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Posts Tagged ‘values’

Like much of what we see on the news these days, the burqini issue was all consuming when it trended but ephemeral in its media shelf life. Media outlets would rather repeat what Donald Trump has to say over and over again. Given he repeats himself often, the double repetition serves as a hypnotic trance to which America and the world is slowly falling prey. But that’s another topic for another day. Right now I want to focus on the burqini – because as we’ve seen – the outrage was fleeting and victory was sweet. When the High Court of France overturned the burqini ban, everyone patted themselves on the back and got back to their daily lives, even though several French mayors said they will continue to fine those wearing the burqini despite the high court’s decision. David Rachline, the mayor of Frejus, called the court’s ruling a “victory for radical Islam” and said the city’s ban on the garment will remain.

What does this mean? Has any extremist group issues a fatwa that the burqini must be worn? How is a piece of cloth a representation of any radical faith? The answer is simple – It isn’t. But the concept itself is not so simple. Attached to this simple answer are socio-economic issues; racism, deep rooted misogyny and the male gaze and most of all Islamophobia. But I am not a stranger to complex and concurrent themes. I am a Muslim Australian born in Bangladesh and living in Canberra. My identity is rich in its history and known for its struggle. I am Muslim and Islam is known for ….well a lot. Google it and you’ll see. I am Australian and this country is nothing if not the land of the underdog. I am Bangladeshi and take pride in my county’s victorious independence after years of oppression. And I am woman – by virtue of that fact I am struggle personified. Struggling to be accepted, to be recognised, to be valued, to be free.

When I was 10, my school used to take us swimming and very soon I became the recipient of an award that authoritatively confirmed my floating skills. Then I moved schools and although my love for being in the water grew with each visit to the beautiful beaches of NSW – my aquatic skills did not. This was largely due to the fact that if I wanted to do anything more than dip my feet into the water I had to wear a swimming costume, Lycra tights or pants, a long sleeved shirt, a cap and a scarf.

Every time I went into the water dressed to the nines while bikini clad women swarmed around me – I was less conscious of people watching me than I was of the sand working its way into each and every layer and the dread building up inside me of have to wash it all out. It didn’t matter which beach I went to – no one cared what I was wearing. No one stared, commented or showed that they were offended. Everyone was more than happy to enjoy the beach in their own way. And so I stubbornly continued to layer up and venture out till the water reached my knees because I was too scared to go any further.

Then 2.5 years ago – I got married. And my husband, God bless him, started teaching me how to swim. First at the local pool, where he waited patiently before and after each session while I worked myself in and out of all my layers, and then at the beach. It was at the beach that my friend flaunted her Ahiida burqini and encouraged me to get one. I went online and made my purchase of a loose fitting green and pink suit with cap for $80AUD. A few weeks later my purchase arrived and I made my way to the beach. I cannot explain to you the joy of entering (and leaving) the water in this amazing creation. The material is light yet loose, the design is stylish yet thoughtful (shout out to the strings keeping the top tied to the pants so your top doesn’t float up and reveal anything) and the sensation of water against skin is not minimised at all. The best part – it dried on my body within 10-15 min of getting out of the water. No more strategically placed towels on the car seat, no more sandy wet tugging of numerous layers. This thing was a godsend. And everywhere I wore it people stared… and then smiled. Because they could see this piece of cloth I was wearing was making me radical…. Radically happy. I was ecstatic! My love of the water and outdoors was finally able to be expressed alongside my faith.  

Unfortunately not everyone has the same positive experience. My friends have been taunted and abused and akin to women in France – they felt humiliated and ashamed for no good reason. Thankfully, the need to isolate and radicalise a garment based on who wears it is being turned on its head as Burqini sales have skyrocketed since it’s been in the limelight and non-Muslim women are purchasing the burqini for various reasons including “skin cancer or body image, moms, women who are not comfortable exposing their skin—they’re all wearing it.” Asian women have been wearing face masks to the beach to protect their skin for years, not to mention nuns, Goths and other people of a race culture or creed who wear clothing or symbols of their faith or identity.

There is no good reason to stop a woman from wearing something they feel comfortable in – this is discrimination.
There is no good reason to prevent a woman from enjoying herself in clothes that define her identity – this is racism.
There is no good reason to dictate to a woman what she can and cannot wear – this is sexism. 

It saddens me that those in positions of authority that have been elected to serve and protect the people are the ones who greedily perpetuate the economics of fear. They who have been elected to oversee peaceful and harmonious societies are the ones sprouting hate speech and dividing communities with ignorance. They who claim to be democratic and stand for the freedoms and liberties of all, are the ones robbing women of their right to be and act as they wish without the diction of misogyny oppressing their actions. And so we women continue to be struggle personified. We continue to wear what we want and act as we do in physical protest of the ignorant rantings of men who neither understand the values of freedom and liberty nor wish to avail it to anyone besides themselves. Society can radicalise my burqini and lace my identity with its vitriol but it won’t’ dissuade me from enjoying what I love. To get in the water and appreciate the beauty and bounty God has provided us with… in my burqini.

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Tell me do I look opressed, unhygenic or like a terrorist in these pictures to you? If you said yes to any of them above then please click here and check yourself!

Kudos to the creator of the Burkini – Ahiida designs.

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The ‘Other’ is not a new concept. As a society we have marginalised minorities and those that we disagree with or misunderstand for hundreds of years. It is a social construct by which we develop not only our own identity but shape the identity of others. And it is the group or groups with greater political and economic influence that have the greater ability to shape and represent identities. It is important to note then – that an identity, especially the identity of the Other is not something we are born with – rather it is a social construct we step into and live in by design.

Zygmunt Bauman said on Otherness that Woman is the other of man, animal is the other of human, stranger is the other of native, abnormality the other of norm, deviation the other of law-abiding, illness the other of health, insanity the other of reason, lay public the other of the expert, foreigner the other of state subject, enemy the other of friend (Bauman 1991: 8). This is an awareness that we form our own identity through the inclusion of an element of exclusivity. In order to define the self or society you must also define what you are not. Man identifies himself as a superior being by comparison to the animal in attributes that are similar but also attributes that are different or lacking.

Societies have advanced through time by defining identities of civility as opposed to barbarity, colonial as opposed to indigenous, black as opposed to white and free as opposed to oppressed. These same societies have wielded their substantial political clout to shape and re-shape the identity of the other based on characteristics that would be most economically beneficial at the time. When Colombus ‘discovered’ America, the marginalisation of the Indian as Other was economically motivated. How else would Columbus and the ensuing British colonisation have been able to usurp land and build profitable a profitable society? How else would Manhattan be bought for $24?

 

When the British colonised India, Africa and Australia, the characteristics of being poor, dirty and inferior were associated to the colour of their skin and Black became the Other to White. This too was economically motivated. How else could the Dutch East India company convince it’s men that Indian were slaves to be herded onto ships bound for the fields of Africa? How else would the British have been able to commandeer and mobilise large contingencies of colonised peoples to work on infrastructure and fight in wars that were of no material benefit to them? How else were members of the Pakistani Army and society convinced that Bengalis were not Muslim, not human and thus ripe for raping, looting and killing? Man identifies with Man till society finds an economically beneficial reason to distinguish differences and draw boundaries.

Societies of economic influence wield the authority of their social institutions such as the law, media, education, religion to hold the balance of power through their representation of what is accepted as Normal and what is considered Other. Organisations such as the UN are a prime example of a selection of powerful economies distinguishing themselves as leaders and thus authorises to interfere in the societies and economies of other countries. This is not to say the UN is bad – No. Rather it is to understand that our world is governed by a man made awareness of who we are and who we are not based on the economically motivated decisions of the politically and financially privileged.

When we understand and are aware of this concept and remember that none of us are born as the Other, our minds can awaken to the political hegemony being played out on a global scale. Our minds can awaken to the realities of being the Jewish Other in 1940’s Europe. Of being the Asian Other in 1970s Australia. Of being the African American Other in America … always. Of being the Muslim Other in America, Australia, Europe and Burma. When we understand that we have a choice to accept or reject the identity of the Other, we can explore and seek to learn about the so-called Other. If we only venture outside of the propaganda sold 24/7 on mainstream media we can come to an enlightenment on what Islam really is and who Muslims really are. If we do this we can strip the fear we associate with the tag other. We can remove the animosity that drives decisions like the Burkini ban in France and we can celebrate the diversity through embracing our similarities as well as our differences.

What kind of society have we become when a 10 year old boy cannot feel safe in his own front yard? When the very figures of authority that are sworn in to serve and protect are the ones that run down and gun down first and ask questions (or provide weak justifications) later. What kind of society exhorts the values of Liberté, égalité, fraternité and yet leads the way in dictating how a woman should and should not dress? If you ban someone from covering, is this not the same oppression and banning someone from revealing? What kind of society have we become when we spin bias on everyday actions based on the attire of the individual. Would these women have been singled out as ‘members of Isis’ (a horrible thing to accuse someone of!) for being on their phones if they were not in Hijab? Surely there is logic and common sense left somewhere in the world?! Thank God for Canada where Hijabs are not part of the official uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Justin Trudeau who says the burkini ban has “no place in Canada,”

Allah swt says in the Quran, O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (49:13) We are encouraged to know each other for where there is knowledge and enlightenment there can never be fear and animosity no matter how profitable it is to the ruling elite. We are the masters of our own fate and we the masses shape the direction of our society. So don’t let an economically motivated Big Brother tell you who to like and dislike, don’t let faceless corporations teach you to hate – go out and talk to people who you don’t know, who you don’t understand and who you don’t like – you might just find you have more in common with them than you think.

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A friend of mine messaged me yesterday and asked me something along the lines of, ..how was it that I wanted to go out to parties with my friends and you didn’t Shaf..I would love to know the secret if there is any of how you passed those years without getting into severe trouble!!’ I laughed. She is an amazing and wonderful woman and a close friend and she of all people should know how much trouble I keep getting myself into. So I wrote back, ‘My secret was to get into smaller bouts of consistent trouble so that parents were perpetually fed up with me.’

Our ensuing conversation got me thinking about expectations. Perceptions feed expectations. Despite growing up together my friend had a perception of me as a person who didn’t get into severe trouble and expected I may have the answer as to why. Building on that premise, our perceptions of our relationships with family, friends, partners – all breed expectations. We all have them. But why are they so debilitating? Why do they make us vulnerable to others? Especially those we love? This post is going to be extraordinarily clichéd but it is because I have been thinking about clichés lately. Why are clichés clichés? Why can memes like these be read by anyone, anywhere and have an instant mutual understanding? Clichés (say it five times really fast!) are what they are because they have been tested by time and place over and over again. And although it might seem like they are not worth more than a cursory glance, it is actually clichés that can teach you so much that you thought earlier on in life you didn’t need to know.

When you are younger and ignorance is bliss because you think you know all there is to know (Hello 16 year old self! Aren’t you eating your words right now), you scoff at quotes which tell you that more expectations lead to more disappointment because hey you know everything and you only expect what you deserve so your definitely going to get it right? Wrong. As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve learnt that love is directly proportional to expectation. I love my father. He is my favourite person in the whole wide world. So even the most offhand cursory comment from him (well intended as it may be) will elicit tears from me when more severe and cutting rebukes from my mum are easily ignored (not because I love her any less but the frequency of those builds up immunity!). There have been times in my life where I have loved and expected thinking that my love for someone justifies my expectations. I have seen sisters who love and care for their brothers and expect from them love and respect only to be marginalised for their wives. The disappointment elicited from unfulfilled expectations is not the fault of the one you love. As much as it may seem so – tis not. It is wholly and entirely your fault.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s words, ‘No one can you make you feel inferior without your consent’ resonate with me when I say this. Love, admiration, respect and trust are in their place. But none of these should build expectations from others. Because others are fallible. In our society and in our culture we are raised to ‘expect’ love and care from our parents. We are raised to ‘expect’ an ATM in shining armour for a husband. We are raised to ‘expect’ respect from our siblings and colleagues even if we have not done enough to deserve these things. My point here is two-fold. Firstly, we should not be expecting anything from anyone except God. Yes you may want the love of a certain person and the respect of another, but that ultimate destiny and decision is in God’s hands and it to Him that you should supplicate. Secondly, God has told us that it is not enough that you simply have faith, you must tie your camel too (Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2517). Simply praying to God for the love and respect of others but doing nothing to elicit or deserve it will get you nowhere. The responsibility then for the outcome of your expectations lies wholly on God and on you. Your actions will deem you worthy to God who in turn will reward you. Nowhere in this scenario should the expectation or the blame in the case of a negative outcome lie on the object/person of you affection/attention.

This. Is harder said than done. I know. Because I have struggled with this for the past 5 years of my life. I was brought up by awesome parents who instilled in me so much confidence (it was my fault that I ignored their lessons in humility) that I felt entitled to love and respect regardless of how I acted. And it has been a hard path to travel on the way back from overconfidence with copious consumption of humble pie. I still don’t have the answer and I won’t pretend to. All I know is that this year I’ve told myself that enough is enough. Enough immaturity. Enough eating what I want. Doing what I like. Focus. So I’m focusing in my Religion. Health. Self-betterment. And that’s all. By being focused on good goals I hope to automatically cut out the peripheral chances of making mistakes had I had bad or unsavoury goals. Or even no goals which would keep me open to distractions.

Building on my awesome conversation with her I had another conversation with two more friends who were talking about ‘give and take’ in relationships and how they ‘manage’ their girlfriends. Now before you jump on your feminist high horse, this isn’t about keeping your ‘woman’ in her place. Rather it’s about managing your relationship in a constructive and communicative way. And I was impressed that here were two relatively young twenty something’s that had put a considerable amount of thought into how they approach and sustain expectations from their loved ones. What great maturity! Gone are they days in which the ‘hunter’ was always a male and the ‘gatherer’ was always a female and the two roles were mutually exclusive with the former exercising dominance over the latter. Gone are the days when men refused to talk about their feelings and partake in an open dialogue with their loved ones for fear of losing their place on that imaginary high pedestal of masculinity.

In our culture, no one prepares you on how to be a good daughter/son or a good husband/wife or a good mother/father purely on religious values, so much of it is mixed with our ‘desi’ culture which is mostly based on the timeless adage “What people will say and think”. Which sucks. You know how in movies they have a happy ever after? Well life doesn’t have one. I found that out the hard way. So many times in my life I had Kodak moments in which I wishes I could just end my story here. But God is the best if planners and if your story is still being written then go with the flow. It will have action and drama and suspense but inshallah the end will be beautiful. Perseverance is key. Easier said than done I know. Much of our lives as kids is about fitting in; into school, dawaats, friends circles, family expectations… we are all taught to not rock the boat. But Islam isn’t about that. And to be a good Muslim sometimes you not only rock the boat but turn it upside down and dance on it! As in, you challenge the perceived norm of what is cultural acceptable to do what is religiously mandated such as prayer, and modesty and the core values of all religions. And it’s only when we’ve had a good upbringing and surrounded ourselves with good people that we can be brave enough to follow Islam instead of society. So this year I plan to walk that path with my head held high knowing that I am not alone.

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Some of you may have read my post “Is music making men malicious?” One of my friends, Siam Syed read it and wrote the below which makes some very interesting points and I wanted to share with you.

* * * * * *

I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, he does use vulgarity, violence etc in his lyrics, and I’m not going to sit here and defend him to say he’s the ‘perfect’ role model for all kids. What I will say though is I can understand why he’s such a successful artist and why he’s regarded as a pioneer for an ‘evolved’ hip hop industry and I daresay – one of the best rappers of all time. I will further that and say he IS still a role model.

I obviously don’t know this guy personally, but I’ve read about him, saw him on interviews and media, and watched the movie 8 mile. 8 mile is probably a sensationalised autobiography on his life. But from what I’ve studied, this guy grew up with a messed up life. His dad left when he was born, his mother was an addict, and to top it off he lived in a black neighbourhood where gangsters, drugs, murdering was pretty much everywhere. Watch the movie 8 mile and listen to ‘Lose Yourself’.

If you look back on the history of music, rap culture was predominantly founded by the black community, with most hip hop artists and rappers being black males. Being a white male, stepping into this industry and getting to the top is a big deal and I have respect for his talent.

In regards to his lyrics, the media has played a big part in his ‘public image’ being very negative through misrepresentations. For example, this is an extract from a 60 Minutes interview:

Cooper: Some of the lyrics, like, you know, in the song “Criminal” you say “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge, That’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez, Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest, Pants or dress – hate fags? The answer’s “yes””

Eminem: Yeah, this scene I came up in. That word was thrown around so much, you know, faggot was like thrown around constantly to each other, like in battling.

Cooper: Do you not like gay people?

Eminem: No, I don’t have any problem with nobody. You know what I mean? I’m just like whatever.

 

I myself have used the word fag here and there in a negative light towards homosexuals. Wrong of me to do it, but I have, and most other people have too. Let’s not forget that in the 1990’s homosexuals weren’t accepted as much as they are today. He later did a duet with Elton John (who is gay) on the song, ‘Stan’, and remains friends with him still.

You mentioned the song, ‘Kill You’ speaking very violently about his ex-wife Kim. True. But we don’t know under what circumstances he wrote that song. What I do know, is that Kim endangered the life of their daughter, Hailie, for which a judge ruled Eminem to have custody over her. Listen to ‘Mockingbird’.

Since then, Eminem has adopted Kim’s Sister’s child, Lainie, as well as Whitney, Kim’s daughter from a previous relationship. He is also the legal guardian of his half-brother, Nathan. Listen to the song ‘Cleaning out my closet’. Clearly we can see a trend here that most people in his life are really messed up, to the point where the court ruled in his favour to live with him instead. So before we jump to conclusions and say he’s a violent, racist, homophobic prick who should not be a role model, we are forgetting the many kids out there who grew up in his circumstances, for which he is a perfect role model for. An extract from his song, ‘Sing for the moment’:

“That’s why we sing for these kids, who don’t have a thing
Except for a dream, and a fuckin’ rap magazine
Who post pin-up pictures on their walls all day long
Idolize they favorite rappers and know all they songs
Or for anyone who’s ever been through shit in their lives
Till they sit and they cry at night wishin’ they’d die
Till they throw on a rap record and they sit, and they vibe
We’re nothin’ to you but we’re the fuckin’ shit in they eyes”.

Listen to the whole song, and maybe you’ll gain some perspective of why he raps the way he does.

Now to come to his ‘talent’. Eminem’s the only accepted white rapper by the black community. He’s so good that he was produced by one of the most prominent black hip hop artists of all time, Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre (if you don’t know him) worked with the best rappers OF ALL TIME – Snoop Dogg, Tupac, NWA, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg etc. And this random white guy came up to him with his mix tape and Dre took him on. Extract from ‘White America’:

“when I was underground, no one gave a fuck I was white, no labels wanted to sign me, almost gave up, I was
Like, fuck it, until I met Dre, the only one to look past, gave me a chance, and I lit a fire up
Under his ass, helped him get back to the top, every fan black that I got, was probably his in
Exchange for every white fan that he’s got”

I don’t know need to go into the technicalities of rap (you’ll get bored lol) but basically, he’s a genius. His rhythm, his flow, his word play are un-matched to anyone today. His calibre is that of Tupac – who is regarded as the best rapper of all time. You ask why is he so popular? Because his probably the only ‘pure’ rapper left (besides Lupe Fiasco). In today’s music industry where Lil Wayne and Lil Jon are considered rappers, can you not see how much better Eminem is? And to all those ‘old school’ rappers like Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, P.Diddy – they are all commercialised, they rap about how mad their lives are, and write lyrics that can be played on radio so they can make more money. Snoop Dogg used to rap with Tupac, listen to ‘Gangsta Party’ and while you’re at it listen to ‘Changes’, and you’ll get what I mean by pure rap compared to today’s commercialised ‘rap’.

In summary, to people who like rap music, Eminem is a genius and wonderful to listen to. Yes he’s got a lot of swearing and violence in his music, but that’s what makes him so ‘real’ and relatable. It’s his method of delivery. It’s music though, it’s an art form, just like movies. So should children not watch violent movies? Should young adults not watch vulgar movies? I watched Kill Bill, one of the goriest movies when I was in high school, and I fucking loved it. People I’ve murdered to date: 0. And I listen to a lot of rap – from a young age. And I don’t swear uncontrollably lol. And by the way listening to Lose Yourself during my HSC made me push myself, I’d listen to it when I was studying, because getting into my degree was my dream. So how was he a negative influence on me? In saying that, I can’t even imagine what kind of an inspiration he’d be for young white kids living in the ghetto.

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December 2012 saw me travel around Bangladesh doing all sorts of stuff! This post is going to be quite long and eclectic in its collection of topics but I hope you enjoy it. This holiday was kind of disappointing in that it wasn’t what a typical holiday used to be. All my cousins were either overseas or busy with work so the regular caram sessions, late night antakshari rounds and endless gossip was non-existent. It might be a testament to my age but this holiday was more about networking, dinners and meeting new people which was fun too!

My main tasks in Bangladesh were to do the following which I talk about in my other post:

1. Complete the handover of incubators and phototherapy units Probasy had raised funds for all year
2. Find out more about what Prothom Alo trust does
3. Meet with the people at Muslim Aid to see what they do and how Probasy can help
4. Meet with the team at D.net behind their info lady campaign
5. Go to Bhola on a teaching campaign as part of Co-Id. The NFP founded by Fred Hyde.

My first week in Dhaka made me re-evaluate all my plans with the news disseminating warnings of hortals and protests which had become so innovatively disruptive that they now lit fires in the middle of the roads and smashed windscreens of moving buses and cars. The second hortal I witnessed saw the mindless killing of Biswajit Das. The net exploded with criticism of the government and media “Biswajit was stabbed to death after falling prey to violent clashes between the student wing of the political party in power and that of the opposition. It has been alleged that taking him to be a member of the opposition party, the cadres of the government’s youth wing beat up Biswajit and then repeatedly stabbed him with sharp weapons in broad daylight and full public view. Later, the youth died on the way to the hospital. The shocking event took place on 9 December, 2012, during an 8 hour road blockade programme organized by the opposition.”

This was only the first in a series of events and stories I heard and saw which opened my eyes to the reality of a Bangladesh the people living there try so hard to communicate to us NRBs (non-resident Bangladeshis). Working, moving around, getting things done in Bangladesh is next to impossible. Even planning two things in one day is too much to ask for. I was so disappointed with how everyone acted and reacted in a country that has so much to offer and be self-sustaining. I also saw hope though, I met some remarkable individuals working for some great organisations striving to make a real difference. While I was unable to make a trip to Sylhet all the other things on my list were successfully ticked off and the NGOs were amazing… but more on that later.

Before I get to the amazing work being done in Bangladesh I have to mention the events which took place in Bangladesh while I was there which set the context for what Bangladesh has become. These are set out in more detail in my other post on Rape. Having set this context in which men and women are unsafe in the streets for no good reason, you can see why Bangladesh has become once again worthy of the title so aptly given.

Once known as the bottomless basket case, Bangladesh was so named due to the endless stream of donations pouring into the country which disappeared without any improvements to the country or its people. When France donated millions through the Food for Work program to build and improve Bangladesh’s roads as well as give rural families a proper income, it was a great idea that worked properly for only a short while before some bright spark decided it was easier to just pocket all the money. To this day Bangladesh runs on donations. I would go so far as to heartbreakingly call my country one that is run on begging. The US, Australia, the UK, and China are the biggest donors to Bangladesh and millions of dollars are poured in to alleviate poverty, improve nutrition, healthcare and infrastructure. 95% or more of this money never reaches the people. It is used to line the pockets of the rich who go onto weekend shopping sprees in Singapore or to buy luxury cars and houses in forging countries while more and more of the poor become ultra poor.. or dead.

This scenario is only aided and abetted by the ridiculous and farcical politics of Bangladesh. Just thinking about it makes me angry. Two women with no credentials, no history of success and only their male relations to give them any credibility have lasted decades in a feud which sucks the life and liberty out of Bangladesh. Even a caretaker government couldn’t salvage and restore order. Politics is prevalent in every aspect of life in Bangladesh, be it trying to get a job, booking a hall for a wedding, trying to buy a house or car. It’s just crazy. And it’s making the people crazy. The bangalis I once knew who laughed and smiled and showed endless hospitality in the most adverse of situations are now narrow minded and self serving. Not only do adults act this way, they teach it to their kids. On 16th December, Bangladesh’s Victory Day celebrations were in full swing and in the spirit of celebration I gave some chocolates to a group of kids standing in the street outside our house. There were about 6 of them aged between 5 to 10. All of them tried to grab as many chocolates as they could. I said that if they didn’t take one and move aside that no one would get any but alas there was no brotherhood or love between these children. It was a ‘I’ll take what I can and run’ mentality that I saw all too prevalent in their adult counterparts. When I went to Bhola to teach at the schools run by Co-Id, the teachers and students alike were more focused on what gifts we had brought than what we were saying.

It is truly disappointing to see such a beautiful fertile country with such wonderful people being degraded to fighting over menial things as the politicians and the wealthy suck the life and resources out … literally. Bangladesh is floating on gas and yet gas is not available in homes almost all day, being siphoned off and sold to other countries. This is the context for the work I am about to relay. If your still with me and despairing.. don’t. There are organisations like Prothom Alo Trust, D.Net, Muslim Aid and Co-Id that are trying their best to lift Bangladesh out of the hole it’s dug for itself.

Chartiy in Bangladesh has details on what I saw, where I went and who I spoke to so please have a read if you are interested and contact me for any information. Their work is truly inspiring and restored faith in me that there are people in Bangladesh who think beyond their own pockets and the here and now. Bangladesh is a lush and plentiful country which produces so much that its inhabitants should have hearts as big as their rice fields. It is a shame that this is not the case. I hope the next time there is cause for me to visit my birthplace again, it will be to witness a better Bangladesh.

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Family Values

I opened up the SMH website this morning and was immediately faced with several articles that made me wonder at the deplorable state of our social and familial values in this day and age. Five years ago I do not recall opening up the paper and reading things like, Lane dumped baby in bushland: taxi driver and Sydney teen pulls gun on father: police.

What is going on? What are we doing so wrong as a society that our moral fabric is disintegrating and family values are just hollow words? Why is it that the more technologically savvy and knowledgeable and empowered we become the less humane we are?

I have read countless articles on murder, violence, harassment and abuse taking place within the family sphere at an alarmingly increasing rate. Fathers abusing daughters, mothers abandoning their child, children lashing out at their parents in the most horrific of ways.

How could we have come this far? Even the Neanderthals we parody with our superiors airs in television shows would hang their heads for shame at the wilful arrogant and uncaring attitude families have towards each other.

I know the Black Eyed Peas have deteriorated into a gyrating techno babble mess lately but the lyrics of the song “Where is the love” really resonates with me

Selfishness got us following the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting their young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what the see in the cinema
Whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love, we’re spreading animosity 

The state of the world we are in today is the sum effect of individual families losing their cohesiveness. And the question on everyone’s lips should be – where is the love? Why are mothers dumping their babies when throughout history we have heard stories and testimonials of a mothers love for a child being the greatest love humanely possible?

Why are fathers who are supposed to be the caregivers and protectors instigating violence and inflicting abuse on their loved ones? Is this the reason why children have lost respect for their parents? Is this the reason why children rebel and maim their parents with physical aggression?

Nuclear families are called nuclear for a reason. There should be cohesion, love, trust and mutual respect. Whatever happened to humanity and equality? Why are we spreading animosity and deceit? Why are parents ingraining it into their children in the family environment so that these same children go out and disseminate it into the world?

So many questions… what is the answer? What is the solution to the depravity of the human condition? Love. Trust and Mutual Respect. It doesn’t matter how technologically savvy and equipped you are, it doesn’t matter how many iphones ipads and parenphelia makes you feel like you have a wholesome and successful life. If you cannot come home to a family that loves and respects you, where there is mutual trust and understanding, where children obey their parents and parents in turn love and guide their children, then this is the microcosm of the society they will breed. And that is a heartless society indeed.

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