What have we become, how low have we fallen?
We could all profess outrage, say “this is not our Bangladesh” till we’re blue in the face, but in our hearts we’d all know that’s not true, wouldn’t we? This is the bed we’ve made, the society we’ve allowed to take shape all around us.
From the massacre of almost the entire family of the founder of the nation; to “Bangladesh Zindabad”; to the rehabilitation of Jamaat-e-Islami and other parties which make political capital out of religion; to the steady infiltration of Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi doctrine and practices since the 80s; to the sneaky insertion of a state religion in the constitution of a purportedly secular country by a military despot in 1988 — 17 years after our independence; to the filing of sedition charges by a democratically elected government of the land against 28 of its most distinguished citizens (for the crime of demanding that the war criminals of 1971 be made to stand trial in 1992); to the surreal sight of some of these same war criminals flying the national flag on their sparkling vehicles as members of parliament and ministers of this sovereign land; to the current, supposedly secular, government’s policy of systematic appeasement of Hefazat-e-Islam and other religion merchants, to the extent of revising textbooks, blocking websites, shutting down bookstalls, and enacting laws so that their tender sensitivities are not offended; to the killing with impunity of writers, teachers, bloggers, and activists, people like Ahmed Rajib Haider, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Chakroborty, Faisal Arefin Dipan, Rezaul Karim Siddique, Xulhaz Mannan, and others, without justice being served.
This is the country we’ve built. We have all had a role in getting us here. The only wonder is that someone like Dr Muhammad Zafar Iqbal had managed to avoid being attacked for so long
To the unbelievable carnage on July 1, 2016, that dark night when 22 people, foreigners and locals, were butchered in the heart of the diplomatic enclave of our capital, at a restaurant which had become known as a place of respite in an often-maddening city, by young men for the simple reason that they abhorred their victims’ way of life.
To the toxicity that is being spread by crazed Islamic militants against everyone who does not share their particular view of religiosity in many of the nation’s religious schools, private and public universities and medical colleges, and places of worship, every day. To the young men who are graduating out of an ever-growing network of Qawmi madrasa without being equipped with any tools to become productive citizens of a modern-day society, educated in a curriculum that does not allow them to feel any connection with their own culture, their own community.
And to the stifling environment of casual bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny we condone, or at best offer a half-hearted defense to, in this land.
This is the country we’ve built. We have all had a role in getting us here. The only wonder is that someone like Dr Muhammad Zafar Iqbal had managed to avoid being attacked for so long.
Get better soon, Dr Iqbal. There aren’t many left to speak for the country this was supposed to be. God knows you are not the hero we deserve, but the one we need right now.
Tanvir Haider Chaudhury spent most of his career as a banker and is now running a food and beverage company. He is unabashedly opinionated and avowedly Bengali.