October 27, 2006

Bangladesh unplugged

If you want to know Bangladesh closely, lesson 1 for you is:

"don't believe everything you read, hear, or see in and on the news"

This is how Robert La Bua starts his travel tip on Bangladesh published in the Bangkok post.

Some excerpts:

"But Bangladesh? Isn't it a horribly chaotic, disease-ridden country with people starving in the streets? No, actually, it is not; the people may be poor, but they are not nearly as miserable as we'd like to believe. The streets are surprisingly clean, harrowing drivers notwithstanding. In fact, as is so often the case, people poor by Western standards seem far happier than we who complain about too much cinnamon in our cappuccinos."

"Bangladesh is far more civilised than the international press would have us believe. This is a country where poets are revered and the leading university is home to a park full of statues not of politicians but of scientists. The people are surprisingly aware of world events and realities of international politics, economics, and social movements. Or is it that comparatively wealthy foreigners are surprisingly unaware of what the rest of the world already knows? More likely the latter, or so it would seem to the residents of country where the national capital, Dhaka, sees no less than 36 newspapers published daily, nine of them in English."

Its a must read I tell you.

Then again I would like to add to those who like to mention Bangladeshis as extremists because 84% of 140 million people happened to born as Muslims and nurturing 2nd largest Muslim majority in the world (without sharia but constitution and rule of law) that people are religious here and anything but extremists. As Morris Stephen says in his insightful essay:

"Here`s another perspective, from a place where for the vast majority of the population, Islam is part of the home, the street and the village. Where it`s a lived religion, not just a media construct. And you know what? Like all religions played out from day to day, it`s pretty uneventful. It`s not an ideology: it exists in the commitment of minuscule acts of human friendship. It gives people a vocabulary to understand their grief, their moments of elation, their losses and the pressures they are under.

I for one am convinced that none of the people I know and love here have the slightest inclination to destroy our civilisation, as the media would have us believe. They have far more important things to be getting on with..."

Indeed. But to the mainstream international media Salah Uddin Shoaib Chowdhury's case (govt. misuse of power) is far more important than other human rights abuses in Bangladesh because it has a religious odor in it.


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