O P I N I O N
Adwiteeya Rupantee Paul
[ “Never engage in conversations about religion, my daughter. We’re not safe here.”
That one warning I heard multiple times as a child, that one warning I’ve later passed on to my younger cousins. All in an attempt to keep them, to keep us safe.
Here I am, father, going against that principle of mine that you helped build because the time to stay silent has long gone.
I’d rather raise my voice on behalf of the countless people who came before me, who chose silence as a defence. All in an attempt to keep them, to keep us safe. ]
Let’s start with the most important question ever.
Why does the title have a whiny toddler in it?
We’ve all seen, if not been ourselves, the toddler in the family that needs to get a toy the moment it asks for it. The hype seems absolutely uncontrollable at the moment. But if the parents know to distract well, soon the child will completely forget about the toy and move along with its usual routine of crying for food and sleep.
We’ve all seen, if not been ourselves, the student who procrastinates for months at a stretch and then dives in the mountain of workload that has been piled up, with willpower to study that defeats even the ‘best’ of students, and a promise to maintain this willpower for years after the exam. And then, as you might have already predicted using your experience, the promises fade away bringing them back to square one.
Here in Bangladesh, society stays silent while women regularly face sexual harrassment. But when a horrifying incident of rape causes hype, the mass public starts screaming, whether in an urgency to blame the victims or in an attempt to ensure justice. And as the hype fades away, society goes back to silent mode, once again, forgetting that incident completely and continuing to allow the harassers to walk free.
The same is the case with minority oppression except for the fact that here, other than victim-blaming, we also have people justifying the incident exemplifying other countries where the oppressor community is oppressed.
And while this cycle continues, what hardly gets to the round table conversations is the microaggression that the minorities face regularly, in their day to day life.
Isn’t Bangladesh also a whiny toddler? A procrastinating teenager?
The circle is a shape where all points stay equidistant from a fixed point: The infinite ways in which a toddler can scream
When people post against minority oppression, i.e, when the toddler cries, most of them stay equally away from addressing the core problem: The basic religious hatred that has made to be rooted deep in the minds of the majority. This, if considered to be the centre of a circle with a long radius, the following categories of ‘activists’ are all located on, if not, outside the circumference (in reference to the recent incidents)
The “I respect Hindus, but they should not have put the Quran there” squad
“Jay jodi jak pran, hirok er raja bhogoban.”
This squad doesn’t even bother to use their instincts to verify the information, because they simply seem to believe that the information spread by someone from their community can never be wrong, even if it’s Satan.
Whatever they say sounds just as problematic as the “I don’t hate queer people, but homosexuality is a sin” squad.
Also, can you really be mad at the minorities even if they did put the scripture there in the place of worship, provided that they allow the majority to be guests at Puja whereas there exist several restrictions about the minority’s entrance in a mosque?
The “I’m not sure who put the Quran there, but amidst all these protests don’t forget that Muslims face violence all the time all over the world” squad
That one classmate of yours that makes everything all about themselves. The ‘All Lives Matter’ squad, or the “come on, men face oppression too” squad.
Suppose a person who has been struggling to get an abortion because of it being illegal in the country opens up about their sufferings to you. And how do you reply? “I’m sorry, but please remember that there are many people who are trying hard to get kids.”
Yes, this is your reply, a completely unrelated statement. This just sends the victim into spiralling thoughts filled with regret about how they shouldn’t have opened up to you in the first place or just makes them feel miserable about their condition as if they don’t really deserve to complain because their problem is seemingly not important enough.
“I don’t care whether the Quran was put there, but since people from your community oppress us in India, you kind of deserve some violence yourself” squad
Since Churchill was left-handed, all left-handed people should be hanged as they must all have the potential to cause famines because of their left-handedness.
In fact, this squad has tried so hard to protest against the “All Muslims are Terrorists” generalisation that they have ended up embodying generalisation themselves. They have dismissed the ‘you are what you eat’ phrase and modernised it into ‘you are what you protest against’ so that they could embody it.
When the Hindutva mob oppresses the Muslims in Tripura as a form of ‘protest against the Bangladesh violence’, all they essentially do is USE the sufferings of Hindus here as a mere excuse to justify their hatred against the minorities in their country. As a Hindu person living in Bangladesh, I feel like the frustration and anger of my community in Bangladesh has just been ‘used’, when people of other countries do not address the actual issue or hold international discussions to stop violence here and just let it continue while using it as an incentive for justifying their own hatred.
When the aforementioned squad oppresses minorities in this country with these excuses, they basically unintentionally mock the sufferings of the community of the other country that they initially were trying to defend.
The “I’m so sorry, but, not all Muslims are bad/ It’s just a small percentage” squad
A person who has grown up in a physically and emotionally abusive family often struggles to talk about their sufferings in a community where most people didn’t grow up in an equally abusive environment. Why? Because they fear the reaction of the people, that people would not believe them.
And this is almost what you do when you reply with “not all parents are abusive” in a defensive way.
Why do you reply with this?
Because your definition of parents has just been attacked by that person’s experience. Here you are, offended slightly at the characterisation of the term ‘parents’ even though you’ve never met these parents or shared the same trauma ever. You find it to be a radical take despite knowing that they were talking about a completely different set of people.
And you, taking offence, seem to miss out on the fact that the victim’s parents have always justified their abuse as their ‘rights of being parents and the victim’s duties of being a child’ in the first place. This is how those parents had defined the parent-child relationship. This is how the victim had experienced the traumatic events. This is how the victim has known ‘parents’ all their life.
Your reply to this statement only proves to the victim that you are not as empathetic to patiently listen to them and offer help, rather all you can do is apologise, feel attacked and express your urgent need to interrupt them.
If you’re genuinely apologetic, you must understand that their trauma is far more important to discuss here and for that, you’d have to give up your traditional perception of how comfortable conversations should always be. Because life hasn’t been comfortable for the victims and victims are not part of the privileged group of people like you and the first condition to be empathetic is to acknowledge this fact.
To acknowledge your privilege as a rich person is to acknowledge that you have not had a scarcity of money like poor people, not boast about the amount of money that your circumstances have earned you. To acknowledge your privilege as a part of the majority is to acknowledge that you didn’t have to go through the same form of hatred as the minorities did, not boast about the number of good people from your community that you know, that they did not have the privilege to meet.
The “My religion does not say this” squad
The problems caused by this are two-fold.
- if you’re saying this to the minority community, as a response to their post-traumatic aggression:
If the conflict was between two sects of Islam itself, then the prospect of love and compassion being originally mentioned in the religion could be brought up. This is why while trans-exclusionary and trans-inclusionary feminism, the actual essence of feminism is continuously discussed to attack the atrocities caused by TERFs. This practice can ensure more inclusion within the sects of the same ideology.
However, in a circumstance where the victim is being abused for following a completely different ideology, trying to prove whether or not the majority’s ideology aligns with the oppressor’s action to the minority is another form of abuse, and it is just as insensitive and irrelevant as the previous point.
- If you’re saying this to the majority community in an attempt to drive them to be more compassionate,
While the oppressors have many narratives that have made religion and morality sound like two contradicting terms, and therefore have made it seem like it’s okay to go against basic conscience for the sake of ‘religion’; trying to prove whether or not the religion originally supports these issues only seems to enforce the idea of exclusivity of religious knowledge in terms of having compassion. This way of preaching absolutely denies the fact that humans, irrespective of their faith, have an innate conscience that has a close relationship with the sense of morality. And whether or not a person is knowledgeable in religious issues should not influence basic behaviours like — not causing vandalism, not raping women, and not murdering people who just want to celebrate a festival is the bare minimum as humans. If ideological clarification is to be provided, it should always be accompanied by the importance of conscience as well because the mass public can never know everything about a specific religion, but can have easy access to their conscience.
The “Iqbal is mentally unstable, let him go” squad
The conundrum of mental instability and crimes.
If X decides to raise questions on whether or not Iqbal was mentally stable, instead of being agitated about the ongoing violence against the Hindu community — how hundreds of ‘supposedly religious’ people have attacked their abodes and temples and how they are living in fear, X’s mental stability can also be questioned.
The intention behind Iqbal’s act and the people who might have influenced this act must be investigated, but what his punishment can be is not the biggest issue right now.
Treating it as the biggest issue implies that Iqbal’s action is the core threat against the communal harmony of the country, when it is, in fact, the aggressive mindset of the bigger population of the country. People fail to understand that the act of Iqbal would just be mere ‘clownery’ if people in Bangladesh did not use this as an incentive to carry or justify the attacks on Hindus all over the country. Even if it was a Hindu with an evil intention instead of Iqbal, there would still be no justification for burning hundreds of homes all across the country for this reason. People seem to just wait for an excuse to justify their hatred, nothing else.
Iqbal’s punishment can be a minor topic of discussion, but the major discussion should be about spotting every single individual in the country who carried out/encouraged the atrocities against common Hindu people using a minor incident at a temple as an excuse. These are the people, including the ones who continue to justify these incidents in day to day conversations, who are the actual threat to the minorities.
The “I’ll share tons of posts to chase clout but tease my Hindu neighbour” squad
Each of these individuals is just brown and low-budget versions of rainbow-washing US-based companies. When they don’t get paid well, they will bash the Western World while trying to bash capitalism, but continue to fake compassion just like them for personal benefits. “Roton e roton chene.”
Oh, the ironies never stop.
Unless there’s a change in the core problems in your mindset, social media activism is not equivalent to actual activism. And for that change to take place, one needs to learn about and empathise with the victims. If one fails to empathise with the victims but continues to share posts online, their activism may, in a way, still help the algorithm and let more people know about the ongoing violence. However, their lack of empathy will still continue to affect negatively when they engage with minorities in real life.
The “I’d rather stay silent about anything related to communal issues” squad
‘Shakkhi gopal’ as the Bangla idiom goes. The squad considers itself to be at pH level 7 but is reluctant to truly check with a litmus paper.
Unless you’re already dead or have headed for Mars on an individual self-dependent mission, you’re still connected with people of diverse mindsets and your apolitical stance will not be apolitical, at all.
If one stays silent every time someone teases their Hindu friend, or when they see their teacher refusing to keep days off at coaching during major festivals of the minorities, are they actually staying apolitical?
”But it’s their choice!”
What, for these individuals, is a choice, is still responsible for someone going through a compulsion. When their choice causes someone else to suffer, is it still within their boundaries to decide? By staying silent, are they actually staying apolitical? Or is it contributing to more violence? “Mounota sommotir lokkhon” as another Bangla phrase goes.
“Other people’s actions are not their fault!”
It might not be their fault, but their reaction to it is still their responsibility. As Mark Manson points out in the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck,
“But there are also problems we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them.”
For example, if you woke up one day and there was a newborn baby on your doorstep, it would not be your fault that baby was put there, but the baby would now be your responsibility. You would have to choose what to do. And whatever you ended up choosing (keeping it, getting rid of it, ignoring it, feeding it to your pet parrot), there would be problems associated with any of those choices and you would be responsible for those as well.
One is still responsible for the compulsion someone from the minority community may face if they choose to ignore the fault of others, thinking it is their choice if they want to ignore it.
The toddler has to stop crying at random now and grow up. It’s soon going to be 50 years old, and if not now, when? To help the toddler, our Bangladesh, grow up, the aforementioned squads have to change. And it all starts with you.
Adwiteeya is a random kid who gets super soft if someone spells her name right — ’cause it’s a rarity, as you can tell.