As the golden sun slowly rests on the fluffy, cloudy pillows in the western sky, the birds chirp goodnight and fly back home to their nests and the light February breeze lulls my dahlias and marigolds to sleep while my fiery magenta bougainvilleas, swaying their happy heads, finally call it a day. All is at peace in my small garden of bliss except for me, a small uncomfortable nudge is tugging at my heart.
I am not at peace; a violent war is waging inside my heart and it is only refuelled as I hear the chants from the Projonmo Chottor at Uttara reach a crescendo. I can hear their passionate slogans of 'tui rajakar and fashi chai' as I water my plants and pray for my beloved country's future to be free of traitors and back stabbers.
I wonder if at all there is a cure; a cure to blindness that many of my fellow citizens are suffering from. They are blind and their muddled thoughts cannot process the fact that being Muslim does not mean that you cannot be Bangladeshi.
Being Muslim and a Bangladeshi does not mean that you have to desecrate Bangladesh's national flag and march past in a procession with a Pakistani flag. Being Muslim in Bangladesh does not mean you defile the sanctity of Shaheed Minar and speak in Urdu or Arabic and degrade Bangla. Being a Muslim and a Bangladeshi does not mean you choose the side of people who carried out a campaign of genocide against their own, who raped their own, and sold their own to the enemies.
I cannot reason with any justification as to why I would do all these things. Am I practising a different Islam than the rest of my fellow citizens? Is my Islam different from those who grow beards and have them dyed in henna, line their eyes with surma and wear strong attar, then go for Friday prayers and preach racial hatred, talk about ethnic cleansing, demean women, burn prayer mats or hurl cocktails at innocents and slaughter people in broad daylight?
Sometimes I wonder whether having that blazing black spot on the forehead as a symbol of a pious, religious person, who prays five times a day, can recite Holy verses without a stutter, is actually the passport to heaven. There are people who portray that very image but in reality are corrupted, or are traitors, collaborators, murderers. I see no reason to take their side and depict them as angels, which many of us are doing now. If you are against these people you are not against Islam. They are not what Islam is all about -- a simple fact that many of us fail to realise.
For you see, I love my country and that is not a casual, impulsive comment. I am not a politician, a bureaucrat, a technocrat and neither am I a celebrated son of the soil. I am just an ordinary citizen of Bangladesh who prefers to live and die on its independent soil. My country, my religion and my culture are not up for auction and my peace of mind is not for sale either.
On a different note I would like to draw my readers' attention to Star Lifestyle's discussion on Gender Sensitivity and the Role of Parents on page 9 and our Centrefold which is our cover story for this year's International Women's Day.
Violence against women in every society is a harsh reality; I just want to let men and women of our society recognise this fact; and not trivialise the significance of International Women's Day. One thing needs to be clarified -- Women's Day is not the same as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day or any other day. Giving a stale rose or a tee shirt on that day to women in shopping malls, offices, restaurants or salons is not what the day is all about.
Teaching your sons and daughters the true meaning of equality and respect should be the order of the day. Men and women are different biologically and psychologically but not socially. A woman can get the job done just as competently as a man and thinking any less of her is the issue that needs to change; and it should begin at home with mothers being the first teachers.