One of the grand paradoxes facing Bangladeshis is expressed in the negotiations and contestations on the simple question about who they are, particularly in the context of the strains caused by the Universalist claims of their religion on the one hand and the particularist demands of their ethnicity and culture on the other.
The ubiquity of the word “secularism” (it is mentioned in more than 75 of the world’s constitutions as an ideal the State promotes, or an organising principle that it affirms), and the passionate discussions it generates throughout the world, sometimes distracts us from the fact that its origins are relatively recent.
Dr. Anisuzzaman’s life was a radiant gift to us, his departure an irreparable loss. The usual metaphors that have been applied (tower of strength, conscience of the nation, a reassuring lighthouse, an iconic intellectual/cultural presence , an institution by himself, a large and shady tree, the embodiment of humanist principles, and so on) may all be applicable.
The American project was founded on rank hypocrisies. On the one hand, President Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the stirring words in the Declaration of Independence that upheld “these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal”, did not free his own slaves (not even Sally Hemings, who bore him six children).