August 24, 2008

Culture vs. Rituals

Habib posts two scanned pages of a book by Major Gen. M. A. Matin titled "The continuation of our liberation struggle":

He actually made some disturbing and illogical accusations. Such as cultural activities like singing, recitation, theater as Bengali nationalistic motivations and which are derailing the youths. He even accused the celebrations of the international mother language day (Ekushey February) as Hindu cultural activities. He even has reservations about mixed religious marriages.

Its interesting many people overlook the fact that the culture contains elements of multiple religions; e.g. a typical marriage ceremony in Bangladesh consists of culture that exists in both religions - Hindu and Muslim. Culture is defined as "the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning". Religion is similar to culture but there needs to be a clear understanding between rituals and culture. A ritual is "a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community by religious or political laws because of the perceived efficacy of those actions."

So it can be argued whether the rites Mr. Matin described are rituals or cultural elements and mixed marriage is a culture (not ritual) even shared by the great Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The Bengali culture is two and half thousand years old and it was blessed with many religions and it is culmination of all the best of every sub-culture. Islam grew in the Indian subcontinent during 1000-1500AD but the cultures of people here no way resembles the Arab Muslims etc.

One deserves his/her freedom of speech. But it is alarming when these views come from the person, who is in charge of the ministry of home of Bangladesh.


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