When fanatics are running after me to kill me and to drink my blood, I feel good listening to some songs some unknown people in some unknown lands singing for me. Nothing is better than love.
Dear President Obama,
Saudi Arabia will not listen to me. I am nobody. They may listen to you, because you are their very good friend. Would you please tell your friend to stop harassing and torturing the Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi? He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes. He may now face death penalty.
I tell you what happened.
Mr Badawi’s wife said that judges in Saudi Arabia’s criminal court want Raif Badawi to undergo a re-trial for apostasy. If found guilty, he would face a death sentence. She said the “dangerous information” had come from “official sources” inside the conservative kingdom, where Mr Badawi has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – administered at a rate of 50 per week – for criticising the country’s clerics through his liberal blog.
In 2013, a judge threw out the charge of apostasy against the 31-year-old blogger after he assured the court that he was a Muslim. The evidence against him had included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.
The news that the charge may now be re-examined will come as a bitter blow to Mr Badawi’s family and supporters, who had hoped that the international pressure over his case would prompt Saudi Arabia to reduce his sentence.
I am not like Badawi’s Saudi relatives. I don’t want Saudi Arabia to reduce his sentence. I want Saudi Arabia to free him and honor him as a free thinker. If you believe in human rights, freedom of expression and democracy at all, you should not only ask the people of your country to practice them, you should tell the whole world to practice them, starting with the countries you are friends with. Why would you even want to maintain a friendship with them if they never care enough to listen to sound advice from you? Now it is time to decide; please decide whether you want to remain friends with an undemocratic country which is a violator of human rights and freedom of expression.
I received an award a few days ago. It was the Hedenius award from a Swedish human rights organisation. This award was named after the Swedish philosopher Ingemar Hedenius. He was a professor of philosophy at the famous University of Uppsala.
He fought against Christianity. He even wrote books on the subject of no healthy argument being possible between religion and science. The Hedenius award is given to those who relentlessly fight against fanaticism, superstitions, etc. I have received several awards from Europe and America. The recognition that I receive for writing in favour of humanity and human rights eliminates the pain of my exile.
Sometimes I wonder what will happen to all these awards after I die. I have no home, no country. They will probably be lost. I lost many awards already. I have been forced to lead a Bohemian life for 20 years now. Since my childhood, I wished to get a house of my own and decorate it in my own way.
My wish never came true. Now, I don’t dream about settling down anymore. The older I get, the less I dream of houses. The thought occurs to me that I have to leave everything behind one day. And I frequently remember that everything in life, even life itself, is temporary.
Only Swedish people are eligible for the Hedenius award. As I am a Swedish citizen, I didn’t face any difficulty in getting this award. A brown girl with black hair is Swedish! Even I can’t believe it. Swedish men and women are tall, broad, white-skinned with blonde hair, whereas I am a Bengali from head to toe.
As Bangladesh wouldn’t renew my passport, even though I am a citizen, I had to accept a Swedish passport. With that came citizenship. And with the citizenship came the Hedenius award. I have a love-hate relationship with Sweden. I love the country, and then I don’t – a lot like my feelings towards Bangladesh and France.
That night, I met another humanitarian and Hedenius award winner – the famous Björn Ulvaeus. He was one of the four singers of the famous Swedish band Abba. The band survived for only 10 years, from 1972 to 1982. Yet they were famous worldwide.
After the band broke up, Björn and Benny Andersson, another member of the band, continued their singing careers. They did well, but it was nothing compared to the popularity of Abba. Abba’s music became popular again after movies like Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, and Mamma Mia. People started listening to their songs again.
I had dinner with Björn that night. American humanitarian writer Rebecca Goldstein and a few other British and Swedish humanists were also there with us. We discussed many things over dinner, but not a single word about Abba.
He is a free thinker and he doesn’t believe in religion. He has a publication house named Fri Tanke, that promotes free thinking. They published many books in Swedish, but I won’t say that the house is very profitable.
People don’t read books on atheism, humanitarianism, and science. If 85% of the people in a country are atheists, then the number of people who read books on science cannot be too small. When I was talking to Björn, I was thinking about how this very famous person never hesitated to declare that he is an atheist.
Usually, famous or popular upper-class people do not want to disturb the social structure. They want to be identified as the dedicated servants of religion and patriarchy. They want to avoid controversy. Not everyone can be John Lennon or a Monty Python. Not everyone can be Björn Ulvaeus.
Sweden is the best country in the world for human rights and women’s rights. There is no discrimination against anyone – woman, atheist, homosexual, transgender, black, or brown – in making their way to the top. I don’t live in Sweden, but I am proud of the country.
I wonder if Bangladesh can ever become a country like Sweden. Maybe it will, but I know it won’t be in your lifetime or mine. Even if it takes a thousand years, one day, the country will be civilised – this is my dream.
In a Bangladeshi Lux Channel I Superstar Competition, a girl wore a blouse over her sari. Girls, these days, usually wear the sari over the blouse. I quite liked the idea. I’m curious as to exactly who came up with it – was it the girl or the fashion designer?
Wearing the petticoat over the sari might look nice as well, or maybe even tying the petticoat over the bust while wearing the sari as a skirt, keeping the blouse as bajubandh (armlet).
Clothes can be worn in a number of different ways, the trend of wearing a petticoat itself is quite new, as is the trend of wearing a sari with a kuchi (pleat).
When exactly did the sari arrive in our region? There was a time when both men and women used to wear the dhuti. Women used to wear the lungi like the men in South India. In ancient India, women didn’t cover their chests at all, or when they did, they would use a scarf or a brassiere.
The pieces of clothing would be unstitched, as was the tradition among Hindus back then. I don’t know exactly why but stitched clothes were considered unholy. The sari gradually emerged from the dhuti. Back then the term sari was not used, it was called a sattika. The sanskrit word sattika gave way to sati, sati to sadi, and finally sadi became sari.
In the 17th century, Odisha saw the emergence of the fishtail style which went something like this: the legs were wrapped in a dhuti and the end was draped over the shoulder like a fishtail, the tail was the aanchal (area). The dhuti for women slowly evolved into the sari.
The blouse and petticoat came about after the arrival of the British. The Muslims had brought the ghagra, and the petticoat was inspired from this ghagra. Our history of the sari is in fact India’s history of the sari. The Hindus were our preceding men and women. We were not born as a Bangali race in 1971; this Bangalee race has been around for millenia. Those who know of the evolution of the sari should have no qualms about any succeeding alterations in this attire.
The predecessors of our preceding women used to go naked or cover themselves with bark or animal skin, after which they started wearing clothes. Us women from this day and age are wearing the aanchal over the blouse, but that does not mean it is going to be a permanent stand for the attire, this too will pass and a new style will emerge.
People have always and will continue to come up with new and innovative ideas. If women are wearing the blouse over the sari that’s fine, if you don’t like it, you do not have to wear it just like I am not going to. I would have if I was slimmer. I have never conformed to contemporary fashion. My preference in fashion can be phrased as “whatever I like,” – the pinnacle of casual wear.
I rarely iron my clothes and tend to put on anything I find close at hand, shirts, pants, shorts, t-shirts or saris, but mostly cotton saris. These days I stay away from salwar kameez and skirts, I don’t care for feminine clothes much. I don’t find the sari “feminine” at all, instead I feel salwar kameez and skirts are much more feminine.
The sari does not even slow me down; I maintain the same pace wearing a sari as when I’m wearing shirts, pants and shoes. A sari is feminine you say? I ask, did men appear feminine when they wore dhutis? The categorisation and subsequent discrimination of the masculine and the feminine are inventions of sexists.
In ancient Greece when men with extremely masculine personalities used to wear the toga much like a sari, did they appear feminine at all? If, starting today, men start wearing the sari and women shirts and pants, then soon enough people will say the sari is quite masculine while shirts and pants are feminine. There’s nothing wrong with being masculine or feminine. It all goes wrong when something masculine is considered superior to something feminine.
No form of attire is obscene, even a complete lack of clothing is not obscene. In the Amazon jungle or the Andaman islands, when the natives walk around naked, does it appear obscene? We created the definition of obscenity; the definition is obscene, the ugly minds of people are obscene. The mind that thinks women who do not wear clothes according to the preference of men are devoid of character, is obscene.
The mind that thinks wearing short clothes is an acquiescence for rape is obscene. The mind that thinks men should wear whatever they want, but women must not, is obscene. The mind that thinks women are sexual objects, but men are not, so men should decide what women should wear, is obscene.
We all know that if someone gets naked in the midst of clothed people, that person will appear obscene. At the same time, clothes often become the cause of much obscenity. A few years ago, I spent the summer in Berlin. On an afternoon I had set out to take a swim in a nearby lake. On reaching a field adjacent to the lake right by the road side, I was shocked to witness hundreds of men, women and children sitting or lying around naked.
They were all getting a tan and taking a dip in the lake every now and then. They had brought food and water for the entire day and were eating right there as a family. I stood amongst them, clothed head to toe; everyone was staring at me wide eyed in wonder and amusement. Some eyes hinted at annoyance. Even I could tell I looked obscene.
I lowered my head ashamed of having clothes on. Just like a naked woman tries to cover her nudity with her hands, I found myself trying to hide my clothes with my hands.
Soon one by one I took off all my clothes save for my under garments. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t take them off; some form of inner resistance held me back. It’s not as if I knew someone in that field and yet I couldn’t get naked in front of a field full of naked people. I had hoped I too would get a tan, and take a dip in the lake but the fact that I couldn’t get naked compelled me to leave that area.
Those hundreds of naked men and women did not seem obscene to me, instead I felt obscene myself. It had nothing to do with clothes. Obscenity can emerge from clothes as much as from the lack thereof.
Personally, I believe no form of attire can be obscene. But the kind of clothes that are designed and imposed on women, burying their liberty and spontaneity in order to remove obscenity, such as the burka and the hijab, I find extremely obscene.
Sometimes I don’t understand why women should cover their chests at all: wear a bra, put on a blouse over it, a sari on top of that, or wear a dress, wrap a scarf over it and a burka on top of that. It’s as if to make it so that people can’t tell that women have breasts. If one can tell that a woman has breasts underneath her clothes why is it so disastrous? Noticing it, a heterosexual male might get sexually aroused. Well, let them, it’s only natural, just like it is perfectly natural for women to get sexually aroused on seeing men.
But we cannot forget that in a civilised society we have rules, such as: you cannot jump on a woman just because you’re aroused, you must have consent from the woman in order to engage in anything sexual. Instead of following this rule, women are forced to wear the burka. They’re being marginalised in society. A human being is getting turned into a walking talking prison cell.
A man who gets aroused will get aroused whether a woman is wearing a burka or not and one who does not get aroused will not do so even if the woman is walking naked. The civilised man knows how to control desire. The uncivilised need to be made civilised. Imposing a burka on a woman denies the need for uncivilised men to be made civilised.
The society of Bangladesh still resides in darkness. Enormous bungalows, expensive cars, towering shopping malls – we have it all; all that is missing is a healthy mindset. So whenever a woman wears a blouse over a sari a heated discussion ensues. Inspite of numerous schools, colleges and universities, very few of us are actually educated. Studying in universities people become either uneducated degree holders or fundamentalist terrorists. Universities do not educate people in the true sense of the term. One must become educated through one’s own efforts, using one’s own intellect.
We were born in a tiny planet among billions of planets suspended in empty space. Through billions of years of evolution we have emerged from single celled organisms. Some day, we too will become extinct, much like countless other species. The universe is not concerned with the clothes on our backs; the only ones concerned are a few women-hating, despicable people.
Only obscene men find obscenity in the bodies of women. Society is riddled with people who invent obscenity in women’s laughter, words, actions and behaviour. These men are undoubtedly obscene. I want obscenity to be made illegal. I want the obscenity present in the minds of obscene men to be made illegal. I want to rid the country of the ugly conspiracy to stifle the rights and liberty of women.
Eid was just celebrated in Bangladesh. My country is a distant place to me now. I can’t go back even if I want to, I can’t touch it even if I reach out. It’s as if the country doesn’t exist for me anymore. It’s been 20 years since I’ve been there, 20 years since I’ve experienced Eid. A lot of the time, I am reminded it was Eid after it’s over. Years have rolled by dealing with the troubles of my life in exile. I hear about the bad news from my country more than the good.
I’ve been seeing photos of cows on my Bengali friends’ Facebook profiles for quite a few days now. The cows look like Danish or Australian cows. I didn’t see such hefty cows when I lived there. I heard they are injected with hormones to make them appear fatter. Due to the extra hormones entering their bodies from eating such meat, young girls reach puberty sooner than they should. They miss out on their childhood. This is indeed a problem.
When I was a kid, cows were very skinny. After buying a cow for Eid, it would be tied in the yard. My father would feed it straw and salt water. I really enjoyed watching the cow eat while dangling its tail. In the winter, my mother would put a blanket on the cow’s back.
Even though both of my parents took care of the cow, I always felt like it was not enough. I wouldn’t be able to sleep all night thinking about how we were sleeping under mosquito nets while the poor cow was left in the yard. What about the mosquitoes biting it?
I once proposed putting up a mosquito net for the cow. My mother did not grant it, but she arranged some dhoop to get rid of mosquitoes in the yard. I would run out to see the cow early in the morning. I would see tears in its big, beautiful, dark eyes. I would pet its neck, stomach, and its back – as if it was a new guest in our house. I would promise that this new guest would no longer have to suffer, it would even get its own mosquito net at night.
The time would soon come for the cow to be taken to the fields. Someone or the other would always drag me there to watch the cow being slaughtered. I always wished the cow would muster up all of its strength, push those men standing carrying knives and bamboo sticks out of its way, and run free, out of our sight. The slaughtering of a cow is truly a horrible thing to see.
Every time, a bunch of men would come, tie the cow’s legs, and use bamboo sticks to make it lie on the ground unable to move. Then they would slit the throat of the helpless, innocent cow with a sharp knife. Blood would start gushing out from its throat. It would scream and cry. It would struggle to get away using all of its strength, but fail.
My body would feel numb after witnessing that scene. I would feel like crying. I would run to the bathroom, lock the door, cry for a bit, and then come out. The pain of killing a cow in such a brutal manner would in no way leave me.
The pain would lessen a little in the evening when I would see hundreds of beggars gathered outside the gate for a single piece of meat, and buckets full of meat being distributed among them. I would also join in distributing it. I would be told not to give more than two pieces of meat to one beggar. But I would always give four pieces to each of them. I don’t know if beggars still crowd outside houses to collect meat. I heard my country has changed a lot. How much it has changed and in what way is something I really wish to see.
I am an atheist. To be honest, for me, there is no Eid or Christmas, puja or Hanukkah, Budda Purnima or Guru Nanak’s birthday. I believe in celebrating Pohela Boishakh and Ekushey February. I celebrate Darwin’s birthday and World Humanitarian Day. But every Eid, I become very nostalgic about those childhood days.
I remember my father waking up at dawn to bathe. And also waking his children up to shower, be it winter or summer. We would bathe merrily using Cosco soap. My father used to buy Cosco soap specially for Eid. I still don’t know why it was Cosco and not any other soap. Even today, when I see any soap in a shop that looks like the Cosco soap, I buy it. To tell you the truth, it’s not the soap I buy, I buy those lost childhood days.
Before every Eid, my father would take me and my sister to Gourahari to buy material for our dresses and drop them at the tailor’s. He would buy us shoes from Bata. But he would never listen to our pleas to buy bangles, necklaces, or lipsticks. He didn’t like us getting too decked out. If we ever used any makeup, he would drag us to the tube-well to wash it off. He would always say: “Study hard and become a better person.”
On Eid morning, after we’d showered, before we could even manage to put on our new clothes, my mother would put out six to seven different kinds of shemai and jorda on the table. I still don’t understand how she managed to make so many types of shemai so early in the morning. Maybe she knew magic. My father would have shemai for breakfast with me and my siblings.
But mother would not eat. She would be busy in the kitchen. She would be done cooking the polao, the chicken curry and mutton rezala would be just about done as well. We would have our post-breakfast or pre-lunch at 10 in the morning! There would be various dishes – we would have a delicious meal with our father at the dining table. Maa would not eat. She would be busy in the kitchen. Who knows how she cooked so well on that mud stove. Maybe she knew magic. She did know magic.
Maa would not have the time to wear her Eid sari all day. Sometimes, she wouldn’t even get a new sari on Eid. When she did get a sari, it would be evening by the time she got to wear it. That is, after feeding all the guests and everyone in the house. After a while, she would have to take it off and again wear her everyday-clothes so that she could cook dinner for everyone. We would have dinner with father again. I wouldn’t even know when, what, where Maa ate. Did I ever even bother to ask?
On Qurbani Eid, mother wouldn’t even get the time to wear her new sari. From dawn, she would be preparing the ingredients to cook the beef. Maa would be in the kitchen all day. In the morning, the cow would be slaughtered in the field. The meat would be cut up on the veranda. Then the meat would be sent to the kitchen in huge bowls.
Maa would cook all day long. Whenever she would be done cooking something new, she would instantly put it on the dining table for us. I never bothered to peek inside the kitchen to see how she was doing it. I never thought of helping.
Maa is no longer with us. When she was here, I didn’t realise what it meant. I still can’t accept that she is gone. I feel the same way about father’s death. I used to dream that one day my life in exile would end, that I would go back to them. Those dreams died a long time ago.
Every Eid, I remember my mother. If I could somehow, magically, go back to those days, I would not have let her bear all the burden alone. I know the days that have passed will never come back. Still, I wish I could get them back. I know that I’ll never see my mother again. Still, I wish I would run into her somewhere.
I know that there is no heaven, still, I wish there was a heaven. And I wish my mother would live there, in heaven, for eternity. My mother spent her whole life working like a slave. She wanted to study, she wanted to be independent. But she was not allowed to do any of that. She was a woman. I spent this Eid trying to feel her sufferings. That’s how I spent this Eid.
What is this? We have to be decent and polite. We need to know where to draw the line, and whatever we do has to make sense. But those who are religious don’t need to be sensible or rational. It’s not a problem if they are crude. They have the right to declare bounty on someone’s head. They have the right to be uncivilised, to be murderers. But we (by we I mean the non-believers) don’t have those rights. In every society, the believers get more advantages than the non-believers.
By now, everyone must already know exactly what the telecommunication and ICT minister, Latif Siddique, said in New York. He lost his ministry for saying what he said. Not only that, Muslim radicals started protesting on the streets against him. They are demanding his execution. A Tk5 lakh bounty has been declared on his head. He is receiving threats from different groups. Apparently, he won’t be allowed back in the country. The media has also humiliated him in different ways.
But what was his fault? It is true that after uttering the Prophet’s name, Latif Siddique did not say “peace be upon him.” Even if one does not utter those words, there is no reason for peace not to be upon the Prophet. Almighty Allah will give his soul peace nevertheless. He was the greatest friend of Allah, and He himself sent Prophet Muhammad. The problem is, most of the Bengali Muslims know very littile about the Qur’an and Hadith. They haven’t read much about the history of Islam either.
More than 90% of the Bangladeshi population is Muslim. Most of them are Muslims because their parents were Muslims. Some converted to Islam, either on their own or by force. Many of these Muslims claimed that Latif Siddique hurt the “religious sentiments of Muslims.” By Muslims, they meant all Muslims or the Muslim community as a whole. However, a group or community doesn’t have feelings, a person does. So, it can be said Latif Siddique’s words hurt some people’s sentiments.
A person doesn’t only have religious sentiments, they experience many kinds of feelings. When their other feelings are hurt, they don’t get so riled up. So it can be asked, are religious sentiments more fragile and dangerous than other feelings? Are they hurt so easily that when someone hurts religious sentiments, anyone can break the pillars of civilisation – democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech?
The Muslim countries might not make necessary arrangements to protect human rights, but each of those countries take measures to protect Islam. If anyone raises any question about Islam, then capital punishment, execution, getting slaughtered, life imprisonment, life in exile, harassment, etc are inevitable.
Muslim extremists stone women. They slaughter people brutally. They whip girls for wearing trousers and cane them for driving. People all over the world see these barbaric acts. At one time, there was barbarity all over the world, but such behaviour has been made illegal by the establishment of laws in almost all countries.
Whether someone admits it or not, it is true that the number of Muslim extremists and Muslim terrorists has increased critically in the last two decades. Large and small groups like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hezbollah, and ISIS have been formed. They are dreaming of turning the entire world into a “caliphate,” where only Muslims will live, no one else.
According to a report by Pew Research Centre, most of the Muslims of the world want Sharia law. Today, a sense of disgust has been created about Islam around the world. Hatred has been cultivated towards Muslims. Non-Muslims in many countries express their lack of interest in becoming friends with Muslims, giving them jobs, and maintaining professional and social relationships with them. A dreadful distrust has been developed towards Muslims.
But human rights laws in the West are so strong that Muslims can live their lives as they wish. No country has plans to drive them away by beating and killing them. The West stops racism in their countries on their own.
Democracy becomes pointless if people lose their right to express their opinions or freedom of speech. If we try to change society, various feelings of various people get hurt. A society cannot be changed if we want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. People’s religious sentiments get hurt even when you try to separate state from religion or get rid of laws against women.
Too many good deeds haven’t been done till now without hurting religious sentiments. When the clerical rule in Europe was stopped, the religious sentiments of numerous people were hurt too. The discoveries of Galileo and Darwin hurt people’s religious sentiments as well. Scientific advancements hurt the religious sentiments of superstitious people.
But if we stop expressing our opinions, ban scientific discoveries and usage, and stop the progression of civilisation in the fear that it’ll hurt them, then the society will be left as a puddle of water, it will never turn into a spontaneously-flowing stream. Many say that since the majority of the people of the country are Muslims, Latif Siddique should have talked sensibly, keeping that in mind.
If one has to say what other people want to hear, then there is no need for freedom of speech or one’s right to express opinions. Freedom of speech is for those whose opinions don’t correspond with the opinions of most others. Freedom of speech is saying what you don’t want to hear. Those whose opinions don’t hurt anyone’s feelings don’t need freedom of speech. When the government takes the side of people who are against freedom of speech, it brings about the ruin of its own country.
Nowadays, religious extremists are doing very good business by exploiting people’s religious sentiments. They have always profited from this business in Bangladesh. Every time they scream on the streets demanding someone’s execution for religious dissent and start burning public property, the government takes their side and starts oppressing the people who hold different opinions. This strengthens the power of religious exploiters a hundredfold, and takes the country back 100 years.
The government did exactly the same thing in my case. The friendship between the government and extremists has forever remained the same. Back then, if the Khaleda-led government had punished the Muslim radicals instead of taking their side, they wouldn’t be so powerful now. I could have stayed in my own country as well. There would have been freedom of speech in the country.
It’s not only the Muslim fundamentalists, even the government has deprived free-thinkers of their democratic rights for their own insignificant interests. If Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had not dismissed Latif Siddique from his ministerial post, then he could have returned to the country. The storm would have died down eventually.
The clever religious exploiters would have understood that the politics of religious sentiments would not work in this government’s tenure. The expulsion of Latif Siddique only added fuel to the fire of Muslim fundamentalists. This will strengthen their evil forces a hundredfold. The country will again move backwards a hundredfold.
Various details about Latif Siddique are being disclosed these days. Apparently, he was a horrible person. When the government goes against someone, the number of his friends goes down to zero. My situation was the same. I had to leave the country. My friends vanished. Limitless rumours were spread about me.
Latif Siddique probably did many horrible things. I am not saying that he is a very good person. All I am saying is that he has the right to express his own opinions. Just as I support Latif Siddique’s right to express himself, I similarly respect the rights of his opposers to share their opinions at an equal measure.
If you don’t like his opinion, write and talk against his views and use logic to refute his arguments. But declaring a bounty on his head, physically attacking him, talking about hanging, executing, killing, and beheading him – I am against these barbaric threats.
There is nothing as wonderful as kissing. We shall kiss in the daylight, out in the open, and in front of hundreds of people – this is the mantra of the ongoing “Kiss of Love” protest in India.
University students have been shouting slogans in this public kissing campaign. They are protesting against the acts of arresting two youngsters for kissing on the streets in Kerala, and not letting a girl enter Star Theatre in Kolkata for wearing a miniskirt. Mainly, they are kissing to protest against moral policing in India.
Incidents like these have been occurring often in many countries. If policemen see couples getting intimate in parks or beside streets, lakes, or rivers, they tend to harass them. As if dating is a crime. Holding hands, hugging, or kissing in public are considered vulgar. Sexuality is also considered obscene. Is violence obscene too? Sadly, I don’t think anyone believes that violence is vulgar.
Disrespecting people on the streets, swearing at people by using filthy words, sexual harassment, mob killings of pickpockets – none of these seem very obscene to anyone. No one objects to people spitting or urinating on the streets. People starving to death or dying on the streets for lack of treatment doesn’t seem to be offensive to anyone.
But, it is offensive when you hold someone’s hand or kiss someone out of love. Loving is a crime. That is why there’s so much hatred around us.
Do you remember how John Lennon protested against the Vietnam war? He got naked in front of the whole world and announced: “Make love, not war.” Those who believe in the politics of hatred and jealousy prefer wars to making love. It is surprising that in this 21st century, Bengali writers and littérateurs believe that kissing in public is not right.
Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay said: “This can’t be a way to protest. This shows nothing but bad taste. People protested in Kerala by arranging a mass-kissing event. That doesn’t mean the same thing needs to be done in Kolkata.”
Minister Bratya Basu of West Bengal said: “Would they accept it if their parents did the same?” There are moral police everywhere! Even in the intellectual society.
I wonder why we need to make love only inside the four walls of locked rooms. Go near nature. Go to secluded forests. Go to quiet sea beaches on moonlit nights. Kiss. Love and make love.
We are nothing but the children of nature. Let the world see that we love each other. Let the sky see. Let the jasmines see.
Even though our Western friends are used to this, our friends from the East are not. To them, bodies – especially women’s bodies – are still vulgar. So is sexuality.
When I first went to Europe, I was surprised to see naked and half-naked men and women sun-bathing near the sea. That was probably the time when I discovered that our bodies are beautiful, not vulgar. Whenever I see two people kissing deeply, I feel that we don’t need walls around us to steal a kiss.
Kisses are just as beautiful and nourishing under the open sky. The taste of a kiss is the same – indoors or outdoors. But, when you want to kiss each other and you can’t – because of what people would say – that pain of repression is awful.
I didn’t have many lovers in my life. But, in the city of Paris, I kissed one of my boyfriends whenever I wanted to, in the gardens, streets, cars, theatres, and cafes. I am not talking about kisses on the cheek, I am talking about long, deep kisses.
Without kisses, my life used to feel so dry. I feel really good when I see people loving each other. Jealous and resentful people cannot stand others loving one another.
I have noticed that those who are for kissing in public, and those who are against it, both sides are blaming patriarchy. Kissing in public means turning women into commodities – a trick of patriarchy.
On the other hand, the reason behind stopping people from kissing in public is to keep women locked indoors; to go against the independence of women. This is also a trick of patriarchy!
I don’t want to go into discussions about patriarchy. I am simply taking the side of human bodies, and love.
I accept all kinds of love – love between man and woman, two women, or two men. I praise the expression of all kinds of love. I don’t want to see anyone dying or suffering on the streets. I don’t want to see anyone being beaten up or beating up someone else. I don’t want to see arson.
I don’t want to see people insulting, harassing, or raping girls. I want to see people loving and kissing each other on the streets. I’ll be happy even if I see people making love! Making love is a lot more beautiful and sacred than war, famine, or death.
A few days ago, I wrote on Twitter that my boyfriend was 20 years younger than me. The media went crazy over this piece of information. Previously, I had posted so many other things on Twitter – about receiving awards and an honorary doctorate, giving a keynote speech, and receiving a standing ovation. The media is not interested in such news at all. The media has always been extremely eager to learn more about my boyfriend or husband.
I was feeling a kind of joy after posting the news of my 20-years-younger-than-me boyfriend on Twitter. Acting like men does not suit girls. So, I wanted to see what society said if I acted like a man, if I chose a companion who was younger than me. As usual, people got furious. On the other hand, beating me, the 67-year-old railway minister got married in a grand way to a girl who is almost 40 years younger than him.
Imagine the difference between 20 and 40 years! The younger guy is just my boyfriend. And the railway minister married the girl in a grand way by arranging a “gaye holud” ceremony, dressing up the bride with ornaments and a red Banarasi saree. He himself wore a turban.
Can a 67-year-old woman ever marry a 29-year-old guy in such a way? Will anyone celebrate the marriage of an almost 70-year-old lady with a guy in his 20s the way men and women celebrated the wedding of the minister?
Many will say that if a guy is rich and powerful, then it is possible for him to marry a much younger girl. My question is: Is it possible for a rich and powerful woman in Bangladesh to marry a much younger guy? It is not only impossible, but people would swear at her and call her a man-eating witch. They will isolate her. You never know, they might even slaughter her.
Love doesn’t care about age. We know that an adult of any age can fall in love. Then, why does the man have to be the older one in a romantic relationship? If love is the main basis of the relationship, then producing children might not be very important. Many people live together or get married on the condition that they won’t have children.
Recently, this agreement is becoming more and more popular. In that case, there is no scope for anyone to object to the love or marriage between a 67-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man. But, people do object to it. When a 67-year-old man gets married, he is applauded. When a 67-year-old woman does it, she is hated by society. This is a minor example of the appalling discrimination between men and women.
Islam has gradually taken away the independence women had in pre-Islamic Arabia. 1,400 years ago, 40-year-old widowed Khadija, mother of many children, chose a 25-year-old man to marry – the Prophet. In the present Arabia, modern Khadijas don’t have the same opportunity or the courage to do so.
After her death, the Prophet got married almost a dozen times. He even married a girl who was 50 years younger than him. The disciples of the Prophet are following this incidence of him marrying someone younger at an older age. The Prophet also married a widower who was 15 years older than him. No “true” Muslim has an interest in following that.
I guess the railway minister will depend much on sildenafil citrate or Viagra. There is a limit to taking Viagra. Viagra does not work on everybody. It is prohibited for people with heart, kidney, and liver problems. Our railway minister will play with the body of a young lady. He will play, even though he might not be an expert, because he is a man. He has the right to play with whoever he wants. The entire world is a playground for men.
The girl will suffer. She will suffer from extreme depression. But she will be forced to stay captive in the man’s cage known as marriage. It is because she is a toy, a sex toy – a decoration piece.
She will probably be forced to act like she is happy, even though she is not. Most girls have to do this. They are not happy, but they pretend that they are. Or, they think that sadness, regret, and oppression are happiness, achievement, and independence. They have learned to think like that from childhood.
It is probably not possible anymore for most of them to learn something new, something that is completely opposite to what they have been taught. What men have learned from their childhood is that they are the masters – the superiors. They know better and understand better. The society and the entire world exist for them. They will rule. They will consume. Most men refuse to learn anything that contradicts this.
Indonesia’s Miss World Muslimah beauty pageant was held quite recently. The participants of the pageant wore makeup, just like the Miss World or Miss Universe contestants. The difference is that this pageant reveals an especially narrow mindset.
In the Miss World or Miss Universe contests, the women can be from any country or religion, but in the Miss Muslimah pageant, the participants have to be Muslim, and are required to wear hijabs. This is a beauty contest among women who are required to have their bodies and heads covered, if you hadn’t guessed.
In Islam, the purpose of the hijab is to make sure that no physical beauty of a woman is on display. The Qur’an and Hadith strongly prohibit displaying female beauty, which is why Muslim extremists have always been against beauty pageants. But have they expressed outrage over their own Muslimah beauty pageant? Not to my knowledge.
These Muslims, who doll themselves up and shamelessly display their beauty in front of all the men in the world, are definitely disobedient towards Allah and the Prophet, right? Not so long ago, a new law had been passed in Saudi Arabia: Girls with beautiful eyes were to no longer go outside with their eyes unveiled, because men get sexually excited by looking at their eyes.
Since men don’t know how to control their excitement, women are the ones who have to cover themselves up head-to-toe, just so that men are not tempted to do something horrible. However, the participants of the Miss Muslimah pageant keep their eyes uncovered. The curves of their waists, breasts, and hips are also clearly visible through their clothes – anyone can guess how much this excites men.
After watching the Muslim beauties, I came to the conclusion that Muslims do not want to be deprived of anything pleasurable. A few years ago, some expatriate Muslims living in Europe were cursing at non-Muslims there, all the while praising the Muslims in Saudi Arabia. So I asked them: “Why are you living in a non-Muslim country? You can just go to Saudi Arabia – the land of Islam, the sacred country.” They listened to my suggestion, but didn’t express any desire to follow through.
Muslims might think Saudi Arabia is sacred, but not many of them actually want to live there. Anyone can find clips of Saudi government-endorsed beheadings on the Internet. The truth is, Muslims can never enjoy human rights in the Arab world the way they do in the countries of non-believers.
Islamic extremists today are freely preaching their religion on Twitter and Facebook. Religious terrorists are using modern technology to spread terror. Fanatics are carrying mobile phones – an invention of the non-believers. Non-believers or atheists are inventing new technologies, and Muslims are all over those inventions.
Pious Muslims don’t have any objections about enjoying such modern conveniences. At the same time, they do not have any objections about hating non-believers or atheists, cursing and swearing at them, or even executing them while screaming God’s name. I have never seen any other religious group embracing the positive aspects of science and the negative aspects of religion in this way.
People have not only become greedy, they have also become violent. Not too long ago, followers of the Prophet used to say: “Allah’s favourite Prophet loved everyone, he didn’t hate anyone. He didn’t want to harm anyone, and he never said we should kill non-believers.”
He, in fact, said: “Your religion is yours, and my religion is mine.’” And now, many devotees of the Prophet proudly announce: “Our Prophet killed men, we will do the same … We will also chop non-believers into pieces.”
If religion makes people intolerant and turns them into savages, then I question its relevance in modern society. A few days ago, Bangladeshi Muslims attacked a Rajshahi University professor, hacking him to death. His fault: He had told his female students to not wear burqas in class because of the difficulty it posed in recognising a student. After all, it could be someone else pretending to be a student, maybe even someone dangerous.
The golden boys of my golden Bangladesh want to cover the girls in black garb. The burqa is an Arabian attire; is it mandatory to accept the culture of Saudi Arabia as your own to be a Muslim, or can you accept your own culture and also be a Muslim? This is something I’ve pondered for years.
My mother was very religious; going to Saudi Arabia was a dream of hers, and she did eventually go. However, when she came back, I noticed that she wasn’t very fond of the country anymore. Maybe her idea of Saudia Arabia did not match the reality. Her love for that country was gone, and as long as she lived, she lived as a Bengali. It was her love and affection for people that made her great, not her religion – that is how she expressed her piety.
When I was looking at the various fashionable hijabs in the Muslimah beauty pageant, it seemed like the hijab was no longer a part of Islam. Eye-catching hijabs of various colours are sold in shops now, and hijabi girls are busy showing off their beauty in different ways, which is why special catwalks had to be arranged for them.
Groups of Muslims are taking part in a sexual jihad. These girls travel for miles to reach the desserts of Iraq and Syria, so that they can sexually please some unknown men. This is something that is impossible to imagine even for someone with no religion and no shame.
I often hear the phrase “ghomtar tolay khemta nache,” this time I am witnessing it myself. If Muslim extremists can slaughter people in the name of Allah, Muslim girls can also sleep with them for the same reason. It’s a good thing that my mother is not alive anymore. If she were here to see these things, who knows what would’ve happened to her faith.
Do you remember the Delhi bus gangrape case? A girl was gangraped and an iron rod was inserted to intestine through her vagina, just for fun. Indian people, for the first time, take to the streets to protest against rape! You remember. Don’t you think the gangrapists in the jail are regretting and crying for their crimes? They realized they were wrong! They promised they would never commit crimes again!
Mukesh Singh said: “Women who went out at night had only themselves to blame if they attracted the attention of gangs of male molesters. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”
He claimed that had Jyoti, the victim, and her friend not tried to fight back, the gang would not have not have inflicted the savage beating, which led her to die from her injuries two weeks later.
He said, “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”
He said, “You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 per cent of girls are good.”
Said, “The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”
His lawyer AP Singh said, “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
In the BBC documentary, he adds that his stance has not changed: “This is my stand. I still today stand on that reply.”
Another lawyer ML Sharma said, “In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7.30 or 8.30 in the evening with any unknown person.”
Can you believe it? You may not believe it, but I do.
They became misogynists while growing up in a patriarchal society. No imprisonment, not even death penalty can change their misogynistic mindset.