for all this talk of islamic radicalism and fanaticism causing global terrorism, what often gets left behind is the fact that, as long as poverty and illiteracy exists in the so-called third world, shit like this will continue to happen:

Police and local people said Amena, wife of expatriate Shyam Miah, slaughtered her two-year-old son Mamun in compliance with an edict she got from her Pir in dream on Friday night.

Amena, said to be a disciple of Kala Shaheed Pir of Akhaura in Brahmanbaria district, went to her sister-in-law’s house at Nagarpar from Kulubari on Friday along with her son Mamun.

On that night, she dreamt of her religious guru telling her to sacrifice one of her children for leading a ‘peaceful and happy life’.

“Amena slit the throat of her son at about 8:00am and sat in front of the body-unmoved by the harrowing scene,” says a firsthand account of the tragedy.

“She didn’t seem insane,” police said, when contacted.

and why, precisely, would she seem insane? after all, what does she know about ethics or any other fancy term that you and i can use to justify why we don’t sacrifice our children? she’s probably uneducated, or received primary education, and through its course, nobody probably told her explicitly that it was wrong to kill her children. rather, perhaps the closest exemplar she ever had was the religious story of abraham and how he tried to sacrifice his son.

please note, i’m not in favour of killing children. the reason i highlight this story out of all the crap in the paper this morning, is that the reason islam is suddenly witnessing an upsurge in bangladesh is not because of an increase in fanatical leaders or even deteriorating moral standards. rather, the increase is due fully because the poor are left with nowhere else to turn, except to islam as a way to solve their problems. this article highlights the phenomenon quite well:

Thousand of erosion victims of Shaghata upazila gatherted on the bank of Jamuna and joined a prayer seeking mercy from the almighty to same them from further erosion as government remained inactive to control it.

with this continuing failure of the government to provide basic services like water and electricity, or their failing efforts to stop the price of essential goods from spiralling, people are more susceptible to the teachings of imams who say that prayer can solve their problems.

i’m not certain where i’m going with this train of thought. however, i just want to point out that, in the absence of any intervention, whether from the government, ngos, donors or civil society, to improve basic knowledge or education levels, such fanatical behavior is to be expected.

for more evidence of the islamic upsurge in bangladesh, watch any random half hour of programming of the state-run bangladesh television network.

what a spectacle

the daily star, bangladesh’s premier source of garbage journalism, brings us news today of the arrests of members of an “international racketeering syndicate”. the most interesting part of this article is shown below, describing the arrests of two other members of this syndicate previously:

On May 15, DB police also arrested two members of the gang, along with three credit cards, two passports, two sets of spectacles worth Tk 26,000, and a receipt for credit card payment.

yes. you read that right. two spectacles worth taka 26,000. the glasses i wear cost me around 500 taka to make, including the lens, frame and all other associated costs. if i were to buy a pair of spectacles worth taka 13,000 each, i’d expect it to come with a mobile beeper that would allow me to find it if it was lost, a gps connection that would allow me to track it down no matter where on the planet it was, lenses that changed color according to my mood, a built-in mp3 player, television and hookup for a dvd player. not to mention a magnet to attract hot women.

more pertinently, what kind of a dumbass crook who has three presumably fake credit cards spends their money on buying two pairs of extravagant spectacles anyway? heck, if i had those credit cards myself, i’d have the most high-tech house on the plan, with security access doors and windows, on demand audio playback in any room of the house, a wall of tv screens etc. etc. etc. not to mention the porsche in the garage.of course, given the current situation with the electricity in bangladesh, it would probably mean that nothing would run for more than half the day.

i swear, our crooks are getting dumber by the minute.

the greater of two evils

i was in the united states in 2004, and as such was able to fully experience the frantic attempts of mtv through their “get out the vote” campaign, where they tried to convince youth who don’t usually care about politics to vote, by playing their usual dose of hip hop crap, but with a political message: your vote counts. i was strangely non-complacent towards this initiative, except for agreeing that the only way to get bush out of office was to get the youth to go out and vote for the democrats.

well, we all know how that turned out.

but lately, i’ve begun to understand why those people hardly ever want to vote. i’m quickly approaching the same state of utter disinterest in utilizing my democratic, god-given right to decide who runs the country. why? because there’s really no point. it’ll be the same old shit all over again.

a friend who is slightly better able to express himself than that phrased it this way: “this time around, bangladesh’s elections are going to come down to choosing between fascists and islamist right-wingers. and i’ll take the fascists over the islamist right-wingers any day.”

and that, in my opinion, is putting the election in a nutshell. since we were blessed with “democracy” in 1991, we’ve put one major party in power twice, and the other in power once. however, both parties have been complete failures at running the country or ensuring its continued sustainable growth. the only thing they’ve been successful at doing each time they’ve been in power has been to increase their wealth by leaps and bounds, and, at the same time, complete lambast the other party for being equal failures at running the nation.

this time around, as former president ershad puts it, the government has adequately proved that they are failures at runing the country, and the opposition has adequately proved that they are failures at being the opposition. therefore, in 2007, we’re going to have to vote between two complete and utter failures to run the country. this is in contrast to 2001, when we had to choose between the lesser of two evils to run the country, having given each party a chance to run the country badly for five years.

that time around, when i went to vote, i decided to vote not for any particular party, but for the person with the most interesting campaign symbol. i ended up voting for the person who had the banyan tree as his symbol. later, i checked online for the election results, and the person had got a sum total of three votes – probably his own, his wife’s and mine. i don’t even know the person – i voted for him because of his election symbol, not because of his ideology or capacity or experience. heck, i knew for a fact that he wouldn’t win, so who cares?

dr. kamal hossain, president of the political party gono forum, whose sole distinction has been to be such a persona non grata with whichever party wins the election that he has consistently been a member of the opposition during the last three governments, stated: “vote for able leaders, not for symbols”.

now, who precisely constitutes an able leader? is it the person who has been elected to parliament every time, and who has been a minister or state minister in the government, and has consequently earned themselves millions in the process? or is it someone who can make excellent speeches and stir up crowds as much as the next person? is it the representative of the party whose dead founder first declared independence in 1971, or is the representative of the party whose dead founder first declared independence in 1971 on behalf of the former? is it the one who claims to give millions in charity to the destitute, or is it the one who claims that, during their tenure, the country has halved poverty?

or, rather, is it someone else, someone with a vision who does not have the monetary capability to run for parliament, yet could run this country better than all the other political parties combined, who could, for once, ensure that bangladesh finally becomes the kind of place that it has the potential to be?

lest there be misconceptions, i’m not advocating for any particular candidate, except perhaps myself, if a certain politician is able to convince me to run for election this time around.

yes, i know precisely what you are thinking: what the fuck? however, i have been to quite a few lunches and dinners hosted by a certain politician who wishes me to stand in the election from my village home, because my father has outright refused to do so, and has passed the mantle on to me. you see, if my father stood for election from our village home, he would win, because he is extremely popular there, having brought about a lot of development in the region during his tenure in the government. therefore, this anonymous politican feels that, if i ran, i would win, since i am my father’s son. although the lunches and dinners have been delicious, it still does not mean that i will run – mainly because i haven’t been to the village in ages, and because i have way better things to do than run for election. but that doesn’t mean i’ll stop taking advantage of the free lunches and dinners.

but i digress.

the point i’m trying to make is that the political scenario in bangladesh is such that the able leaders are unable to participate in the elections, because it’s become a matter of having the financial power to be able to run in elections. a recent unofficial estimate hints at upwards of taka 12 crore (about $1.7 million) being required to run in an election, of which a third must be given to the party. most average joes don’t have that much floating around.

so what’s the answer? who should we vote for in oh-seven?

i say we vote for our own futures, to ensure that our own existences are sustainable. to ensure that we continue to have jobs, that we continue to have an income, that we can be able to get places by car faster than we could by foot, that we can be able to move about the city secure in the knowledge that we won’t get mugged, so that we can actually have power throughout the summer to ensure that we don’t die of heat stroke, and that every single bangladeshi can have the same facilities.

which political party can ensure this for us? none.

so what do we do?

stand up and be heard. let the world know that the youth of bangladesh are vibrant, energetic, intelligent and visionary; that we have a stake and interest in our futures; that we care about development and eradicating poverty; that we can make a change if we try; that we are tired of watching our futures ruined by money-hungry despots in parliament. but mostly, let’s let the world know that we care about bangladesh and its people, and that we will do what it takes for the country to be all that it can be.

on february 21, 1952, five youths gave their lives for the bangla language. fifty-four years later, i’m asking my fellow youth to simply give their time and energy to the development of bangladesh. sure, we’ll have little if any effect in 2007, but we can ensure that we can be a powerful force in 2012, and can get our voices heard and, for once, stop letting corrupt politicians make decisions that affect our futures.

so let’s stand up. and for god’s sake, let’s be counted.