Category Archives: Life

Sex workers and our moral police

Wasfia Nazreen.

Published in bdnews24 on 13 October 2010.

This piece challenges the hypocritical taboo surrounding sex workers in Bangladesh.

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For a face in that empty space

Shahana Siddiqui

Published in the Daily Star on 19 June 2010.

This piece calls for a debate on the responsibility of fatherhood.

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Sexual harassment and our morals police

by Hana Shams Ahmed.

Published in the Daily Star on 25 February 2010.

This piece discusses paternalistic hypocrisies of our society in the wake of a recent Bangla movie.

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The ‘Helpers’ of Our Lives

Asif Saleh

Published in the Star Weekend Magazine on 9 October 2009.

I have moved back to Bangladesh recently after spending 19 years abroad. In the process of reintegration to the society, I have been amazed to see how much it has changed. I compare my teenage years with those of a teenager today and I find youngsters are so much more globalised, open to new ideas, and hungry for success.

However, there are certain things that have remained the same. Our attitude towards our domestic help have changed very little. Even though, we, the urbanites, spend a major chunk of our time agonising over our ‘kajer loks’, the issue of our treatment towards them still remains a taboo. Would I be really exaggerating if I say even though I had a full time stay-at-home mother, my life has been surrounded by domestic helps? Would it be any different a story for any of you who are reading this? Are they just our employees, or as people who share our private lives, they are a little more than that? I grapple with this issue while introducing my daughter to the domestic helps whom she calls ‘helpers’.

This write up is an ode to the invisible helpers who helped me become what I am.

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Girlhood Interrupted

Hana Shams Ahmed

Published by the Star Weekend Magazine on 9 October 2009.

When Samia arrived at the lawyer’s office with her friend she was hoping to get advice on how to file for a divorce. The lawyer asked her some obvious questions about what was wrong with the relationship and whether she had children etc. When she told the lawyer that her husband had molested two teenage maids in the house, Samia expected the lawyer to be in full solidarity with her decision. The lawyer did not display much emotion, what she said in response shocked Samia instead. “This is quite normal for men of our country,” she said. Instead of pointing out to Samia that her husband had committed a punishable crime which she was an eye-witness to, the lawyer was showing her commiseration and in a meandering way saying that this was not serious enough for the dissolution of a marriage.

In another incident in a corporate office, a woman — involved in among other things, human rights activism — was complaining to her colleagues about how shoitan (evil) her young maid was. When asked what were among her greatest ‘sins’, she replied that the maid lapsed from her work regularly when she went out of the house and watched TV and received phone calls from her boyfriend!

The attitude and choice of words of the female lawyer and ‘human right defender’ points to how deeply embedded this acceptance of abuse of the underprivileged is. The discrimination and complete disregard of a domestic worker’s right to live like a human being has been discussed in the media in small columns, but has had little effect on societal outlook. The middle-aged approach of treating domestic workers as a human punching bag (sometimes literally) of everyone’s anger and frustration stays on, and is still the most exposed, yet invisible, form of human rights violation.

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Time to rebuild trust

Rumi Ahmed

Published in the Daily Star on 25 March 2009.

One’s life is in the other’s hands. Photo: AFP

I teach applied lung physiology to over 200 first year medical students in the United States. Every year I start the class with a confession and an apology. My students pay $40,000 a year only as tuition. An overwhelming majority of these students finish medical school with an average loan of $200,000.

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‘We are poor, but are we not human?’

Asif Saleh and Rumi Ahmed

Published in the Daily Star on 24 March 2009.


Unattended and uncared for.

Every Saturday our prime minister speaks directly to the common people for a few hours and hears their grievances, and later asks the relevant ministry to take action on these matters.

Yesterday was one such day. I wasn’t there. But if I were, what would I tell the PM?

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Fear of a Muslim Planet: Hip-Hop’s Hidden History

Naeem Mohaiemen

Published in the Forum (June 2008 )

(Amin) Pray Allah keep my soul and heart clean
(Amin) Pray the same thing again for all my team

Mos Def, “Love”
(Black on Both Sides, 1999)

Camoflouged Torahs, Bibles and glorious Qurans
The books that take you to heaven and let you meet the Lord there
Have become misinterpreted, reasons for warfare
We read ‘em with blind eyes I guarantee you there’s more there
The rich must be blind because they didnt see the poor there

Lupe Fiasco, “American Terrorist”
(Food & Liquor, 2006)

JOURNALIST Harry Allen once called Islam “hip-hop’s unofficial religion.” This theme is echoed by Adisa Banjoko, unofficial ambassador of Muslim hip-hop, who says: “Muslim influence was at the ground floor of hip hop. Hip hop came from the streets, from the toughest neighborhoods, and that’s always where the Muslims were.” Continue reading

The triple bottom line

Amer Ahmed

Published in the Forum (Feb 2008) 

The failure of communism in the twilight of the 20th century seemed to vindicate the champions of the free market — be they Chicago libertarians or Washington Consensus neoclassicists. However, even as command economies fell, the world came to witness new crises in the fledgling free markets. From the disastrous privatisation of Bolivia’s natural resources to the violent upheavals in the former Soviet Union, capitalism and the free market failed time and time again to provide sufficient conditions for sustainable growth. The promised virtuous cycle of economic and social development often did not come to pass. Continue reading

Wanted: Open minds

Asif Saleh

Published in the Forum (Feb 2008)  

One of the biggest casualties of the post-1/11 scenario is the loss of a space for a healthy dialog without getting labelled. It seems now people are very afraid to take any firm stand on any issue for the fear of being labelled.

The civil society in Dhaka is fragmented into multiple brackets. How much of it is ideological and how much of it is simply about access? Without packaging people up in multiple labels, it seems not many people are willing to engage in evidence based criticisms and arguments.

Say a good thing about the government, you are automatically branded as stooge of the army. Talk about due process for political leaders, you are branded as someone who wants to go back to pre-1/11 days. Say that religion based politics should not be banned for the sake of democracy, and you are branded as a rajakar/Jamati. Continue reading