Humanican ● (hju.mə.nɪɪkən) ● liberal about faith & economics, conservative about life & dignity.
I have been hate-watching self-proclaimed secular-liberal Bangladeshis gasp to their slow deaths on Facebook. This plague was brought on by the sight of hundreds of thousands of bearded, skullcapped ‘mullahs‘ descending upon the capital Dhaka. “OMG – now they’re going to yank us away from the fringes towards fundamentals and ban Grey’s Anatomy reruns”, they allegedly cried from the roofs.
Of course, the Hefazat E Islam rally was no laughing matter. Its estimated that half a million people attended it. And when, finally, law enforcement squads (from 3 different agencies) cornered the Hefazat Mullahs under the cover of dark – shooting some 12 people, the urban, secular-liberal bloc rejoiced on social networks and blogs: Chased away in 15 minutes! Yay!
I too fear the threat of militancy, the rise of fundamentalism & Talibanization. What I can’t fathom though is celebrating as if we had brought down the Predator Yautja. Anyone who knows anything about Bangladesh, will know that these ‘Islamists’ were mostly the poorest of the poor – students ordered to rally. The best weapon they can afford is probably a skullcap! While it makes sense to despise the political money and leadership that mobilizes them – these hapless teenagers were just obeying the very institutions that brought them up – housed, fed, clothed and educated them.
I feel ashamed in celebrating killing. Especially if the dead are those that we ourselves have pushed out to the fringes, snubbed as lesser beings who must keep silent in our glorious democracy; minions who survive on our charity and must remain at our beck and call to perform proxy-prayers and rituals of birth, marriage and death; strangely-dressed, socially-awkward back-benchers who must hang their heads in our colleges (if they ever make it to mainstream education that is); poor, relegated, unnoticed beings who must recite the Holy Book all day in hopes of kindness, dignity and recognition that will never come. Its unlikely they could’ve even taken charge of their lives, let alone the country.
These boys – thus maligned, cornered, shamed and shot – are creations of our urban, liberal middle-class; the same, guilty middle-class that seeks deliverance in Savar, but rationalizes the shooting of Mullah-types with Talibanization. We won’t stop there either. We will relentlessly hound & vilify dissenters and label their families as traitors, war-criminals or bigots.
The entire nation, me included, would’ve wept had the police shot a single (urban, secular) Shahbag protester. But we rejoice at Mullah-shootings. We who favor advancement of ideologies / cliques over human-costs – whatever else we might be – are not liberal. And we’re certainly not progressive.
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Postscript: don’t write this off as a Bangladeshi problem. More than ever, the world now discriminates based on ethnicity and religion. Seema Jilani’s must-read article on Huffpost reminded me once that xenophobia and bigotry is alive and kicking even in the highest office of (what could yet again become) the greatest nation on Earth. I’ll quote the lines that touched me the most:
I don’t need you to “tolerate” me. I don’t want you to merely put up with my presence. All I ask, all I have ever asked, is to be treated as a human being, that bigoted jingoism is not injected into every minute facet my life, that there remains at least the illusion of decency.