Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bangladesh politics at crossroads

The political situation in Bangladesh has arrived at a cross-road. The government of the day has been lurching from problems to crises and bumping from there into disasters.  It has now chosen brute force to silence the opposition as it has dared to take the failures of the government to the public. The ruling Awami League is also mad at the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), as it is insisting on the restoration of the system of non-party care-taker government (CG) during parliament elections. Awami League wants the national elections to be staged with itself running the government.
The BNP has, however, shown a capacity for survival and the ability to stand its ground to challenge the road roller of governmental oppression.  The crucial question as to how dangerous the political situation is going to be now depends on how much more does the ruling Awami League  provoke the opposition and in reaction to that  how long the latter can keep away from violent protests. BNP leader M. K. Anwar has said that the government has been planning to impose a state of emergency, suspending fundamental rights, after creating chaos in the country.
While the senior leaders of BNP do not yet wish to take a course that will result in bloodshed, it is known that they are under pressure from some segments of the party to call general strikes to protest fatal repression by the government and ruling party cadres. This pressure increased when five protesters were killed by police firing during the BNP-led marches on January 29 and 30. The Awami League government had put an 18-hour ban on processions and rallies in Dhaka, Chittagong and a number of other places in the country on January 29 thus foiling BNP’s mass-procession programmes on the day in these places. BNP protested the government order but did not violate it. It replied by staging huge processions the next day. On the day before, however, the processions of the opposition at many of those places where there was no official ban came under physical attack by police and Awami League activists.  Four persons were killed as a result of police firing on January 29. Also, more than a thousand were injured, at least hundred seriously, and several thousand were arrested.

The stark demonstration of naked abuse of governmental authority by the party in power with a view to suppressing protests created sharp reaction among the public. Together, the intensity of public condemnation and BNP’s calm but firm response to the governmental cruelty together have somewhat puzzled the Awami League leadership. With not much there to talk about, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the people of the country to “remain watchful of attempts to subvert democracy”. She has also warned the opposition of taking ‘legal action’ against them if they, in her words, ‘keep opposing’ the ongoing war crimes trial. And joint general secretary of Awami League Mahbubul Alam Hanif has said that BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia by announcing that the Awami League government will be toppled by means of a strong mass movement has in fact admitted that she is conspiring to overthrow the government. BNP has announced that its supporters from all over the country will converge to Dhaka on March 12 to demand the restoration of the CG system and the resignation of the present government as it has failed in its duties.
It may be mentioned here that although Awami League leaders describe BNP’s demand for an early parliament elections as illegal such early elections have taken place in Bangladesh in 1988, 1991 and 1996. Early national polls have also taken place in India.
The major complaints against the present Awami League government are its failures to reign in inflation, to prevent the collapse of the share market, to control the chaos in the economy,  to check corruption in government , to stop widespread violence by its cadres, to improve the law and order situation, to put an end to extra-judicial killings,  and to gain any advantage from India while doing that country’s bidding in every matter. Partisanship in recruitment of top government jobs is another reason for discontentment against the present Awami League government.
Meanwhile, the Bangla daily newspaper Jugantor has published a survey in which it is shown that the ruling Awami League will suffer a crushing defeat if Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) elections were held right now. 
According to the survey Awami League will win only 69 out of the 300 general constituencies in the country while BNP will emerge victorious at 170. The Jugantor newspaper’s correspondents carried out the survey and the paper has published a constituency by constituency analysis. The Jugantor survey is in line with the findings of surveys carried out by two newspapers last month.
BY : Ataus Samad.

Does the American Muslim vote count in 2012?

During President Obama’s State of the Union Address, he was hopeful and positive; his speech, like most of his speeches, ignited a fire amongst those watching. One felt a sense of pride and hope as he spoke about the state of the country and his future plans. And while he addressed all areas he could, he may have missed out on a group.

President Obama mentioned the Hispanic/Latino population in the country and the African American population; he also extended strengthened support to the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East, Israel.
And while I understand that the president cannot possibly mention all issues in just an hour, (more like an hour and four minutes) he did not mention anything about the Muslim vote in America.

Now, I know the Muslim vote only counts for a small percentage of votes, but my question is this: is the Muslim American vote of any importance in the 2012 election year?

It’s no surprise that a decade after 9/11, Muslims in America face more or less the same hate crimes and bigoted comments from the average American. There have been many incidents that even encourage bigotry and discrimination towards Muslims in America, the latest being the NYPD police commissioner showing over 100 times a video called the “Third Jihad” to the anti-terror force. Is that not going to create any animosity towards Muslim Americans?

When Lowe’s pulled its advertising from the TLC show All American Muslim, there was a huge uproar from the Muslim community. Even politicians got involved, such as Chris Murphy, a Democratic representative from Connecticut. He too pointed out the stark bigotry Muslim Americans face in the United States and how it is unnecessary and un-American.

Other than that, Newt Gingrich has repeatedly and vehemently claimed that the biggest threat to the national security of the United States is the rise of radical Islam. In one way I agree with him; radical Islam can hurt any country, just like any radical interpretation of any religion or ideology.

Such as the radical interpretation Newt takes on why African American’s like living on food stamps. He thinks they haven’t been “taught” how to get a job, and if elected, he will take time out of his busy schedule of building a base on the moon, teaching them how to get a job.

Now, there are a little less than two million Muslims in the United States today. Muslims are about 0.6% of the American population according to the CIA World Factbook. In 2010, there were over two million Muslims in the country, amounting to 0.8% of the population, but that number has dropped.

So, is 0.6% of a demographic going to make it or break it for President Obama? Or will we be under the radar when it comes to getting the American public’s votes?

I know election time can be tricky. You need to reach out to the larger groups in the mix to get people to vote for you. Muslim American’s may not be as large a group as any other, but they are a group that should be encouraged.

Like any other minority in this country, 1.6 million people feel that they count and that their needs are as important as their fellow citizens’. It is hard to ignore a group of 1.6 million but it does happen more often than not. And it’s not only the Muslims who suffer. Look at how the gay community has had to struggle in this country – which is a shock, because the United States gives everybody a fair playing field.

America, through its constitution and policies, has allowed for people to come together and to voice their opinions, religions, and expressions regardless of whatever they may be. Truthfully, there are only a few countries that provide such an open platform. Therefore, minority groups have the opportunity to take advantage of the accessibility of the system they have in this country, and many already have .

It’s actually an amazing system. But through racism, discrimination, bigotry, xenophobia and misunderstanding, people can feel quite cornered and discriminated against. And so, through political encouragement, community understanding and societal changes, we as a people, including citizen and politicians, can change that.

Through mutual respect, the Muslim American vote can actually make a difference and can be counted as a vote that matters – all 0.6% of it.

Mamata backing fundamentalists: Taslima

The exiled author Taslima Nasrin has accused West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of backing hardline Muslims instead of protecting writers.

She said the Left Front had driven her out of the country so that the minority votes went its way. "But did they eventually get the votes?" the controversial feminist author was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.

"How much do I really matter in swaying a vote bank?"

Mamata's Trinamool Congress ended the world's longest-serving democratically elected communist government in elections in May last year but there has been no talk of Taslima's return.

Instead, a function to launch her latest book was cancelled and she now says she has become 'a victim of political convenience'.

"Both the (erstwhile) Left Front government and the one led by Mamata Banerjee prefer appeasing fundamentalists rather than protecting the writers," she was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times on Saturday.

Taslima told Hindustan Times over the phone that though a few 'pro-change' intellectuals had earlier voiced Bring Back Taslima campaigns during the Left Front regime, now they are silent which is 'astonishing'.

She believes that the people who raised their voice to bring her back to the country have started disliking her but she said, "I don't understand why they did not raise their voices this time."

According to reports, her book 'Nirbashan' (The Exile) was scheduled to be launched at the Kolkata Book Fair on Wednesday. The event was cancelled after some minority community leaders met the police and expressed reservations against it. But the publisher, People's Book Society, released the book at its stall.

The latest instalment of Taslima's autobiography details the circumstances of her forced exile from Kolkata in November 2007 following threats from Islamic fundamentalists who were protesting her book 'Dwikhandito' (Divided).

Nirbashan was released in Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka on Thursday. 'Dwikhondito' was banned in Kolkata while other autobiographies 'Amar Meye Bela', 'Utol Hawa', 'Dwikhondito' and 'Shey Shob Ondhokar' were banned in Bangladesh. Other than these, her novels 'Ka' and 'Lajja' are also banned in Bangladesh.