Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student…
Growing up as an American-born Bangladeshi, I’ve always had to balance the two sides of my identity. However, one constant was the tolerance, love, and respect at the core of both cultures, or so I thought. The Trump era in America taught all of us that the nation is far more divided than we ever thought, and now with the recent attacks on Hindus by Muslims in Bangladesh, I am sad to see the state of affairs there is the same.
In case you were unaware, this past week Hindus celebrated Durga Puja, a festival honoring the Goddess Durga in her victory against the shape-shifting asura (demon), Mahishasura. The festival epitomizes a celebration of good over evil honoring the mother of life and creation. How ironic that a celebration of goodness is tainted by cruelty and evil by Bangladeshi Muslims. At least 300 suspects have been detained after two Hindu men were killed and a temple was vandalized triggered by the alleged desecration of the Quran during the festival. Apparently, there was a photo circulating on social media of a Quran placed on the knee of Goddess Durga in the eastern district of Cumilla, Bangladesh.
The violence that erupted has led to four confirmed deaths, 100 people wounded, numerous temples being vandalized across the nation, and as of Monday, 66 Hindu homes had been vandalized and 20 burned over this social media post. These attacks led to increased protests by the Hindu community and has forced the Bangladeshi government to engage in extra security for the minority community by deploying the paramilitary.
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Though I am comforted by the fact that the government is taking action to protect its people, watching the story unfold on news outlets and social media still has me feeling confused and appalled. I have grown up in the Muslim, Hindu, and Christian homes of my loved ones. Tolerance and kindness are core values in all of these religions. So why do people constantly respond with violence? The growing intolerance is at times panic-inducing. I fear what would happen next. It has become so easy to find reasons to stay divided and the humanity we have in our hearts is what we sacrifice to fill it with fear and hate for others.
Bangladesh has recently had an emergence of local Muslim extremism targeting the nation’s secular stance and communal border tensions. Religious extremists are once again using religion for their own political agendas.
The violence in Bangladesh is not an isolated incident as minority groups across South Asia from Sri Lanka to Pakistan to India have faced violence due to communal politics.
Although I’ve grown up thousands of miles and an ocean away, my parents have impressed on me the importance of my Bengali heritage. But this religious intolerance was never a part of my lessons on culture. The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council has taken a different approach, one I have to say I respect far more than the mob mentality of these Muslim extremists. They announced a sit-in and hunger strike against the Durga Puja attacks during a press conference. The strike is set to take place on October 23rd and will take place at Dhaka’s Shahbagh and Chittagong’s Andarkilla. Perhaps taking this more harmonious approach will remind others of the innate peaceful nature of all of our respective religions.
Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student who was born and raised in New York City. There is very little she loves more than Harry Potter marathons, pizza, 90s Bollywood, bagels, falooda, and her family. She hopes to use her powers for good by spreading mental health awareness and positivity in the South Asian community through her love of writing.