Mukti

Degenerating the Faith (2)

Posted in books, classics, culture, faith, history, Muslim world, society by jrahman on December 5, 2015

Part 1.

Classical Muslim scholars used to divide travel and travel writing into two categories. First is what they called rihla — a description of what the traveller did, saw or experienced.  Ibn Battuta’s travelogues are the best known in this genre.  However, rihla can also be more than mere narratives and descriptions. They can form the basis of scientific enquiry.  An example of this kind of rihla is the 11th century polymath Al Biruni’s description of India.  Travelling under the protection of Mahmud of Ghazni, Al Biruni studied sciences and mathematics and wrote Tarikh al Hind — one of the most comprehensive books on pre-Islam subcontinent. In fact, great rihla, according to the scholars, had to have some analysis as well as description.

There is another tradition of travel and travel writing among the learned Muslims of yore, that of safr.  Safr is the word for travel or journey in most north and east Indian languages, including Bangla.  To the 11th century Sufi philosopher Al-Ghazali, safr meant any travelling through which a person evolves.  To him, safr meant as well as the physical act of travelling somewhere, mixing with the inhabitants of that land, imbibing oneself with their customs and ways, and evolving into a person closer to Allah.

Al-Ghazali further categorised travellers: those who travel seeking knowledge, the best kind; the Hajis; the immigrants — the Prophet himself was an immigrant; and the refugees, the worst kind.

What is the line between an immigrant and a refugee?  Salman Rushdie and VS Naipaul have both written about the uprooting involved in migration.  Both have noted that at some level or other, all migrants are really refugees.  But for Naipaul, the uprooting is mostly a bad thing.  Rushdie is open to the possibility of migration leading to something new.  Migrants are works of translation, he writes.

Those of you who have read the Quran probably have done so in translation.  Translation then can’t always be bad.

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Degenerating the Faith

Posted in books, classics, culture, current affairs, faith, society by jrahman on December 2, 2015

Being a Bangladeshi student in the urban west of the 1990s wasn’t easy.

Leaving home for a strange place — whether from a village in Maheshkhali for Dhaka University, or from Dhaka to foreign cities — is difficult for anyone in their late teens.  And at any age, student or otherwise, it is hard to move to a city.  Cities, metropoles that are cosmopolitan, dense with information to overload all the senses, and yet a depressing place where you are likely to be all alone amid the teeming multitude.  You seek to belong, because you find solace as part of something that is bigger than your mundane existence.

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সাতকাহন

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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সাতকাহন

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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সাতকাহন

To compensate for the recent hiatus — caused by microcosmic organisms with evil side effects — a double edition of trashes collected by the senses.  Normal ramblings should begin soon.

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Hathazari images

Posted in communalism, faith, politics, Rights by jrahman on April 16, 2012

Over the fold are some images from the communal attack on the Hindu community of Hathazari.  (Photo credit: RA).

 

 

 

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The curious incidence at Hathazari

Posted in AL, communalism, faith, Islamists, politics, Rights by jrahman on April 11, 2012

There has been two very disturbing incidences in Bangladesh recently, suggesting that my fear of a return of overt communalism may be materialising.  Equally worrying is the lack of concern about these worrying trends.  If not for the students of Dhaka University, most people wouldn’t have even heard that something happened in Satkhira.  Meanwhile, the incidence at Hathazari is forgotten except for some outposts of the blogosphere such as this, this and this.

The silence in both cases is puzzling and distressing.  Puzzling because in both cases, the government appears to have done the right thing.  These weren’t communal riots.  Riots require two sides.  These were brazen attacks on Hindus.  And in both cases, the government moved as quickly and decisively as might be expected in Bangladesh.  One would have thought the government’s PR wing to be in full swing to trumpet the prime minister’s leadership.  Why the silence then?

And why is there a silence from the progressive activists, both within and outside the Awami League?  Never mind the mainstream media outlets like Prothom Alo.  Where is the progressive blogosphere that got into a frenzy over Meherjaan?

It would appear that just like protesting BSF killings is something that only happens when Awami League is in power, concern for the minorities is something for only when BNP is in power.  Needless to say, these selective outrages are both disgraceful.

Now, the regular reader would know, I don’t really do outrage.  Of course, bigotry in every form is to be condemned unequivocally.  But beyond that, is there anything more to say?

I think there are a few things about the incidence in Hathazari that should have been followed up.  I am not in a position to answer any of these questions, but let me ask them.

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সাতকাহন

Seven trashes collected by the senses.

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The banality of Bengal

Posted in 1971, Bangladesh, Bengal, communalism, faith, history, people, politics, Rights, society, South Asia by jrahman on August 18, 2011

List of names of Hindu students and professors massacred at Jagannath Hall on night of 25th March, 1971 by the Pakistani Army. Click to enlarge. 

Nirad C Chaudhuri and Jatin Sarker were both born in Hindu families in the Mymensingh district of eastern Bengal, now Bangladesh. Chaudhuri, about four decades older than Sarkar, wrote his autobiography before India held its first election, and ceased to be an unknown Indian. Sarker also wrote his life story. Unlike Chaudhuri, Sarker’s was in Bangla, published in Bangladesh, never translated in English, and not available in India or beyond. He remains unknown. Which is a pity, because if you want to know what has happened to the land where both these men were born, Sarker is a far, far better guide than Chaudhuri.

Sarker, of course, stopped being an Indian on 14 August 1947, when Mymensingh became part of East Pakistan — the eastern wing of Jinnah’s moth-nibbled land of the pure. His family didn’t move to India. They were not atypical. Many Hindu families remained in East Pakistan. Perhaps it was the presence of Gandhi. Perhaps it was the fantastical belief that Subhas Chandra Bose would return in 1957 — a century after the Great Uprising, two centuries after the Battle of Plassey — to reunite Mother Bengal.

There were no trains full of dead bodies to and from Calcutta. Not that there was no Hindu exodus from East Pakistan. Far from it. In 1941, 28% of the people of the districts that became East Pakistan were Hindus.  A decade later, the share had dropped to 22%.  By 1961, 18.5%.  There were emigrations in dribs and drabs, with major outflows during the communal violence of 1946, 1950, and 1964.

There were riots in India, too. West Bengal was a peripheral state in the Indian Federation. Those Hindus who moved from East Pakistan to India — mainly but not wholly to Calcutta — became part of that troublesome city’s doomed citizenry. No one really cared much for them in Delhi or Bombay, where power and wealth resided.

What of those who stayed back?

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