Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, December 8, 2005


Maliha Bassam

It's a beautiful Thursday morning; the sky's blue, the birds are twittering excitedly and no bombs have blasted the High Court yet! We are indeed one lucky breed.

So we take a walk on this beautiful day, to a great building that sits as the atrium of the heart of Bangladeshi politics. This massive grey building with some giant holes in the walls is the Parliament House - that doesn't exactly “house” any of our MPs what it (intends to or) serves to do besides adorning Manik Mia Avenue is hold parliamentary sessions; dialogues between the Government and the Opposition.

Except that doesn't happen - it's a lot like talking to oneself_ the men and women we've elected to sit in all those empty green seats prefer not representing their people because they don't like this Government. Quite simply put, they don't want to be the Opposition and hate the Government. Okay, now that doesn't sound too simple, does it? You have to choose one; from childhood we've been taught the concept of opportunity cost. The Opposition (or Big Bad Begrudged Wolf) has to either like being themselves or like the Government you can't have your cake AND eat it and then again want more cake.

It's not that our Government (Big Bad Beleaguered Wolf) is without its share of paradoxes either. The national crisis of suicide bomb attacks left the Government a bit more than absolutely confounded. It became benevolent and invited the Opposition to come and sit for dialogues to tackle this catastrophic emergency and then got tired of playing mature and started hurling stones at them, accusing them of encouraging such attacks. Hmm, it's like breaking your ex-girlfriend's father's car window to get her back. Or calling the police while breaking into your neighbour's living room with the latest LCD screen TV.

Speaking of policemen, we've lost some brave men to these recent suicide bombings. The other day, I turned the news on to see the father of the deceased inspector (may he rest in eternal peace) receive a check of 3 lakh taka from the government. The man, lanky, old, heartbroken and crying, got handed a piece of paper and a few minutes of air time in return for losing his son. 3 lakh taka, dear ladies and gentleman. Assuming this old man even has a bank account to start with, let's say he keeps this money in the bank and receives 3000 taka as interest every month. Does the family of the man who died checking a suicide bomber deserve to live on 3000 taka a month? Or, perhaps a more pertinent question would be, is it POSSIBLE for a family to live on 3000 taka a month with our escalating prices of essentials? For those of you who can't imagine what 3000 taka a month equals to, let me make it clear it's roughly 46 dollars a month, less than the 63.50 dollars needed for a Bangladeshi high school student to register for the SAT Reasoning Test (lest he wants to study in the country and get bombed for practicing law or going to Ramna park).

I want the OC (Big Bad Big-Bellied Wolf) of any of the “Thana-s” to sustain his family with 3000 taka. I think, as a nation (Big Bad Bitter Wolf), we should all demand for this to take place before the government hands down a 3 lakh taka check to the family of another man or woman who dies for this country. At this point, I feel that I must mention that I turned on BTV one day to hear a presenter brag about how the Bangladeshi government (also Big Bad Bingeing Wolf) spent more than 1.5 crore taka on importing fresh flowers from Thailand for the 3 day period of the SAARC summit. 1.5 crore taka for decorating a conference hall that too while people were starving and dying in the North. These flowers needed special care so that they didn't wilt in the 3 day period.

Anyway, back to the talk about suicide bombing. The terror conjured up by the words. The world still hasn't seem 1000 suicide bomb attacks but the number so far causes enough panic. After all, strapping death to yourself to make others listen to your message what does that really say? That we SHOULD listen to others or we DON'T listen to others and hence such desperation? Our sheep-cloning, Mars-exploring scientists still cannot come up with a solution to suicide terrorism we can go with our hose pipes and water guns to drench the bomb and bomber inactive but how intimidating is that? Or the question could be that can the potential threat of a bullet to the brain intimidate a man who has a bomb strapped to his left leg and a finger inches from a detonator?

But of course, before we start pondering over such questions, we are undoubtedly compelled to bring in the words “Religious Fundamentalists”. Oh yes, the beard sporting, “toopi” wearing man seems far more terrifying that Frankenstein's monster himself. Inevitably, at this rate, there will come a day when the word 'religion' might cause a spasm of terror. Nowhere in our religion are we asked to be violent to establish any law, to force its implementation by aggressive means. Certainly nowhere does our religion ask one to blow oneself and others up. It's a religion of goodness that preaches charity, kindness, patience, self-restraint, perseverance. Suicide bombers are somewhat inaccurately represented to be all religious fundamentalists because of recent occurrences however research shows that in places like Sri Lanka, where the decidedly non-fundamentalist, quasi-Marxist Tamil Tigers have used suicide attacks since 1987 in their fight for a Tamil homeland, in Israel, Chechnya, Iraq, and even New York, only 43% of suicide bombers are from religiously affiliated groups. The remaining 57% stem from secular groups. Surprisingly, research also shows that during the Lebanese civil war, 70% of suicide attackers were Christians (although members of secular groups).

No blame on suicide terrorism can be justified as unfair there are lots of choices involved between making a bomb, wounding it around your leg and walking to the court to blow off the poor inspectors and shopkeepers and passers-by who don't even decide the law and public policy which have angered the militants. The excuse used by such militants (Big Bad Bearded Wolves?), that all these blasts take place in the name of religion, derails us into believing that our religions actually preach such violence. However, when religion becomes an excuse, there are some things that we can do.

What is it that we can do to prevent ourselves from getting blown up or/and to prevent more people from blowing themselves up? The major probable solution in my opinion may give yield only in the long run though immediate implementation is required. It is to recognise and target the potential suicide bombers and educate them about the real values of our religion. We should try our best to ensure that potential suicide bombers don't get brainwashed.

Most importantly, at the time of such a national crisis, it is imperative that the government and the opposition stop playing the Pillow Passing Game of Blame. Or we can go ahead and just call ourselves the nation of only Big Bad Wolves.


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