Tag Archives: justice

Bangladesh, Jamaat Islami & Misinformation

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I was speaking with a close friend of mine who is based in the US but is involved in Bangladeshi politics. We casually discussed among other things the current street protests taking place in Shahbag, Bangladesh where there have been over a hundred thousand protestors taking to the streets and calling for the death of leaders of the Jama’at Islami in Bangladesh who were politically active in 1971 during the formation of Bangladesh by separating from Pakistan. The old leadership of the Jama’ath is being held on trumped up charges of rape and murder during this period. The current socialist government of Bangladesh (socially socialist I’d say, I doubt that Bangladesh’s badly managed economy can be explained by sound economic jargon) led by Sheikh Hasina , daughter of Mujibur Rahman the main figurehead of the 1971 movement is hell bent on taking revenge on the Jamaa’th for what I think was their lack of support to her father’s movement in ’71, a bit like George Bush wanted to settle his father’s scores with Saddam Hussein – though there are political underpinnings to all this.

Mahin Khan speaks here of the Bangladesh war crimes tribunal and the many structural discrepancies oozing from it, not to mention the pure hate filled pettiness. The tribunal has attracted widespread condemnation from world leaders and human rights institutions, from Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the British opposition leader Ed Miliband, all three of whom are amongst the many prominent world leaders who have called for a fair trial of the Jamaat leaders or condemning the large scale oppression of the Bangladesh Jamaat.

The media has given a lot of time and spotlight for the protests in Bangladesh, speaking of and amplifying their chants, though what is little understood by the international viewership is that more than hundred thousand protestors hardly are a credible representation in a country that has a population of more than a hundred and fifty million. The media is colluding with the Bangladeshi state to misrepresent much of what is actually taking place and to insulate the government and all its misdeeds.

As Mahin Khan says “Meanwhile, the media has continued its role in largely colluding with the state to minimise awareness and critique. State media, including privately run news channels and newspapers, most of which are subservient or fearful of the ruling regime, have maintained a telling silence over the ICT chair’s statement preventing the meeting of defence lawyers with their respective clients. The media critical of the tribunal or the regime have faced severe intimidation, not dissimilar to that experienced by defence witnesses. Mir Quasem Ali, owner of Diganta Media, an organisation critical of the Awami League-led government and the ICT in particular, has been arrested and locked away. This is not the only instance either; in 2010 the editor of newspaper, Amar Desh, Mahmudur Rahman, was arrested and tortured in custody while his publication was shut down for publishing articles accusing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son of corruption. Although Mahmudur Rahman was later released and Amar Desh resumed, the intimidation of Diganta Media, and the continued harassment of journalists across the country reflect that the regime has not changed tack.”

In typical south Asia fashion, what is happening is a form of state sponsored mischief, where protesters are allowed to cause havoc and breach every possible tenet of law and order with the connivance of the Police and other security personnel. Though it has to be said that the current protestors in Shabagh claim to be non-political, but that they have the fullest support of Hasina’s government is enough to contaminate them beyond redemption. What is happening now is structurally akin to Sri Lanka in 1983 when Tamil shops were burned by hooligans and the Army and Police turned a blind eye, except that the current protestors in Bangladesh are an extremely sophisticated lot who are using the media well to their advantage, albeit soaked in unethical practices.

This blogpost was triggered by a shameless way in which misinformation regarding a tweet of mine was spread. A tweet I posted was changed and retweeted manually by one such cyber protestor.

Here is what I said –

This is what was retweeted by Virtual Bangladesh

Virtual Bangladesh claim that ‘Virtual Bangladesh is an award winning site about the beautiful nation of Bangladesh.’, wonderful. I have screen shots of these tweets, so if Virtual Bangladesh has the conscience to delete the tweets, I will be delighted to post the screen shots here. Such is the level of misinformation currently taking place in Bangladesh, and from what I can gather this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Image from here.

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Blood, a Woman and Media space


I write this with a certain level of emotion, helplessness and frustration. Emotion because the free flow in my thoughts were disturbed by a video I watched, helplessness because I was not given a role in the drama that the video portrayed – for somewhere inside me a desperate voice screams to do something!, frustrated that I can’t seem to do enough quench albeit momentarily that voice inside me.
The video was about …

“Marwa Ali El-Sherbini , an Egyptian pharmacist and handball player, she was killed in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany, by a man against whom she had testified for previous xenophobic insults against her. Because Marwa was wearing a headscarf he had called her an “Islamist”, a “terrorist” and a “bitch”.

In August 2008 Alex W. (a German of Russian origin, not identified by full name in line with common practice of German authorities and media concerning criminal suspects) shouted abuse at Marwa in a Dresden playground, calling her an “Islamist”, a “terrorist” and a “bitch” in a dispute about her 3-year old son, who was apparently playing on a swing that his niece wanted to use. El-Sherbini was wearing an Islamic headscarf.

Marwa brought charges against him for insulting behaviour and he was fined 780 € by the Amtsgericht in Dresden. The Public Prosecutor filed an appeal to achieve a higher penalty because of the openly xenophobic character of the incident, since Alex W. stated “You don’t have the right to live here” at the time of the first trial.

The appeal hearing started in the late morning of July 1, 2009. Eight persons were present in the courtroom: a panel of one professional and two lay judges, the prosecutor, Alex W. as the defendant, his defence counsel, Marwa El-Sherbini as witness for the prosecution, and her husband and son as members of the public.

After Marwa El-Sherbini testified, 28-year-old Alex W. leapt across the courtroom and attacked her in front of her husband and son. Alex W. stabbed Marwa 18 times, killing her. Some witnesses allege that he shouted “You don′t deserve to live” as he attacked her. “

Her husband reportedly had jumped to her aid only to be shot by courtroom police and is now in a very critical condition.

The question arises, why were the authorities so lackadaisical that Alex was able to get into the courtroom with a knife?

The Hijab has been at the centre of many a story and I will not try to dwell on a topic already clichéd to a level of nausea to the lay-reader so to speak. But the level of media space that is allocated to issues which relate to an icon which reflects Islam is appalling.

I checked the Websites of many media organisations and I found nothing related to this incident, if they did it was a casual headline making a lethargic telling-just-to-tell-it report of the incident. I typed Marwa El Sherbini in the UK Times’ website and nothing comes up whatsoever!

When Gillian Gibbons was supposedly accused of charges of blasphemy in Sudan her story was in the media for days, and there wasn’t even any blood involved!

Leave aside the “Muslim” factor; the ashamedly hypocritical almost diabolic (yeah strong word) silence of the media (western in particular), human rights organisations and that of the ever vociferous feminist groups in the wake of such incidents is enough to trigger waves of emotions in anyone with a just sense of mind.

And I don’t need to be a male chauvinist to wonder where global feminist groups are when one of their sisters is subject to such treatment!

If the West is attempting to do its best to mitigate radical Islam by all audacious or even subtle means that it employs, I am rather disturbed by this laughable myopia it exhibits in letting such incidents take place. Take an everyday Muslim, who innocently does what his religion asks him to do and harms no one in the process – relate to him (without exaggeration) the whole story of Marwa El Sherbini and – you may create a “radical” Muslim.

I may not get radicalised by what I saw and never will be, simply because I have lived in western society and have seen the levels of acceptance and tolerance an everyday westerner shows towards a Muslim practicing his/her routines and I know that radicalism in any ideology violent or non violent is not going to achieve anything, but such inaction by authorities will only amplify the calls of some Muslims who themselves were radicalised in the first place by being subject to injustice or by their human emotions being disturbed by the injustice they saw meted out to another human being who happened to be another Muslim.

This post is dedicated to Marwa El Sherbini who resorted to ethical means in fighting her case only to be let down by a legal system in which she had put her trust in.

I am not a fan of Sami Yusuf (I really don’t like his songs, ok I hate his songs), but I found the following rather befitting.

What goes through your mind?
As you sit there looking at me
Well I can tell from your looks
That you think I’m so oppressed
But I don’t need for you to liberate me

My head is not bare
And you can’t see my covered hair
So you sit there and you stare
And you judge me with your glare
You’re sure I’m in despair
But are you not aware
Under this scarf that I wear
I have feelings, and I do care

CHORUS:
So don’t you see?
That I’m truly free
this piece of scarf on me
I wear so proudly
to preserve my dignity…

My modesty
my integrity
so don’t judge me
Open your eyes and see…
Why can’t you just accept me? She says
why can’t I just be me? She says
Time and time again
you speak of democracy

yet you rob me of my liberty
All I want is equality
Why can’t you just let me be free?

For you I sing this song
My sister, may you always be strong
From you I’ve learnt so much
How you suffer so much
Yet you forgive those who laugh at you
You walk with no fear
Through the insults you hear
Your wish so sincere
That they’d understand you
But before you walk away
This time you turn and say:

But don’t you see?
That I’m truly free
This piece of scarf on me
I wear so proudly
To preserve my dignity
My modesty
My integrity
So let me be
She says with a smile
I’m the one who’s free.

Video

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