By SN Rasul
May 29, 2017
One Day, Like A Statue, You May Also Be Unable
limited amount of time I can be privileged to call myself alive, I have
garnered enough memory to remember a time when the threat of religious
extremism was non-existent.
I do not
mean this in the sense that religious extremism did not exist. Nor that it
myopic vision of my world, I remember a time when religion, in Bangladesh, was
not the haven of extremism. Derived from an existence of ignorance, perhaps, I
saw religion in this country as a nationalistic trait, of course, but also as
an apolitical and abstract characteristic of my family’s grander purpose.
after all, where religion flourishes, from the mouths of guardians, in the loud
voices of family gatherings and traditions.
Born in a
Hindu family, it is invariably the case you are born a Hindu. The country
around you might be surrounded by the staunchest of Muslims, but your family,
they have held on to the tradition of their religious faith for long enough to
warrant stubborn adherence to its teachings, its gods and commandments.
And so it
goes — for all religions.
nationalistic identity that is so intertwined with a singular religion was
always doomed to be fraught with extremist ideology. It was inevitable that,
one day, there will come a time when we, too, amongst our midst, would battle
our own citizens in the fight for our country’s identity.
Of False Messiahs and Falser Promises
written in the cards that our history would crumble under the pressure of that
religion to cater to the demands of its false messiahs.
point to a constitution that has been altered, at every step, to cater to the
whims and fancies of those in power and say: Look, this is our law. This is our
country. This country must beckon at the will of this very particular god, for
his demands grace the words of this nation’s laws. Bend to his will.
say, like the chief of Hefazat: “Do not play with our religious beliefs,
national spirit and heritage. Do not push the country towards the curse of
Allah through such anti-Islamic activities.”
in power, they will balk, for they find no way out. Throughout history, they
have done as they wished, they have killed and pillaged a nation’s conscience
till it was bone-dry and devoid of direction, and now, with a populace that is
divided, one that they have nurtured with corruption, fed and made strong with
false promises, disillusioned and de-educated with lies, they will find their
They Will Give In
something truly frightening about the prospect of two evils, one that we have,
tragically, accepted as our status quo. We are a broken-hearted people, let
down and brow beaten, barren of hope.
hopelessly and, in turn, we have been rejected hopelessly. And now, at this
juncture when what we need, more than anything, is to refuse to give in to an
unseen future, we have settled.
settled for a power whose hands go so far as to block the traffic and make us
bleed sweat, but not to keep the spreading of harmful and bigoted religious
rhetoric from spreading.
settled for a power which is now powerless to control the forces of extremist
Questions without Answers
they? You may look across continents and oceans and land yourself in the Middle
East, see their war-ravaged nations, and blame the imperialistic encroachment
of the West’s thirst for power and money, but what will that do?
make the power you bow down to any less corruptible? When they remove a beacon
of justice from your courts, will that make it any less true?
wished for justice to be blind, will that blame prevent you from becoming the
one who cannot truly see?
But we have
had this argument, we have conducted this fight. In a country ruled by a
majority religion, it begs the question: Why must not the will of the majority
society is only as strong as it’s weakest. When they came for the blind lady,
you considered it a necessary compromise.
they asked for every statue in the country to be removed? What did you think
then? A necessary evil?
Or did you
agree with the sentiment? Did you honestly think that a statue makes your
particular god weaker, a God capable of all things?
like them, so conceited as to think that that the creator of the universe needs
you to do his or her bidding?
No evil is
necessitated by giving in to the words of intolerance.
think this is not intolerance. You may think that the removal of the statue is
self-protective, that it seeks to the sanctity of your religion.
believe that the purity of your religion is being destroyed by the external
influence of a mere statue.
think that moving the statue elsewhere on the premises is a good political
move, appeasing both sides.
be wrong. Your religion stays as it is. You have, by agreeing to give in to
their demands, done the worst thing imaginable. You have validated their
misinterpretation of intolerance; you have lost your footing on secular soil.
came for your statues because they were of women, you said nothing. When they
come for your women because they see them as nothing more than idolatrous
statues, maybe then you’ll have something to say.
But, like a
statue, you may be immovable, and unable to say anything at all.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.