No place for the poor anywhere

As we sit in the comfort of our homes reading this, there are tens of thousands of people out there searching for a roof over their heads. These are the nowhere men, women and children —illegal Bangaldeshi immigrants fleeing the hopelessness of their country in search of survival.

These are people struggling with basic needs such as hunger and thirst, but no nation seems to be forthcoming enough to come to their aid. Neighbours such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and others have refused help outright. The reason for this act of unkindness speaks of the harsh truth — the poor are not welcome anywhere. They are shunned from every sphere and every privilege, unwanted and uncared for. Wonder what the scenario would have been had there been rich people in the equation. Obviously, they would’nt have been refused at any shore. In fact, they would have been given a warm welcome with everyone vying to have them aboard.

Human traffickers have coined several terms for their activities. When the transaction requires passage by sea, in their vocabulary, it is known as Columbus Visa; when it is through forests and no-man’s lands, it is known as the Tarzan Visa. Even the harshest critics of this trade would find it difficult to ignore the dark humour.

So, how much does it take to earn a passage at the hands of these traffickers? It would take about 10,000 taka — an amount scrounged by the desperate by selling the last of their earthly possessions for a flicker of hope — and a further 25,000 taka for ferry owners to book a place in their vessel. Then beings the journey to find a better life in a distant land full of promise.

It is usually assumed that a person of islamic origin would like to go to an islamic county. But Indonesia has strictly instructed that even if there are people seen drowning at sea, no one should try to bring them ashore. Ah! The irony of it, a muslim country refusing a fellow muslim even while chanting the strain of islamic brotherhood!

It may sound unbelievable at first but muslims are actually better off in countries, where islam does not feature as the primary religion. Places like Europe and Canada welcome them with far more warmth than islamic countries. But the poor, however, do not have the luxury to go that far for a better life. Their meagre capacity allows them to only venture to nearby countries. Thus, they find themselves on a journey of uncertainty on sea that may also serve as their grave as time progresses. It is, indeed, ironical that, when vessels laden with muslims are being turned away by muslim countries, the Philippines, a christian nation, has given its word that they will be offered shelter.

What disheartens further is the fact that people like Aung San Suu Kyi, someone awarded with the Nobel peace prize, chooses to keep silent on the plight of Rohingya muslims in Myanmar. It is really disappointing when such an ardent advocator of peace decides to hold her tongue for the love of power rather than protest against human atrocities.

The Bangladesh government has neither the will, nor the naval power, to stop human traffickers. Teknaf and Maheshkhali are the primary areas where these traffickers are active — there are some 80 routes around these areas from where trafficking takes place under the cover of the night — and it is common knowledge that the police of these regions accept bribes to turn a blind eye.

The saddest part is that so desperate are the people being trafficked that they believe that even on being caught as illegal immigrants, they would have a better life in the prisons of Malaysia than walking free in their own country. With the consolation that they would never have to sleep hungry ever again, they find a better deal in servitude than in freedom.

Many commentators have been urging for strict anti-trafficking laws to prevent such situations. I, however, have reservations on calling this trafficking a violation of human conduct. It has been the prerogative of the human race to move towards a habitat that is less hostile to their survival. This has been one of the primal factors that have made us survive through the passage of time. The theory of evolution or the theory of human race has been a continuous search to find ourselves in a better position than that we have been in. Now, if laws would forbid such activity, I think we are looking at the wrong end of the scenario.

We are not limited by boundaries that predestine our fate. It does not work to debate on humanity while putting shackles on the freedom of fellow humans. Bangladesh needs to work out a policy that allows free movement within their neighbouring countries without resorting to means such as human trafficking. A piece of paper (as in passport/visa) should no longer serve as a prerequisite to human freedom and the system that supports it should be abolished.

There is too little time to be wasted in our lives for hate, disbelief and anger towards each other. Let us instead strive towards love,respect and peaceful coexistence.

Another science writer -blogger was hacked to death in Bangladesh today

Ananta Bijoy Das was a talented science writer and a blogger. He was hacked to death today by Islamic terrorists in Bangladesh.

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Ananta Bijoy Das wrote a wonderful poem about me. In his poem, he saluted me for being an uncompromising feminist and humanist. Debashish Bhattacharya translated the poem into English.

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A Few Lines For Taslima Nasreen

By Ananta Bijoy Das

The wolves and hyenas of the darkness are prowling over the world
Naked swords in hand, their unconcealed carnal desire dripping off from their eyes and mouths.
Intellectual conceit, under the veneer of fake social awareness, is chewing out
Every issue from big bang to human evolution, global vision .
Alexandria to Nalanda being rampaged and raped by them,
The “elders” are breathing in hatred and violence in their pens,
Blood of the innocent dripping off the shameless swords everywhere.

If you violate their fatwa, their red eyes and edicts
You get beheaded in the east west north south wherever you are.
They have bought over all – the arms, muscles, judiciary and the media.
Nevertheless someone or other is lighting the fire somewhere,
The fire of protest, the revolutionary fire which burns off the stinking, old, decomposed beliefs and rituals, “sacred” establishments.
The lighted path travels from Hypatia to Mary, Rokea –
All hail Taslima, red salute to you.

Ananta Bijoy Das was an editor of a science magazine called Jukti (logic). He used to write blogs on Mukto Mona blogging site. He wrote some books on Darwin and evolution in Bengali. He received Rationalist Mukto Mona award for his writings.

Bangladesh government is not taking any action against the Islamist-killers because of the fear of being labelled as anti-Islam. Islamists are allowed to do whatever they like in Bangladesh. It seems killing free-thinker atheists who criticize Islam is their main agenda.

Rajib Haider
A.K.M Shafiur Rahman
Avijit Roy
Washikur Rahman Babu
Ananta Bijoy Das.
Who is next?

Tomorrow maybe you. Or maybe me.

Nature’s fury exposes man’s folly

We humans have always been helpless in the face of natural calamities. When the ground begins to tremble, it engulfs thousands of people. When the ocean fumes, it turns into a deathbed for millions. We may tend to act like supreme beings, but the truth is that we are hopelessly frail and defenceless in front of nature.

We have obviously made matters worse over the years by exploiting every aspect of nature to suit our purpose. Forests have given way to highways and commercial establishments, which have slowly and efficiently encroached upon the earth’s natural resources in the name of development.

The earthquake in Nepal is a stark reminder of what nature is capable of. We are no soothsayers to predict what is yet to come, but if history is any pointer every race that has considered itself superior to others has perished over time. What guarantee is there that, in the future, the human race would not become but only a distant memory of a long gone era?

We are capable of love like all other species. What differentiates us from the other species is that we tend to pretend that we love rather than loving in right earnest. Love and compassion are traits that are essential for the evolution of any race. It is not only for the good of any particular community but for a higher harmony that fosters mutual co-existence of all species.

I sometimes wonder if our supremacy is based on the fact that we create weapons of mass destruction that we use against each other. It is a natural calamity that brings us to our senses, breaking the myths that we have constructed. It is also in crisis that we get to see that the human race is capable of compassion.

From every strata of society, help arrives to rescue those in need. It is ironical that a tragedy brings more people together than a happy occasion. If the rich and powerful came to the aid of the poor and the weak on a regular basis, we probably wouldn’t be witnessing such a big divide in the world today.

Even in this time of grave tragedy several issues have managed to evoke mixed feelings. India has played a pivotal role in helping Nepal along with several other neighbouring countries. Pakistan supposedly sent cow meat in its relief package.

Cow meat, in my personal opinion, is the tastiest of all meat. The problem that arose with it was that Nepal has a majority of Hindu inhabitants and although they are comfortable with killing hundreds of buffalos during their own rituals it offends their conscience to eat cow meat. The reason is that the cow is apparently a manifestation of God in Nepal as much as it is in India.

If there is such a hullabaloo over the entire scenario, why is there a dearth of care for the supposed gods? It doesn’t hurt to drink the urine of cows, but even in the heart of the Indian capital, the divine bovine roams around with an empty stomach. It is illogical to believe that a person should abstain from eating animal meat because he is an advocate of animal rights.

I had once cooked cow meat in my Kolkata house. One of my Hindu friends had expressed the desire to have it. Sujata, who was my household maid, was unaware that the meat was actually from a cow. She was under the impression that it was the usual affair.

I am more than certain if we were to tell her the truth, she probably would have left regardless of the fact that she would not land such a lucrative job anytime soon. May be, that is the chief reason why I chose not to divulge it to her. It doesn’t mean that I duped her into having it; the entire procedure was carried on separately. I could have done it banking on her naivety. Then again, lies and deceit have never been my strong suit.

On the same lines, if any of my Muslim relatives or friends are in the vicinity. I tend to maintain a certain distance when consuming pig meat and I do not insist that they should share my meal. I wonder what it would have been like if Bangladesh was recoiling from an earthquake and a country decided that it would send truckloads of pig meat as aid. One should understand that I do not maintain a distance because of religion but out of respect towards the personal choice of an individual.

It is not possible that the choice to send aid to Nepal was a single-handed decision. It was probably a collective dcision. Was it not known to them that Nepal had a majority of Hindu inhabitants and cow meat was probably not the best choice to send as aid? Or was it sheer apathy that resulted in such a fiasco. This leads one to question if it was an intended move rather than a simple mistake.

If one remembers the story of how the fox invited the stork for lunch but served food on a flat utensil and the stork, to settle scores, invited him back and chose a long-funnelled receptacle to serve the food. In both cases, the invited went home hungry. So what is the use of an invitation that leaves the invitee hungry and unsatisfied?

Pakistan should take back its aid and provide something that is more suitable or if that is not possible just leave it at that. It is better to provide nothing rather than something that evokes displeasure.

Arabic language is used to stop peeing in public

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It was impossible to stop people from urinating in public in Bangladesh. No sign, no request in Bengali language worked so far. Finally some Arabic words are written on the walls. And it works like magic. Muslims respect Arabic language as they believe it is the language of Allah, the God. If you write I wanna fuck you, motherfucker in Arabic, Muslims as they can only recognize Arabic alphabets but do not know the language, would show respect to that slang. Allah’s language is only useful to stop peeing in public. I do not see any other uses of this language in non Arabic countries.

Muslims are losing their faith

Muslims are losing their faith.

Many people know that Islamic extremism makes ordinary Muslims extremists. Not many people know that Islamic extremism also makes ordinary Muslims atheists.

IDENTIFYING Muslims who have renounced their faith is tricky. Few are open about doing so, even in safe and secular Britain. But among the country’s Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, who overwhelmingly describe themselves as Muslims, the numbers are growing, albeit from a tiny base. According to official statistics, between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of Bangladeshis who say they have no faith has more than tripled, from 0.4% to 1.4%. For Pakistanis it has doubled, from 0.5% to 1.1%. Some who explicitly identify as ex-Muslims are becoming more vocal. Groups such as the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB), set up in 2007, are helping.

Former Muslims’ reluctance to admit to their lack of faith rarely stems from a fear of violence, as in countries such as Sudan where laws make apostasy punishable by death. Rather the worry in Britain is about the social stigma, moral condemnation and ostracism that follows, says Simon Cottee of the University of Kent, who has written a book on the subject.

I am happy for Bangladeshis. Between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of Bangladeshis who say they have no faith has more than tripled, from 0.4% to 1.4%. Recently I have started using facebook, where most of my followers and friends are Bengalis from Bangladesh. I am so amazed to see a huge number of young people, both men and women, abandoned their faith. Avijit Roy’s Mukto Mona website has been a great platform for thousands of Bengali atheist bloggers.

Many do not divulge their unbelief to their families, let alone the wider community. At events organised by the CEMB, some come straight from the mosque. Women say they continue to wear their veil at home to conceal their change of heart. Those who are openly godless often use the language of gay rights, talking about “coming out” to those close to them.

Despite such difficulties, the internet is making life easier. Muslims questioning their faith can talk to others online. The CEMB’s forum has over 4,000 users, says Marayam Namazie, the group’s founder. In the past would-be atheists had to sneak off to libraries to explore their doubts. Doing so online is easier and more discreet. Nonetheless the CEMB also offers guidance on concealing such activities, advising those with doubts to erase e-mails and search histories and to use a computer to which others do not have access.

Ibrahim Mogra, an imam in Leicester, says that he has heard of only a handful of cases of Muslims who have openly renounced their religion over the past 30 years. More common, he says, are those who abandon many of the practices of Islam—regular prayers, the dietary laws and dress codes, for example—but still identify as Muslims. This group, which is culturally but less spiritually committed to Islam, is getting larger, suggests Mr Mogra. Growing up in secular Britain leads people, especially the young, to drift away. But many grow out of their doubts, he reckons, and return, especially when they have children.

Such a good news! Agnostics are growing. I want them to grow faster.

Will Saudi sex slavery ever end?

An intriguing news item was published in the Arab world a few days ago — a sex shop is coming up in Saudi Arabia’s holiest city, Mecca. Not just any sex shop but a halal sex shop. I have no clue whatsoever about terms and conditions upon which a sex shop is deemed halal or haraam. I also want to know, whether in this sex shop, a woman would be able to shop alone for her personal needs. In a country where women don’t have minimum personal liberty, and have no other identity beyond being sex slaves to men, there cannot be any doubt that the sex shop being opened there will be exclusively for the sexual pleasure of men.

Men from Saudi Arabia spend a lot of their ample wealth on sex. They go to various countries on sex tours to enjoy the company of expensive call-girls, and they roam around freely in the sex shops of foreign countries. From now on, however, they will no longer have to undertake the trouble of a foreign tour for sex-shopping, at least. For, EL Asira, the Sharia-compliant sex brand originating in Amsterdam and backed by Germany’s Beate Uhse, will soon branch out to the holy city.

Till now, the sex shops of Europe and America have not yet arrived in the progressive countries of Asia, but they have managed to reach Saudi Arabia, the most conservative and orthodox society in the world, where women are perceived only as moving genitalia.

The Saudi king, Abdullah, had 30 wives. Out of those, one was Alanoud al Fayez, who had been divorced by the king in 1985. But her four daughters are prisoners in the Saudi royal palace. Jawaher, Maha, Sahar and Hala are incarcerated in every sense of the word. They are not free to set foot outside the palace walls. They are hardly provided food twice a day, and their half-brothers beat them mercilessly. Some of the sisters are nearabouts or over forty years of age but have not been allowed to marry.

Alanoud, who is in self-imposed exile in London for the past few years, has broken her silence and spoken about the abuses inflicted on her daughters to the international media. To no avail, of course. If the most powerful nation on the planet, the United States, bows its head and pays obeisance to the mighty House of Saud, who else dare protest?

Barack Obama paid a high profile visit to Saudi Arabia a few months ago, accompanied by his wife. One does not recall any request from him to alleviate the situation of the sisters trapped in the royal palace, or even the general condition of women in the country.

This is the thing with Saudi Arabia. It’s kind of like a bratty child — whatever strikes its fancy, it shall go ahead and do. Saudi women cannot step out in the open without being covered from head to foot. They have no right to free speech. They can’t talk to strangers of the opposite sex because it’s considered haraam. They can’t take a car ride with someone without the fear of execution. They are punished cruelly if they happen to be victims of rape or torture.

The primitive laws of a seventh century society still prevail over a 21st century Saudi Arabia. Freedom of speech is unheard of. Writer-activist Raif Badawi, creator of the website, Free Saudi Liberals, is still being lashed liberally every other week for daring to have freethinking aspirations. Saudi Arabia doesn’t give two hoots about tenets of modernisation and civilisation. It is making first world nations dance to its tunes on the one hand, and exporting islamic terrorism to other muslim states, on the other. This state, without a shred of ethics and character, is going unpunished since there are no countries that can be brave enough to face the ire of a wealthy, oil-rich nation.

Such are the circumstances under which Saudi Arabia has opened its gates to a sex shop. What can this novelty do for Saudi men? Well, they can now be provided with leather belts, shackles, masks and an assortment of other weapons which they would now be able to use liberally to further treat women as sex slaves. To force them into dominant-submissive sexual role play. To bring into actual force the brutal primitivism of their patriarchal attitude against women by inflicting a new kind of sexual torture on them. And as usual, this too, shall remain unpunished.

If there is indeed any pleasure to be gained out of those shops, they would be exclusively for the men. The women are not to partake in any such thing. Those who do not have basic human rights must never aspire to sexual rights either. And those that do not have sexual freedom or rights, have no sexual pleasure. Sex slaves take no pleasure in sex — they need to be freed of their slavery first.

The world stands wondering when, if at all, the new generation of politically and socially aware Saudi youth shall spell the death knell of this dystopic dynastic rule. Time waits for them.