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Restricting our Rights

With her embarkation into a brand new modernized and freethinking society but with roots that are originally conservative, Bangladesh seems to be faced with the dilemma of where to set the limits that define freedom of expression. The same society that appears to advocate uniqueness of thought and educated opinions also condemns, or more specifically, revolts at any opinion that tests their tolerance.

The books of Taslima Nasrin were banned because they 'offended religious beliefs' and disrupted 'religious harmony'. Well unrest and discord was certainly there except it was not the contents of the books that caused it, but the revolt itself. Every religion has its own sound and consistent foundation and true followers continue its pursuits understanding its justifications. Hence more than an opinion of a mediocre personality is required to break those strong weathered foundations that have existed for centuries to date.

One of her books 'Lajja' highlighted the problems faced by women of Hindu minorities, living in a Muslim community. The author being a Muslim girl had nothing to gain from writing on such a theme other than the satisfaction of fighting for a cause. The above is a valid problem and its concern is legitimate, however if it is presented in a way that is too frank or opinionated the society should be able to understand that this author believes in presenting the bear truth instead of a euphemism.

The incident where the Danish newspapers printed offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad S.A. was a real offense and the abuse of the term 'freedom of expression', simply because those cartoons were direct and baseless mockery of a person who is an exemplary figure in history. The cartoons misled all those who had little knowledge about Islam into thinking that the prophet of this religion was like any other controversial political figure who deserved to be mocked and that is a blunt distortion of facts. In direct contrast the feminist author cited real life problems and expressed her opinions complete with logics regarding those problems.

Considering the fact that Bangladesh, under the constitution formulated in 1972 is a secular nation, the law is entitled to respect secular ideas and certainly not justify repercussions from fanatic groups. Banning the books of this audacious author was, I believe, a foolish way of handling the matter; censoring explicit sections and then condemning openly style of presenting the issue would have been a far better option. By setting an absolute ban, authorities actually instigated curiosity amidst the general public, especially the youth, regarding the contents of the book and gave it an air of mystery and significance. If these works were treated in an ordinary fashion and had the writer not been sent to exile, maybe she wouldn't have won international awards like Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and hence wouldn't have been a celebrated figure, a consequence that ultimately worked against the interest of the authorities anyway.

Looking at a very different instance we find a case where suppressing the freedom of expression and brutally stabbing people's right to know earned desirable consequences for the society in general. Recently, the incident involving the clash between university students and military personnel spiraled out of control and led to a national emergency that ultimately found itself the excuse of inflation. In this confusing and dangerous situation the caretaker government's widely unpopular decision about restricting press freedom and communication systems proved immensely effective at curbing the insurgence. Just as suddenly as the situation had bloated out of control, it put itself together again, simply because the press and the media was not making big issue of nothing and getting the easily influenced masses of this nation fired problems that cannot be solved overnight, that too, through violence.

In light of some recent diverse issues it is logical to conclude that freedom of expression be it in writing or in speech must have its limitations. However where the lines should be drawn is still unclear to all. We crave to strike a balance, to find the extent up to which freedom of speech is acceptable by the majority. While up-front lies can never be defended under the clause of “Freedom of Expression”, controversial opinions,, falling under a whole new heading most certainly can. While the former misleads and attempts to establish a fabrication, the latter simply provokes the mind to think. As William Lyon Phelps once said “At a certain age some people's minds close up; they live on their intellectual fat.”, Hence it is the duty of the youth to ensure that, regardless of patterns of conventional thinking, once in a while, they use their better judgment to form their own opinions.

By Aniqa Moinuddin

Unabated Debate: The 19th National Debating Competition 2007

Walking into the Notre Dame College (NDC) premises on September 12, one could almost mistake it for a beach party in Japan with the path to the auditorium nicely lit with flaming torches and rectangular lamps hanging from the trees, all it needed was a few Samurais and geisha girls. What the event really was, was the closing ceremony of the '19th National Debating Competition 2007' sponsored by Prime Bank.

This year, there were 36 and 16 teams respectively for the Bengali and English debate section and all the debates employed a new method named 'Format-T' after Father R. W. Timm CSC the founder moderator of Notre Dame Debating Club (NDDC). In this new system, four teams had to participate in each debate and they had to present solutions to the problem provided and at the same time present every logical explanation to convince the judges that their solution was the best. The competition this year had a theme to it and it was 'Bangladesh'.

The ceremony enjoyed a guest list including Akbar Ali Khan, former advisor to the CG, The principal of NDC Father Benjamin Costa CSC, Father Timm CSC, Mr. Nasiruddin Ahmed of Prime Bank, Mr. Borhan Ahmed of Janakantha, Father Bokul S. Rozario CSC and Father Adam S. Pereira CSC. After a long round of speeches by everyone it was time to announce which teams won. For the Bengali debate section the Viquarunnisa Noon College team became the runner up while BUET clinched the coveted champion title. For the English debate section there was BUET again but they came as the runner up. The champion this time was the debating team from Mastermind. After the ceremony we met up with the Mastermind debating team comprising of Aniqa Moinuddin, Samiul Majumdar and Zubair Idris. When asked about their experience Zubair replied, “It feels great, especially beating a university team in the finals, we being a high school team!”

Mr. Shubharthi the ex-president of NDDC shared his experience about this event, “Arranging such events IS tough but along the way you get to learn about many official dos and don'ts.” This event that started from the 5th of September saw a spectacular end this evening, paving the way for another event like this next year.

By Hitoishi Chakma

Are friends affecting our health?

Everybody knows how important friends are. They really can either make or break us. In a research paper by Thomas J. Berndt from Yale University, Berndt mentions how early adolescent friendships are especially significant and intense for psychological development. That is why probably why our parents always tell to choose our friends wisely. They can affect you in more ways than one.

According to a Washington Post study I came across the other day, obesity is apparently spreading in the US like some sort of virus. The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual's chances of gaining weight which includes from friends to friends. Although obesity is not a virus, the study shows that if one person in a social group becomes obese, it makes it more acceptable for other people close to that person to also become obese and then it becomes a social norm.

"What spreads is an idea. As people around you gain weight, your attitudes about what constitutes an acceptable body size changes, and you might follow suit and emulate that body size,” says Nicholas A. Christakis of Harvard Medical School. "It may cross some kind of threshold, and you can see an epidemic take off. Once it starts, it's hard to stop it. It can spread like wildfire." And that gets one thinking isn't that the same for all teen related fads? Obviously once a certain trend, book or even TV show becomes popular among a group of people; it becomes acceptable for nearly all teenagers to think of that trend or fad as 'cool'. While this is normal behaviour, this definitely does not have good effects. Drug use, obesity, teen sex are just many of the problems that become more widespread because more and more teens are doing it which makes their friends think that its okay to do them as well.

We can't live without friends. I've noticed how friends affect each other in little ways that the other friend may not even realize. Your fashion sense, what you do in your spare time, how you spend your money are certain small things that are susceptible to change depending who your friends are. So it is really very pertinent to make sure you are hanging out with the right group of friends because you spend so much time with them.

That all being said and done, researchers now also think that the type of friends we will is already genetically configured. The study published in the August issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry finds that as people mature, genetic factors may strongly influence who they choose as their friends. "As we grow and move out of our home environment, our genetically influenced temperament becomes more and more important in influencing the kinds of friends we like to hang out with," lead author Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, professor of psychiatry and human genetics. However he has also noted that the director pathway from our genes to externalizing behaviour like drug use is not direct or biological. Our genes influence our social environment which in turn impacts a host of other behaviour. So don't be quick to blame your problems on your gense! It's still as m much up to you who you chose to hang out with and what you will follow.

By Nisma Elias
Reference: - www.msn.com , www.washingntonpost.com




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