside a policeman, may live a poet inside a politician, and may live a devil inside a teacher! That is why we are often surprised by our own behaviour. We should think and decide which one is inside us and which one should see day light and which shouldn't. Let's try to know the stranger that is living within us.
In the Star's November 9 issue, one of your writers told the story of Nurun Nahar Lovely and Rashid Ahmed, a daughter-in-law and father-in-law who spent eight years in an Indian prison for crimes they did not commit. I was really saddened by their current situation and the losses they have suffered while wrongly imprisoned. The fact that Lovely will not be seen by her husband is outrageous considering she at least has a right to know how their daughter died while she was away.
While the article gave light to these people's story, it left me with many more questions. I want to know whether they ever had a trial, how their release came about, how the Bangladeshi High Commission in India can justify so little help over eight years and why their experience has not caused a greater outcry in this nation. What is the point of diplomatic and consular services abroad if they will not help citizens with legal representation or at least sound advice?
Rashid is said to live with his daughter now, a young woman barely able to support herself where is her brother, Lovely's estranged husband? Does he not care about his father? These two people are really unfortunate, not only because of what they have suffered in the past, but also because of the bleak future they seem to face.
Reading 'Religious Education for Tolerance or Fanaticism' in the international column last week reminded me of our education system. As far as I know, in the primary and secondary level of our education policy, religious education is mandatory. However, beforehand students had the liberty to choose any religion they wished to study. However under the new education policy, schools are required to teach a student the religion he or she adheres to. Just like the Indonesian system, a Muslim student is supposed to take Islamiat, a Hindu will study their scripture and so on. Probably, the argument for such a model is to ensure religious equality in education. However, reading the article, I have become very skeptical about whether this strategy will at all instill tolerance towards other religions. The writer very rightly points out that ignorance of other religions creates alienation in our mind about the communities that practice other religions. This alienation is not even overcome by living in close proximity to other religious communities, as I have seen and felt in Ahmedabad (India). There, Hindus and Muslims hardly know about each others' belief systems and consequently do not have respect for the other's religion. As a mere observer, I feel that this kind of religious ignorance in our country is growing and a mandatory religious educational model, such as the one currently followed, will not result in religious harmony.
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