After the traumatising Dhaka café siege on 1st July 2016, I have been trying to pull together my feelings and thoughts along with the reactions of the people surrounding me – my friends, family, acquaintances, and even from overheard conversations between strangers in public places. Strangely enough, the reactions by many of these people, although radically different from my own, have not surprised me at all – I realised that I have become incredibly less expectant and hopeful of people being humane, being caring for another person just because s/he is a human being.
The reactions that I have encountered not only include fear, trauma and concern but also extend to indifference, insensitivity, hatred and reluctance. One would probably anticipate fear, trauma and concern as normal reactions to such an emotionally devastating incident. But what about those other feelings?
Indifference exists because this happened to a socially elite group of people, including foreigners in our land, and does not apparently affect people who do not belong to that class. Those people do not go to such cafes, do not hang out with foreigners, do not wander around the diplomatic zones of the city or spend extravagant amounts of money on social gatherings and friendly hangouts. Some are also indifferent because this has become common in today’s world – this mentality that we should accept that people dying is normal in the current context worldwide.
Insensitivity exists because many of the attackers in this particular incident supposedly belong to socially elite families (which are, as believed by many, seemingly broken and disturbed families). They have studied in expensive schools and private universities home and abroad. Thus these young minds can be nothing but spoilt and derailed. The parents are to be blamed for their rubbish upbringing and spending so much money unnecessarily on their children.
Hatred exists because some people are trying to find out how these educated and apparently enlightened youths could have become so involved in such heinous activities while others (haters) find it outrageous and atrocious that some are trying to find out reasons behind this. The fact that the problem actually may have deeper roots in society and is not as shallow as ‘rich kids being involved in these because they do not have better things to do in life and lack a purpose in life’, is completely out of consideration for these people. The fact that these potentially wise and beautiful young minds have grown up to become monsters because they might lack love and support from the society and family, might lack proper knowledge and guidance on the true essence, inner meaning and connection of peace with religion, ethics and humanity, is completely disregarded by people.
And that is where the last reaction makes sense – reluctance; because many of us are still reluctant or hesitant to believe that increasingly we have become less human; preaching and breeding dehumanising behaviour (albeit unintentionally) through our education system, socialising process and socio-economic structure.
But, as I mentioned earlier, I was not at all surprised by any of these reactions. These reactions have saddened me deeply, possibly more deeply than the incident itself. If I have to summarise reflections on this in one sentence, it would probably be ‘We have stopped caring for people unless it affects us directly!’
This is true in most cases until one fine morning, when it happens in the café right next door, to the people you hung out with, in your own beloved neighbourhood. That is when you think “What on earth is happening? I have seen these things on TV, happening in foreign lands with other people, why is this happening here now? Why us?” And that shows how everything will come down to affecting each and every individual if we stop becoming humans; if we close our eyes and think that this chaos will be over soon and will not affect us if we stay indifferent! That brings me to my question ‘Why do I still care if I can be safe?’
As a hijab-wearing Bangladeshi Muslim woman, I know I am probably safe in my country for as long as these attacks are targeted killings on foreigners and non-Muslims. So why does it still bother me so much? Why should I really care?
I care because, first and foremost, I consider myself a human being. I care because I have not learnt to hate people based on their nationality, race, sex, religion or culture.
I care because I know no religion in the world, let alone Islam, preaches to kill other people. It depresses me to the core of my soul to see the name of my religion being misused only to slaughter other people, including women, pregnant women and children. I care because my prophet was the most caring person on earth and has never preached hatred to his followers.
I care because the future leaders of my society are being brainwashed into monstrous criminal activities and we are not doing anything to prevent this.
I care because I have put myself in the shoes of the hostages that night and realised how petrified I would be; I care because I am scared to lose my family and friends in similar incidents; I care because I do not want to live in fear and trauma anymore.
I care because I am an expecting mother at present and do not want my child to be born in such a brutal world.
I care because I have grown up in this city and love my country from the bottom of my heart and it shatters me to see tolerance being evaporated from the core of societal norms.
I care because I would still like to believe that these issues can be addressed if the root causes are identified.
I care because I do not believe that anybody deserves such death, or that anybody is born an attacker. I care because I believe love can win this war if we stand united. I care because I believe that together, we can do so much better in terms of making our children ethically strong, well-read, loving and compassionate human beings. I care because I still believe in humanity and believe that the world can be a better place!