Category Archives: Life

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

Not for sale

Rumi Ahmed

Published in the Forum (Feb 2008)

The sound of my pager breaks the silence. A text message flashes in my pager: “Mr. John Doe is now a donor.” An attempt by the resident doctor to keep me informed of my patients. This text would seem meaningless to anybody, but these words may potentially bring back a meaningful life for half a dozen souls.

Let me give a little background. Mr. John Doe was in the neurosurgical intensive care unit with head injury in a high-speed motor vehicle crash. His brain injury was extensive and the hope of a recovery was fading rapidly. In the morning I had a long conversation with the family that included the parents and the siblings. The family was in agreement that if there was no hope, the doctors might withdraw life support. They also inquired whether their son could donate his organs; those may save the lives of others. Continue reading

Reverse charges

Jyoti Rahman

Published in the Forum (December 2007) 

I am told that it costs about Tk 1,500 to move one’s land-line to a new address in Dhaka. To most people who can afford a phone, this is not a large sum. However, in the pre-1/11 era, not many people used to pay this amount when moving.

Why? Because, to move your land-line to a new address, in addition to the connection fee, one needs to provide the original letter of issuance of the line to them.

Think about it for a minute.
Someone moved into a government quarter in the early 1980s when he was a young man with a new family. 25 years on, he’s retiring and moving off to his small flat, and he wants to take the land-line with him. He is happy to pay the Tk 1,500 fee, and he has the receipts for the last 6 months’ bill to prove that he indeed has the legal rights to the line.

But no, they want the original letter that was issued when Zia-ur-Rahman was the president. Continue reading

Long summer nights

Rumi Ahmed

Published in the Forum (November 2007)

Two bedroom flat. Father, mother, four siblings, and an uncle; all live together in the 500 sq. foot residential unit. Father, mother, and the youngest of the kids live in one bedroom. Another room is shared by the two sisters, one goes to college and one is in high school. The other brother, also in high school, and the uncle, who is struggling with his small business after graduation, share the bed which occupies a part of the living room. There is a small balcony, which is occupied with household items like an extra chair, a broken table, a shelf.

If you somehow manage to stand in the balcony and try to look out through the clothes hung for drying, your vision will be obstructed at two feet distance by another multistory building that houses 24 more families. Continue reading