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February 13, 2004

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Some Learning from this Eid

Aly Zaker

So Eid-ul-Azha has come and gone. It was no different from the previous years. There were the usual animal haats within and beyond the city limits. There was the predictable rush for sacrificial animals, animals were slaughtered wherever people deemed it fit to slaughter them, this discerning deed left the city in stench, and there were altercations and an occasional fight for the meat given to the poor from the prosperous house holds. All these were there but there were things different from the run of the mill occurrences. I understand that cows this year were limited in supply and, therefore, the prices were high. Indeed very high for the middle class Bangladeshis to shy away from the age-old custom. Therefore, a lesser number of cows was slaughtered. Also, strange though it may seem, people started questioning the intent with which animals are slaughtered. To some, at least, the whole exercise seemed ostentatious and unnecessary.

But what made my day is a banner I came across near the Dhaka Sheraton Hotel. Adapted from Bangla it would read: Do not kill the animals of the wild. Kill the Animal within you. Isn't this fascinating? I think this is the most profound appeal I have come across in a long time. Kill the animal within you. I think this most extraordinary slogan alone, if adhered to, could make life so much more meaningful and blissful for all of us. What's more, it gives me a tremendous sense of hope about the future of Bangladesh. A Bangladesh where we have become used to talking about all the negative things in our daily conversation, where despondency is our every day companion, where we do not find any reason to come back to if we can barely make a living abroad.

Earlier in the morning and before I saw the banner I had met an aunt who lives in the ground floor of a respectable residential apartment complex. This year, for some strange reason, the occupants of the apartments had decided to slaughter the animals within the compound and in the car park of the complex. Coincidentally the place they selected for this was by the side of my aunt's bedroom window. She was very disturbed by the sight of animal after animal being slaughtered, skinned, cut and chopped. What disturbed her most was that a band of very young boys were sitting and watching all these from the adjacent wall. The felling of each animal resulted in a gleeful outburst from them. The comment of my old aunt was that "I could literally see a band of young thugs being inducted into the trade of indulging in the violence that has become endemic to our society of late." Her comment made me appreciate the banner even more.

But the question remains, and it may well be asked by the devout Muslims, that should we abstain from practising gestures of sacrifice during the celebration of Eid-ul-Azha? I would hazard an answer to this question through a counter question. Let us put our hands on our hearts and ask how many of us sacrifice animals during the Eid with a spirit of sacrifice? Don't we indulge in a competition of buying the most expensive animal with an attitude of exhibitionism and of obtrusiveness? Don't our eyes light up at the prospect of savouring the taste of the choice cuts of the animals we have so eagerly brought home from the haat to sacrifice in the name of God? Does that animal ever become our most loved and most prized possession, the sacrifice of which should meet the spirit of qurbani? Do we genuinely care about the fate of the teeming millions of destitute that comprise the majority of our population and can't even afford a square meal a day?

In fact in our present day Bangladesh’s beasts are not as beastly as the human beings. Isn't that the beast within most of us that we should sacrifice first on such occasions?



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