When it comes to communalism and hate, we don’t have to look very far
In Bangladesh, we like to assume that everybody is Muslim.
Our hearts and minds are still in Christchurch. As a nation, we are horrified, riled up, concerned about our friends and relatives living abroad. We are also concerned about the future of Muslim minorities abroad — some 1-3% of the population of most countries of the West, countries that are supposedly a slice of paradise for anyone seeking help.
It shocks us when a white terrorist puts up a manifesto with all the hate in the world condensed into 73 pages. We cry for the 50 lives (and counting) that were lost, we heave a sigh of relief as our cricketers narrowly escaped, traumatized and afraid. We are all traumatized and afraid. Why did we click on that livestream link? Why did we watch the horror that unfurled? How many of us could sleep at night?
However, we like to assume that everybody is Muslim in Bangladesh.
It bothered us very little (or not at all) when an idol of the Hindu goddess Kali was vandalized in Kushtia. Both Christchurch and Kushtia happened on the same day. Kali, with her tongue out and her foot pressed against her husband’s chest, cowers in shame. All her ornaments were taken off, on the same day Christchurch happened. The miscreants ran away after they vandalized her form. It must have hurt her, but of course, our minorities are the least of our worries.
It’s nice and comfy to be Muslim in Bangladesh, more so if you’re a man. During Ramadan, all restaurants are closed during the day. If I’m a female and menstruating, I can’t eat. If I believe in a different god, I still can’t eat.
If I don’t believe in god, however, I can’t live.
I get to have my head chopped off right outside of the Ekushey Boi Mela. Did my killers read my books, any books?
At our social gatherings, we take part in cozy coffee-table discussions. “You see,” says the elderly uncle, who may or may not sport a sunnati beard:
“The Hindus are taking over. They’re everywhere! Supreme court judges and BCS cadres, doctors and engineers, ‘government this and government that.’ So many Hindus! How come? They’re taking away all our jobs!”
Some auntie, who dyed her hair auburn recently, chimes in:
“Oh and look at how many girls are working! Don’t they have kids to raise? The shongshar is the most important, let me tell you. Give that job to a guy instead. At least he will support a family instead of buying lipstick.”
Somebody gets into a debate of who is indigenous and who is not. Someone plans a tour to Sajek, because, “they are infiltrating the mainland anyway, taking away all our jobs.” Doesn’t hurt to visit a tourist spot built on grabbed land.
Sounds a lot like The Great Replacement, doesn’t it?
We demand that the Westerners defend us. We share photos and videos that do away with Islamophobia, xenophobia, and what not. We urge them not to be silent, we urge them to challenge Aunt Molly when she complains about “those people” the next time.
Yet when our chauffeur calls another human being a Malaun, we stay silent and continue to scroll down on our phones.
Yet, when our valiant cricketers of other religions post about their Durga Puja celebrations, we don’t defend them against the fundamentalist internet trolls.
Yet, when all the Buddhist shrines and monasteries were brutally torn down, we kept mum and went on with our lives. Ramu who? Ramu what?
Our avatars change when we go abroad. People give us advice on blending in. I have been told to wear my hijab like a bandana, or cover my hair using hoodies. I have been told not to go near a mosque. I have been told to keep a “low profile” during my stay because that is not my country, Bangladesh is.
What about those unfortunate people, who have to keep that “low profile” in their own country, the land of their ancestors, all their lives, every minute of the day?
Before we cry tears of grief and remorse for Christchurch, let us first correct ourselves. Let us slam a fist down on those coffee-tables where The Great Replacement of a different kind is discussed.
Let us explain calmly to our chauffeurs, our maids, our bosses, and to our friends why it is wrong to use ethno-racial slurs. When miscreants take away their temporary sense of security, let us send a cake over to our neighbours of a different religion.
Let us stand outside temples with placards that say: “We are with you,” like that responsible citizen in the UK, his plump smiling face speaking volumes.
More importantly, let us buy some eggs, and make good use of them for those who are in need of a protein treatment. I’ve heard that it nourishes your hair, makes it soft, silky and smooth. It also helps counter fascist ideals; from what I hear.
Qazi Mustabeen Noor works at Arts & Letters, Dhaka Tribune.