Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reflections on the death of my mother - Khadija Siddiqui

Last month on December 22 I received a call around 10:30 p.m. from my niece Tanita that my mom had been hospitalized. It was dreaded news for which none within our family was prepared. I remember talking with her a few hours before she went to sleep that night. She sounded cheerful in the presence of my younger brother Shameem who was visiting her. I quickly called his wife Sabina in Houston to find out the details. Shameem and our sister Jessy had been in Chittagong Metropolitan Hospital since the dawn of December 23 and could not say much saying that the doctors were trying to determine whether it was a stroke, or massive heart attack or diabetes related sugar-spike that had caused the problem. We could only pray and hope that she would survive.

But that did not happen. Ultimately the inevitable news came in the late afternoon of December 25, the Christmas day, here in the USA: my mother - Khadija Siddiqui – has died. It was December 26 at around 3 a.m. local Bangladesh time (i.e., Dec. 25, 4 p.m. Philadelphia time). Inna lillahi wa inna elayhe wa rajioun.

The news was a shocking and devastating one, which I could not believe. I was hoping that she would survive her latest bout with death and that I would meet her when she recovered. But that did not happen. A couple days earlier my wife Eva had left for Bangladesh with our two sons. As noted above, my brother Shameem had gone earlier, before the Christmas, with his daughter Sadaf, to be with our parents. And he was the fortunate one, along with my sister Jessy, to be able to spend some precious time with her when she was well, before her hospitalization. My two other sisters left from the USA on the day of her hospitalization. All of them were able to see her before she died on the late night (or early AM hours) of December 26 but could not communicate with her.

I reached Bangladesh on the 28th instant to be with my bereaved siblings and father. After spending more than a week I returned on January 8. With the rest of my extended family members, I am still mourning her loss. No words of mine can express the sadness we all have since been feeling. Her death feels as if it was too sudden, too premature, and this, in spite of the fact that she was nearly 81 years old! She was the last of her siblings to die and be buried far away from the place of her birth.

My mother was a wonderful woman, a gentle lady and a caring mother. She was in poor health last few years, especially since 2004 when she had undergone a stent operation in Bangkok, Thailand to unblock her clogged heart arteries. She had to be flown back to Bangkok again a few years ago for another surgery for spondylitis. She also recovered from a stroke that she had suffered some years ago. Weak and frail, still she was in stable condition before she suffered a massive cardiac arrest just 70 hours before her death.

The ambulance service was too slow to come and pick her up for the needed medical care in the early hours of the dawn. Nevertheless she had her senses in the first two days, but on the third day, everything took a drastic turn for the worst and she had to be put in the life supporting system in the Intensive Care Unit where she died. My youngest sister (doctor) Sabrina and brother Shameem - both visiting from Houston, Texas, were on her deathbed. After issuing the death certificate, the hospital released her, and she was brought back to our “Aranika” bhavan, given a funeral bath and buried after Friday Jumu'ah prayer in a graveyard in our neighborhood. More than a thousand people attended her janaza (funeral) prayer. My cousin sister Fahmida Begum (Shilpy) and cousin brothers Raquib Razzaq and Nurul Haque  came from Dhaka and Khulna, respectively, to attend the funeral service. My cousin sisters Shefali (Firoza Nazrul) apa and Lovely also came to pay their condolences. There were also many friends and relatives who came to pay their last homage.

Although I had bought a ticket when I heard the news of her being taken into the ICU, it was too late for me to attend the funeral service. I arrived on Sunday night in Chittagong. The next day, per her living wish, we fed more than 2200 people in our complex. We also sent food for 3 orphanages. [My childhood friend Engineer Siddiqur Rahman and cousin Prof. Sheikh Firozuddin of Jahangir Nagar University flew in from Dhaka to be at the event.]

In the 1940s my mom studied at the famed Sakhawat Memorial High School in Calcutta. It was almost unheard of in those days for a Muslim girl coming from a conservative background to seek education hundreds of miles away from home. But against all odds,  my mom decided to pursue her education in the famed English-medium school, which was founded in 1911 by Begum Rokeya - a Muslim renaissance lady. The school had dormitory for such out-of-town girl students, thus facilitating their education. In her enrollment year, my maternal uncle, Sayedur Rahman (later a famous barrister in Dhaka High Court), was already a college student at the Presidency College. His presence as a local guardian surely made it easy for my mom (and my grandparents to consent) to study in Calcutta. After completing his university degrees there, when my maternal uncle left for London, UK to pursue his law degree, my mom's older sister's husband (Aftab khalu) who was working in Calcutta became her local guardian.

When British India was partitioned on August 14 and 15, 1947 giving birth to Pakistan and India, respectively, the Muslim girls' hostel in Sakhawat Memorial Girls' School was closed down by the new Indian government, creating a severe problem for many out-of-town students like my mom who had very few choices left open to them then. My mother had to move to Anjuman Girls' High School, which had hostels for Muslim girls. She matriculated from Anjuman after the Partition and then moved back to her village in Bashtali of Rampal thana in Khulna district of East Pakistan (later Bangladesh). It goes without saying that in those days, there were very few opportunities for Muslim girls to pursue college education. Muslims - boys and girls alike - were heavily discriminated in Hindu-dominated schools and colleges. Many such Hindu-run academic institutions did not allow Muslim girls to study there, esp. if they chose to put headscarves. [Note: Shamsun Nahar Mahmud, later a writer and social activist, was removed from Dr. Khastagir Girls' School - a Hindu-run school in Chittagong when she was in the 6th grade on grounds of purdah.]

When my mom was a high school student, my father was a college student in Calcutta who had met and known my mom's relatives there. Apparently, after my father had graduated from Calcutta University in 1948 and opened his medicine business in the port city of Chittagong, he left the communication channel open with my mom's brother-in-law (Aftab khalu) in Khulna. The latter played the match-making role to unite my parents. After my parents were married in Khulna, my mom moved with him to Chittagong, hundreds of miles away from her place of birth. Before my birth she briefly moved back to her village to be cared for by my grandma and her older sisters. Then we both moved back to Chittagong city to be with my dad.

There in Chittagong my mom completed her primary teacher's training at the PTI (Primary Training Institute) and then moved on to complete her intermediate and bachelor's degrees from Chittagong Government Girls' (later Women) College when the college opened on Zakir Hossain Road in East Nasirabad part of the city. We were then living in a house in Ice Factory Road (later named Collegiate School Road). The girls' college was more than 3 miles away from our home - a considerable distance to commute by rickshaw. By then my father has established himself as a very successful, honest and respectable businessman in Chittagong, and had bought real estate properties in various parts of the town, including in south Khulshi, in front of the Girls' College. But the latter place was still inhabitable for civilized living. We continued to live in our Ice Factory Road home while maintaining a garden house in Khulshi where we would occasionally come for picnic.

After earning her BA degree, my mother taught at Goshaildenga Municipal High School. When Chittagong University opened in 1966 my mother joined the university as its first batch of students to graduate from with a master’s degree. She had the privilege of studying under famous professors like Ali Ahsan and Anisuzzaman. By that time, we had moved into a 2-story house (Prantik) on Zakir Hossain Road, which was within a quarter mile of our Khulshi properties and the girls' college.

She did very well in her MA class (just shy of being placed in the First Class), and after earning her master's degree taught at Gul-E-Zar Muslim Girls' School, where she was the Assistant Headmistress. Later she was called in to teach Bengali literature at the Govt. Girls' College (the college remains located in front of our Aranika Bhavan). Some of her students later went on to earn their PhD degrees in the USA and the UK.

In spite of her busy schedule as a full-time student and later as a college lecturer, she was always a very caring mother and devoted her time to ensuring that her children had gotten the best of their education. My dad also was very supportive of such matters, placing highest value on education. My younger brother and I both went on to attend cadet colleges and then pursue higher studies abroad. [All my siblings have university degrees. We are also married to highly educated spouses. There are 4 PhD degree holders within the family, not counting children's families.]

My mother had her first bout with death when she got electrocuted due to short circuiting of a cloth liner with a faulty electric wire. I was then a primary student at the PTI, and still remember how everyone in the neighborhood looked sad and my younger sister Jessy (Jasmeen) crying when I had returned home from my school. My mom was trying to put some wet cloth on a cloth liner when the accident happened. Thanks to our housemaid - Aasia's mom - who was close by, and had the sense to pull her out. My father was informed immediately who sought help from doctor Arshad (father-in-law of Engineer Mosharraf, now serving as a minister in the Hasina Cabinet in Bangladesh). The latter was able to do the needful to bring my mother back to consciousness.

As the years passed, she developed cataract problem with her eyes and needed operation. Although the operation was successful, and she could read, she was advised not to strain her eyes. That meant, not teaching! She complied, and left the teaching position in the college, probably around 1977 or shortly thereafter.

She was a gifted writer who wrote short stories on the lives of ordinary people. Some of her stories were played as dramas in the Radio Pakistan, Chittagong in the 1960s.

She was a very generous person, and gave away all her earnings to the poor and the needy. She supported many needy families and talented students from the rental income on our properties. When the Islamabad Siddiquia Fadil (Degree) madrasa in the Rampal area of Bagerhat district was facing discontinuation because of lack of funding, she provided the necessary financial support through my cousins - Nurul Haque (Kachi) and Nuruz Zaman (Manju) - to keep the historic institution running. She also provided the necessary seed money for some institutions, which include a health complex and a girl's madrasa cum hostel in Khulna and Bagerhat districts. Realizing that how difficult it is for young woman and college going girls to find safe and secure hostel-like environment she convinced a cousin sister of mine (Parul) to open such facilities in the Nasirabad/Khulshi area of Chittagong city. And what else can be better than walking the talk? Thus, in that very spirit, she allowed our old house - Prantik - to be turned into "Shanti Niketan Hostel" for college girls and young women professionals. Many girls who, otherwise, could not have pursued their dream of a college education now benefit from such services that she pioneered in Chittagong. She never turned down any request for financial assistance from anyone, many of whom she never met in her life.

I could probably write a book on her many wonderful deeds. But that is not necessary here as I remember how blessed my siblings and I have been to have such a kind, generous and ever concerned person as our mother. Her loss will leave a permanent void in the heart of many of us who came to know her closely.

As she left us all to meet her Lord, we pray that He will accept her as a true servant who tried to do her little things in ways that met His approval. May Allah rest her in peace! Amin.
[Revised version, Jan. 24, 2014]

Wirathu - the pit bull of Myanmar regime

Myanmar's terrorist - Buddhist monk Wirathu is untouchable inside the country. In 2003 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was released in 2010 along with other political prisoners. Most keen observers knew the reason as to why this anti-Muslim zealot was freed by the regime. He was to serve as its pit bull and inciter for committing hate crimes and ethnic cleansing drives against the minority Muslims, esp. the Rohingya people that live in the Arakan (Rakhine) state of Myanmar, bordering Bangladesh.

And Wirathu continues to deliver for the regime. He has effectively become the face of Burmese Buddhism. His '969' fascist movement has led to widespread hate crimes and genocidal campaigns against the minority Muslims all across the Buddhist-dominated country, and has brutally rendered more than a million Muslims homeless. Many Burmese Muslims are risking their lives to get out of this den of hatred and intolerance, once called Burma. So frightening is the situation inside Myanmar, esp. the Rakhine state, even the Rohingya refugees that live under horrible conditions in makeshift camps inside Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh don't want to return to their ancestral land inside the Buddhist country.

That is what Buddhist terrorism has done for its victims! And Wirathu's signature is everywhere in all such genocidal activities against the minority Muslims since his release from the prison.

In recent days, Wirathu has again shown what a monster and ugly devil he is. He had the audacity of calling the UN special envoy - Yanghee Lee - a 'whore' and a 'bitch.'

So what was Ms. Lee's crime? Well, Ms Lee, who was on a 10-day trip to the South East Asian country, said the Rohingya faced systematic discrimination. She criticized draft legislation, proposed by a coalition of nationalist Buddhist monks, which includes curbs on interfaith marriage and religious conversions.

All these proposals and calling a spade a spade were too much for the Buddhist monk Wirathu to swallow. Last Friday, he spoke at a public rally where he criticized the UN interference and personally attacked Ms Lee, according to local media.

"We have explained about the race protection law, but the bitch criticized the laws without studying them properly," he said from the stage to the crowd.

"Don't assume that you are a respectable person because of your position. For us, you are a whore." He added, “You can offer your arse (ass) to the kalars if you so wish but you are not selling off our Rakhine State.”
And yet, despite world-wide condemnations for his sexist and insulting remarks, the Myanmar government has not silenced its pit bull - the foul-mouthed monk - Wirathu.

I am not surprised. As already hinted, he is their guy, doing their evil, playing their games and ethnically cleansing Muslims from the face of Myanmar - which were/are all sanctioned by the Myanmar government for decades.

The Fortify Rights, a human rights group, last year provided evidences showing that discrimination of the Rohingya Muslims was the state policy. It was premeditated and willful. It said that the government's orders, shown in leaked documents, amounted to "state policies of persecution" in Rakhine state. In a report, Fortify Rights said it had analyzed 12 government documents from 1993 to 2013, and found that government policies imposed "extensive restrictions on the basic freedoms of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state". The policies restricted Rohingya's "movement, marriage, childbirth, home repairs and construction of houses of worship", it said. Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state were also prohibited from travelling between townships, or out of Rakhine, without permission, the report said.

The report said a government order stipulated that married Rohingya couples in parts of Rakhine state could not have more than two children, while another document said Rohingya had to apply for permission to marry, in what the report described as a "humiliating and financially prohibitive" process.

One document published in the report said officials should force a woman to breastfeed her child if there were doubts over whether she was the birth mother.

The restrictions against the Rohingyas have been known about for some time, but what's new for the world community back in February of 2014 was that campaigners said they had the official orders issued by the Buddhist-dominated local government in Rakhine state.

A year is approaching soon since the publication of the report from the Fortify Rights. And nothing has happened to motivate the criminal Myanmar regime and its murderous rank and file within the larger Buddhist community to change its genocidal policies against the Rohingya people, who remain the most persecuted people in our time.

Last week, the UN passed a resolution calling on Myanmar to give the Rohingya people citizenship.

It is highly unlikely that the Myanmar regime will oblige. Its pit bull – the face of Burmese Buddhism - has already opened its ugly mouth, insulting the UN, of which Myanmar remains a member state. The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has called on religious and political leaders in Myanmar to unequivocally condemn all forms of incitement to hatred including abhorrent public personal attack against Ms. Lee. Instead of apologizing, Wirathu has defended his personal attack on United Nations special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, saying senior monks had used similar language in the past – even at the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda.

Buddhist monks are a powerful political lobby inside Myanmar. With a general election scheduled this year I doubt any political leader would speak up and risk Wirathu and the fascist monks turning on them. It should also be noted that Buddhist monastic code, called Patimokkha, allows for use of such abusive words that were used by Wirathu.

It would be thus foolish of the world community to expect the unexpected from inside Myanmar. It has to take actions that are meaningful and that stop the extinction of the Rohingya people.

As I have said a number of times, feeding only carrots to an unruly donkey won't do the tricks. Only biting sanctions can sober the Myanmar’s pariah regime and its pit bull Wirathu. When they feel the pain they will know what have contributed to their pains and hopefully, change their demonic course for the better.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Whom are they kidding?

Soon after publication of my article in the Ovi Magazine on hypocrisy of the French government and its French-fried citizens on matters concerning Islam and Muslims, a commentator complained that I did not see the matter from the other angle, as if my view was a biased one. Another confused individual suggested that such insulting cartoons or expressions are uncompromising western values, and are not blasphemous, i.e., Muslims should learn to swallow them.

Such dissenting voices to my article show their deplorable ignorance. They are unaware of the clear cases of hypocrisy in western systems of applying laws. When it suits them they ride the van of freedom of expression to insult and abuse others, but when it does not suit them, they cry foul and incriminate people for expressing their views.
France has ample of examples highlighting this chronic disease.
Not too long ago, the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia had to apologize for a cartoon on bombing of Gaza while Israelis watched the mayhem from hilltops.

A screenshot of the article featuring the cartoon.
See the link for the cartoon:!/image/70914036.JPG_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/70914036.JPG

This is how they judged the cartoon:

"An Australian press organization has judged that a cartoon published in The Sydney Morning Herald violated press Standards of Practice by the way it linked symbols of the Jewish faith to criticism of Israel."

And this is how the paper reacted:

"In response to the adjudication, the Morning Herald republished an apology that it originally published onAugust 3, 2014, one week after the cartoon originally ran. That apology likewise regretted the use of the religious symbols of the yarmulke and Star of David, although it noted that Le Lievre’s work commonly depicts people with large noses, regardless of race or ethnicity, and that the image was inspired by news photographs of Israelis watching the bombardment of Gaza from the hilltops of Sderot."

The Press Council’s statement praised the apology and noted that the Morning Herald’s editor in chief and news director had attended “seminars facilitated by the Jewish Board of Deputies to raise awareness about imagery that could be construed as anti-Semitic."

If this be the attitude towards a cartoon that depicted reality in Israel why the same press is so unapologetic and arrogantly puffed up about holding the freedom of expression which abuses and insults one quarter of humanity?

Israelis watch bombings of Gaza from Sderot hillside
No, Muslims are not fools who can be put to sleep through some lullabies or absurd stories of fairness of freedom of expression in the western societies.

Whom are they kidding?

Interested readers may find an old article (click here) quite informative to understand the depth of Islamophobia in the EU, which is home to more than 20 million Muslims.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wirathu's diatribe against Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur

The Buddhist monk Wirathu of Burma plays the role as an executor and provocateur against the Rohingya Muslims of Burma similar to what Himmler has been for the Jews of Germany under Hitler. His anti-Muslim provocations have led to depopulation of some one million Rohingya and other Muslims inside Burma - the den of intolerance, xenophobia and hatred.

He is hostile about any organization and individual that tries to talk about the rights of the Rohingya people. In recent days he has called the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee - a prostitute. Ms. Lee has recently visited Myanmar for 10 days and left on January 16, 2015.  

You can read the news by following the link:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Terrorist Acts against French Muslims

A French Moroccan Muslim has been murdered by a French Islamophobic criminal. The 28-year-old attacker forced the front door of his neighbors' house in the picturesque village of Beaucet near Avignon just after midnight on Wednesday shouting "I am your god, I am your Islam" before repeatedly stabbing Mohamed El Makouli. An autopsy showed El Makouli had been stabbed 17 times.

More than 50 anti-Muslim incidents including attacks on mosques have been recorded by the Central Council of Muslims in France since the Paris shootings which left 17 dead, including 12 at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo weekly.

You can find out more about this latest attack by clicking here.

As expected here in the west such acts of violence against Muslims won't make headlines. Surely, you did not know about it before I posted this news.

Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture

The groundbreaking memoir of a current Guantánamo inmate that lays bare the harrowing details of the US rendition and torture programme from the perspective of one of its victims is to be published next week after a six-year battle for the manuscript to be declassified.

Guantánamo Diary, the first book written by a still imprisoned detainee, is being published in 20 countries and has been serialised by the Guardian amid renewed calls by civil liberty campaigners for its author’s release.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi describes a world tour of torture and humiliation that began in his native Mauritania more than 13 years ago and progressed through Jordan and Afghanistan before he was consigned to US detention in Guantánamo, Cuba, in August 2002 as prisoner number 760. US military officials told the Guardian this week that despite never being prosecuted and being cleared for release by a judge in 2010, he is unlikely to be released in the next year.

The journal, which Slahi handwrote in English, details how he was subjected to sleep deprivation, death threats, sexual humiliation and intimations that his torturers would go after his mother.

After enduring this, he was subjected to “additional interrogation techniques” personally approved by the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He was blindfolded, forced to drink salt water, and then taken out to sea on a high-speed boat where he was beaten for three hours while immersed in ice.

The end product of the torture, he writes, was lies. Slahi made a number of false confessions in an attempt to end the torment, telling interrogators he planned to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. Asked if he was telling the truth, he replied: “I don’t care as long as you are pleased. So if you want to buy, I am selling.”

You can read about the diary by clicking here.

Are All the Terrorists Muslims?

Here is an interesting, very thought-provoking article by Dean Obeidallah, which analyzes claims by Islamophobes that all terrorists are Muslims.

The truth is rather that Muslim terrorists are responsible for a very small fraction of terrorism. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs. Just imagine! Have you heard of all those non-Muslim terrorist acts? Surely not. However, whenever Muslims commit such acts of terror they make the headlines in the western press. When Christian terrorist Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Very little.

How about Jewish terrorism? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches.

As to Hindu and Buddhist terrorism - just visit India, Sri Lanka and Burma to see the horrors of such acts. As I have stated in many of my articles, there is no parallel to terrorism inflicted by the Buddhist people in Burma against non-Buddhists living there. The worst sufferers have been Muslims, and the Rohingya people, in particular.

Obeidallah writes, "Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.

And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).

In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun."

You can read his article by clicking here.