When I was around 12 years old, my father told me, “But no! A Cox’s Bazar trip cannot be complete without a visit to Ramu”. And thus, we embarked on a foot trip through the greenery of Ramu, to visit the most awe-inspiring Buddha statue I have ever seen, my first visit to a Buddhist monastery too! And I fell in love with the peaceful sight, right at first sight. While, over the years, I have never gotten the chance to revisit my childhood beauty, today, I feel empty, as someone has permanently erased a part of my memory; a memory I cherished for so long. If this is how I feel, I wonder how the locals feel, people who have grown up with it, and cherished it, sacredly, everyday; except, they are perhaps more devastated by their ransacked and looted houses and livelihoods right now. But who am I to ask such questions, after all, I also belong to the monstrous majority clan. I should hide myself in disgrace for what have been done to them by my Muslim brothers.
I feel sad reading news piling one after another — attacks on Buddhists and Hindus in Ramu, Patia, Ukhia… and I for the first time feel ashamed of being a Bangladeshi. I feel extreme anger as I ask for the zillionth time since September 11th, why do us Muslims need a constant reminder of the fact that, “Islam is a religion of Peace?” – cause we don’t follow what we preach.
My friend tells me, “The government will have to rebuild those temples, and even more gloriously,” and I ask, “Who is going to bring back the hundreds of years of heritage that we have lost in the process?” “Who is going to counsel the child who watched her village burn in horror?” “Will these people ever live peacefully and in harmony again?” It is beyond me, how people ever come to bring themselves to do such destruction and harm, but then again, we live in a world where, seeing is believing.
The recent attack on Islam has given our fanatic Muslims in Bangladesh, yet another excuse to pick on everyone and anyone who thinks differently. I remember how extremists cut beards and hair of bauls in Rajbari a few months ago, as I still wonder what happened to the Sufi followers from Kushtia who the Muslim mobs attacked few weeks ago, and watch the silence regarding the issue among the civil society. I wonder if we have forgotten that our country was once founded through the bloodshed of millions, based on a secular constitution. Then again, I wonder, does profanity justify destruction?
Why are we so scared of speaking up against these atrocities today? Feeling too religious? Too scared about what might happen to our “image”, “diplomatic” and “trade” relations? Or are we hiding in seclusion cause we feel apathetic to all these; cause we feel safe and sound at home? Fanatics today are not only attacking our diverse religious sects, but also attacking at the heart of our culture. Remember the Ramna Batamul bombing on Pahela Baishakh and at an Udichi Shilpi Goshti programme? It could have been one of us there, dead that day! Or maybe we might have fallen victim to one of the synchronized near to 500 bombings by fanatics in 2005?
Rise up together in solidarity, against the extremist uprising trying to take over our beloved Bangladesh today! And let our religion be “humanity”.
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule – Gautama Buddha.
Mehzabin Ahmed is a development practitioner.