Let us take stock of Hefazat-e-Islam’s comments. That celebrating Pohela Boishakh, where men and women wear “indecent clothing and paint on their face and [dance] together to the rhythm of drums while carrying giant dolls and masks,” is haram.
What if Hefazat is right? What if, according to whichever religion you choose (or not) to call your own, does deem the celebration of a festival such as this forbidden? What if, the Pohela Boishakh is, as Hefazat has claimed, a state-sponsored “Hindu ritual” duping Muslim into partaking in, as their description seems to suggest, a most hedonistic series of acts?
Would it matter?
This is not your religion
Whatever your religion may be, it cannot be denied that the open-to-interpretation nature of religious dicta means that there are a myriad versions of it spread not only across the world, but across localities.
These interpretations do not exist merely based on differences in beliefs amongst denominations, but amongst individuals.
What I suggest is that you (we), as discrete entities, exercise our individuality to its fullest extent when matters such as these come to light, when bigoted clerics opine. While religious leaders do have some authority over “correct” and “incorrect” interpretations of your respective religious text, the power, at the end of the day, belongs to you, in how you choose to interpret it.
Hefazat, or whichever self-proclaimed arbiter of morality, cannot dictate where your morality lies. It cannot tell you what you can and cannot do, it cannot demand hatred from you for your fellow Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Buddhist-Jewish-Atheist-Agnostic brothers, connected together by shared national history and global history.
This history, I would urge you to recognize, is not only more important because it is more recent, and has greater implications in terms of the future (for we must of course always look back, to remember, but never move there; movement should always be forward).
Hefazat-e-Islam reflects the views of a group that is desperate to remain relevant in a modern world which has no room for it
Whatever proof Hefazat may provide for such direct incitement of religious, racial, and ethnic disharmony, whatever verse it may cite, whatever pseudo-historical text may be relevant to its continuous cycle of hatred, you, as the individual, can ignore it -- for you know of context. There is histo-religious context that you are aware of, which means though your religion is constant (and, consequently, the texts attached to it), you are not, your morality is not, the world is not.
The world could do without discord and separation. The world, big and round and unfathomable, required localities to bond together over common traits (such as religion). This is no longer necessary. One would like to believe that the human race has evolved enough to the point where it is not our similarities, but our differences which united us.
While that may seem like “positive” poppycock, the implication is not that contradictory ideals can exist in harmony, it is that these ideals need not be contradictory, and that allowing our ideals to evolve towards more harmonious reverberations (which might require us to forsake older, longer-held ideals) need not come at the cost of ethno-religious identities. It merely means we are more than our inherited identities, we are complex creatures who cannot be defined by a singular trait, and that a movement forward necessitates an amalgam of peaceful coexistence.
Hefazat-e-Islam reflects the views of a group that is desperate to remain relevant in a modern world which has no room for it. While I welcome free speech and open dialogue, how does one speak, reasonably, logically, with an open mind, to someone whose views are dead-set on age-old and violent interpretations, when there are plenty of peaceful interpretations to choose from?
You, as an individual, have that right, that power, really, to choose between violence and non-violence, between brother-sisterhood and needless segregation.
Given the overwhelming benefits of such a choice, why would it be a choice you do not make? Why would you not celebrate Pohela Boishakh, eat panta
with your friends and family, why would you not dance to a tune that remembers your shared history and sings in your mother tongue? Why would you ever let the last Boishakh you celebrated be the last Boishakh you ever celebrate?
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.