If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A beacon of hope

Farhaz, flanked by Abinta (left) and Tarishi (Photo courtesy CNN)

Yes, and how many times must a man look up / Before he can see the sky? / Yes, and how many ears must one man have / Before he can hear people cry? / Yes, and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows / That too many people have died?

In just about a week, there has been suicide attacks in Istanbul to Baghdad to Dhaka, in which terrorists killed hundreds of innocent people, including children. In Baghdad, lots of children, who did not know they were Shia Muslims and therefore had no right to live.

A grotesque dimension of the Dhaka attack nearer home is that the terrorists had not been recruited from the backwaters of Pakistan or Syria or some other cesspool of poverty and illiteracy. All the seven attackers were from middleclass or well-off families and had been to top schools and universities. “The parents of these boys are normal and have secular credentials”, Bangladesh Information and Broadcasting minister told NDTV. According to CNN, they “seemed like normal, middle-class men” who would hang around in caf├ęs and lead “normal” lives even the other day.

What makes such “normal” young men take the lives of people they do not know? What makes them believe that anyone who doesn’t share “our faith” must be killed? What makes them throw their lives away to achieve such a thoroughly useless goal?

If I may enlarge the question, is the world losing its battle against hatred and violence?

Any attempt to find reasonably correct answers to these questions must begin with complete rejection of the stupid argument popular with our Indian Hindu Jihadists that Muslims are at the centre of every problem and Islam is a “violent religion”. (Islam is as much or as little violent as any other religion, maybe, with the exception of Buddhism and Jainism.)

The two biggest terrorists of our time are M/s Bush and Blair, who have killed – based on completely false, manufactured pretexts – at the very least 30,000 people and destroyed a thriving country. Yet no one call them “Christian Terrorists” and quite rightly so. And no one seems to remember that they virtually fathered what is known as ISIS today. Had there been no invasion of Iraq in 2003, there would have been no ISIS today. Simple, period.

Coming back to my original question, what makes ordinary people like you and me embrace hatred and violence? Is it a virus of our time, from which some of us have no escape? And at the end of the day, will madness win over sanity?

I certainly do not know the answers and there are fleeting moments when I feel despondent. But a young boy from the other side of death tells me not to lose hope. Let me end this chaotic piece of writing with his story which I have pieced together from a number of credible sources.

Faraz Ayaz Hossain was – as his name suggests – a Muslim. He was 20, a Bangladeshi, and a student at Emory University in the US. He was one of the twenty hostages killed in a Dhaka restaurant. But he died a hero’s death.

Earlier that evening, Farhaz had driven two of his friends, both girls, to Holey Artisan Bakery of Dhaka. One of them happened to be Tarishi Jain (19), the only Indian who died in the attack, and the other was Abinta Kabir, 18, an American who studied at the same university with Farthaz. Tarishi was at the University of Barkley.

They were caught in the terrorist attack in the night of 1 and 2 July. The terrorists let go Bangladeshis and Muslims, who they decided were Muslim enough. New York Times reports:

“Early in the morning, the gunmen released a group of women wearing hijabs and offered a young Bangladeshi man, Faraz Hossain, the opportunity to leave, too, said Hishaam Hossain, Mr. Hossain’s nephew, who had heard an account from the hostages who were freed.

“Mr. Hossain … was accompanied by two women wearing Western clothes, however, the gunmen ... refused to release them, and Mr. Hossain refused to leave them behind, his relative said. He would be among those found dead on Saturday morning.”

It would be impossible for anyone who hasn’t been through such hell to imagine how much courage one must have to accept certain death just to stand by one’s friends who were going to die in any case.

Could anything be a stronger statement of human values, values that are infinitely more fundamental than the colours of our skin and the shapes of the buildings we pray in?

Bangalore / Monday, July 4, 2016

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