Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Let’s get our priorities straight

Update : 07 Apr 2016, 03:12 AM
Over the course of the past few months, I watched from afar some remarkable things in Bangladesh. For instance, the government proposed a value added tax on private universities, which common sense dictated would inevitably be passed on to the students. The system would have a disproportionate regressive burden on students from middle class families. The students stormed the streets, utilised social media, and stopped the government from imposing the tax on private universities. Shifting gears to issues of a very different scale -- when there was a scuffle between two teenagers at Dhanmondi Lake, once again, the nation took to social media and condemned the behaviour in every way possible. The incident eventually got police attention, and social media was abuzz with talk about the incident -- probably more than the incident merited. When our national cricket team faced unfair rulings from the ICC, social media erupted again -- that did not lead to an outcome we would have wanted, but the world definitely learned about our outrage. I list the incidents above to make a simple and obvious point. When we are outraged over something, big or small, we as a nation hold enough power to bring about some real change, or at least make enough noise to get attention from the ones who can bring about change for us. What bothers me is the fact that only selective issues make us mad. We get outraged over things that happen at a sporting event, but we are completely desensitised to brutal murders. Most of us are aware of the terrible fate of the bloggers of the secular blog Mukto Mona. Shortly after those incidents, religious minorities all over the country felt unsafe, but for some reason, we are not outraged by any of this. We barely had a reaction over the attack on the Italian Catholic pastor. The killing of a Hindu priest had an even shorter life span on mainstream news. We quickly forgot the attack on the Shia mosque, and now we are too involved in our own lives to notice the murder of a Christian convert freedom fighter. Having seen what the nation can do when it is enraged, I am dumfounded wondering why we are not enraged when a group of miscreants scream Allahu Akbar and take the life of a 68-year-old man who fought for the independence of this country. We have created an environment where religious extremism does not bother us anymore. Every time I am on social media, I see my Bangladeshi friends upset about the rhetoric of American presidential candidates. I cannot forecast what would have happened if we devoted a fraction of that energy to fight the atrocities that are routinely taking place in our own land. Minorities have always been the targets of religious extremists in Bangladesh. If an organised study goes into calculating the number of temples that have been burned in Bangladesh over the last 10 years, the number is likely to be so large we will all feel ashamed of ourselves. Nevertheless, these murders have failed to get a strong enough response out of our citizens, and barely any attention from our leaders. Now, as minorities prepare for a new wave of violence, we can all sit back and casually blame the government for everything. But when the dust settles, one has to admit that we all contributed to this with our misplaced priorities.
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