Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bangladesh Court: No Punishment can be imposed in Fatwa

Line at Dhaka Stadium  during World Cup Cricket 2011,
Religion, Cricket, Cell Phone Women's Right and Fatwa.

(Real Time Report, May 15, 2011).

The hot headlines in blogsphare is that Bangladesh Court has lifted Ban on Fatwa. Can there be a different headline?

The news is Bangladesh’s Supreme Court Thursday ruled that extrajudicial punishments carried out in the name of religion were illegal- while also upheld the rights of Fatwa? Daily Star Reports:
"no punishment including physical violence or mental torture in any form can be imposed or implicated on any body in pursuance of fatwa," Star Online, website of The Daily Star reported.

The apex court said fatwa on religious matter may be given by the "properly educated persons", which may be "accepted only voluntarily, but any coercion or undue influence in any form is forbidden.
"Fatwas on religious matters may be given only by properly educated persons and may be accepted only voluntarily," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told AFP, quoting the Supreme Court ruling.

Bangladesh High Court had banned fatwas in 2001.  Women are frequently being abused under certail fatwabaz  people. Religious parties appealed the verdict, saying that the fatwa was an integral part of Islam.
The lawyer representing the scholars, Imran Siddiqui, said the verdict did not specify wo is considered “properly educated” about fatwas, adding he hoped that the court would clarify later. 
So what is fatwa? Here is a site dispensing Digital-Fatwa - in the age of digital Bangladesh offering advices such as how to use cell phone! Just few months back a raped girl Hena was flogged to death instead of justice in the name of Fatwa! Here is another Fatwa event on the issue of prayer time for players and long cricket matches. Surely, in Prophets' time cricket or cell phone was no there.

It looks like court may have considered the Fatwa itself as something like "opinion", "free speech", "religious activity". It however, has deftly narrowed down to the root cause of the problem. An opinion like Fatwa becomes social problem when it gains the power of imposition. If the imposition becomes something like a "parallel law"- then it indeed challenges the state itself.

So rightfully, the court has taken the tooth out of Fatwa.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

More on Grameen Circus

The recent dramatized ouster of Dr. Yunus from Grameen Bank- has stirred quite a bit of media storm about the Nobel Lauriat founder and the Bank. However, this storm might be one created only by a handful of people. Two interesting articles will provide the clue for a possible coordinated assult on GB.

Our last blog on the topic- Grameen Circus (March 2011) discussed the data driven research available on the Bank. Now this blog- equally interesting- unearths the other side- the twisted misinformation spreaded on the topic.

Right after the Heinemann visit to Jobra, apparently two articles have claimed visits to Jobra. These areWeeklyBlitz article by ZA and article by MC.

Many worldwide are anxious about the micro credit issue- and perhaps many readers have already encountered the reports on the recent condition on the last days of Ms. Sufia- the lady whose borrowing 30 something years back begun the very concept of microcredit and her village ‘Jobra’. She was made a kind of poster lady for Grameen concept.

Now before reading the rest of this article readers are encouraged to read the above two articles first.

The WB/ZA article found:

“Sufia Begum died in 1998 due to extreme poverty and local people had to collect donations for her funeral and burial. One of her grand-daughters died few years back due to poverty”.

Many in her village eventually received microcredit loan. Alas, what happed to them! The report finds:

“This [village] was the beginning of Grameen Bank concept. But, most of the borrowers [in this village], who took money from Dr. Yunus, gradually turned poor to poorest as they were compelled to pay regular interests. In Jobra village alone, a large number of villagers have already been turned into pauper by Dr. Yunus and his Grameen Bank”.

Apparently ZA claims a hard meticulous work to find these dark secrets! It reports:

“For months, extensive investigation into the so-called success models of Grameen Bank and Dr. Yunus were initiated by Bangladesh's most influential newspaper Weekly Blitz. On the basis of such investigation, series of stories of virtual fraud by this high profile man was unearthed.”

Feels absolutely heart breaking? However, you may want to read another report done by another reporter MC in on Dec 2, 2010.

Both the reports are apparently ‘original’ created from “first hand research” but almost identical in-tone and their structure!

Cites and quotes are attributed to similar set of characters, repeats the same information, but none cites the other. So who is plagiarizing whom? Well it is possible that they have relied on one another?

While the attacks and spins are identical, but funny these differ in basic facts- ideally which should have been the same.

Here are just few examples:

MC reports: “Sufia Khatun died in 1997”.

ZA writes: “But on investigation, it was found that, Sufia Begum died in 1998”.

Question: Is she Sufia Begum or Sufia Khatun? Which year did she actually die?

MC Writes: “Thirty-five years later, little has changed for Sufia Khatun's family. The first borrower of Grameen Bank has died poor; her two daughters, Halima Khatun and Nurunnahar Begum — one a house wife and the other mentally disabled; live a marginalised life.”
ZA writes: “Sufia Begum's daughter Halima [48] and Noor Nahar [45] still lives on begging. Seeing this correspondent both the sisters said that they were left absolutely pauper and have to beg for survival.”

Question: So what is the actual state of the daughters- begger house wife ?

ZA reports: 
“Dr. Muhammed Yunus gave TK. 20 [US$ 0.30] to Sufia Begum Years back as loan with the condition of returning in time with interest. Sufia Begum returned that money and got second loan of Tk. 500 from Yunus.”

MC writes:

“Under Grameen Bank's microcredit scheme, Sufia Khatun borrowed Tk 560 in two installments in 1976. This was the first loan under Dr Yunus' action research programme before Grameen Bank launched its official microcredit scheme.”

Question: How much she actually borrowed?

Both the writers are from Chittagong. Interested readers may perform additional search in face book etc. are get some interesting additional info about both MC and ZA.

Of course this discrepancies does not negate that poor Ms. Sufia could not defeat poverty with the micro credit loan.

But, these discrepancies really raise question about journalistic quality of the article in circulation- about such an important issue. Which one is right about basic facts? One has to be really careful before believing such amusing brand of 'extensive investigation' !!

It seems not only the reporters, but their editors (at least one of them in this case) for sure is not doing the basic editors job – i.e. fact checking!

Indeed, both Weekly Blitz and have published similar "extensive researched" articles on the topic ( ref ).

Now here is further shadow propaganda. You will find the Weekly Blitz's article almost a copy printed as  a completely different title- Tale of Nobel laureate's continuous fraud in and by a different author SUSC ! SUSC happen to be the editor of the Blitz too. But, then is the real author of the article?

Now the fun is here. In this age of Internet, a brief search in Google, will return another blog by a lady named Jessi of World Teach who happens to have visited the same Jobra Village a month earlier in October 2010! Not connected like the other two- and she portrays quite a different picture of Jobra.

She visited Bangladesh to teach in Asian University of Women from WorldTeach program. Readers will enjoy checking all these three articles. Jessi’s independent journal has more details about what she saw – including pictures and narratives rather than attacking or supporting banters on Grameen Bank.

Enjoy reading all three here: WeeklyBlitz by ZA, by MC Jobra Hathazari Branch, Grameen Bank by Jessi, August 2010.

If you want to read the ones critical on GB, a more credible report is available in Asia Times Online and form your own opinion.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hasina fears Arab Like Uprising?

An April 20th 2011 and interesting The Econimist reports:
WHEN the Arab spring was in its infancy something unusual happened in the world’s second-largest Muslim-majority democracy. Following violent protests, Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, scrapped plans for a new airport near the capital, a pet project to be named after her father, Sheikh Mujib Rahman. A former Bangladeshi diplomat said he could remember no occasion on which an elected leader had reversed an important decision so quickly. He attributed the change of mind to what was happening in Egypt.

Indeed, there are other issues besides naming- that the government and the top leader ship of AL and BNP should consider rethinking- which the article kept silent about. One is the introduction of genetic democracy- which indeed sparked the Egyptian uprising.

In western democracies it is not common for PM's family members to get involved in politics except ceremonial presence of the spouse. But, the current and past PMs both are grooming their sons to succeed them. They have already been made involved in many state affairs with blatant disregard to democratic norms. Much like Gamal Mubarak and Saif Ghaddafi. Read more about the similarities in RealTime blog.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NASA Funds Indiana University Geoloists To Study Impact of Climate Change on Sundarban

Two researchers, Faiz Rahman and Rinku Roy Chowdhury from Indiana University Bloomington are receiving a $637,000 grant from NASA to study mangrove forests in Bangladesh and their role in climate change. The project is a collaboration between scientists from IU and the U.S. Forest Service. The project is the only one this year that targets a mangrove ecosystem outside of the United States. Reports IU university news:
"This is the first time in NASA's Carbon Cycle Science Program that there is a social science aspect to ecosystem carbon studies," said Roy Chowdhury, who is involved with the human dimensions of the study. "We want to provide a complete picture of how nature and society interact to affect the mangroves, and how mangrove changes in turn impact local livelihoods."

Listen to Faiz Rahman.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mujib Live: Video Footages

Here is a collection of eleven video footages of Mujib. I have organized them in chronological order. Listener can get a snapshot of Mujib’s philosophy and transformations. To my opinion most important are two- the Epic Speech of Race Course 7th March, 1971 and the Last Public Speech of 1975, each a clarion call to a distinct new journey.  The first one is well read and heard. However, the second one is less read and less heard. Of course, he did not finish the later.

Video Quiz:
  • Name the world leader Mujib revered most: Mandela, Mao, Nixon?
  • Why Mujib thought absolute power would not corrupt him?
  • Mujib's weeping moments.
  • "I want to deal them a crushing blow- just like  I did to Pakistan"- to whom?
March Unrest, 1971

“Nobody should play with fire. Nobody should try to suppress the will of 70 million people.  When 70 million are determined to achieve something- no power on earth can suppress them. Today, tomorrow or day after tomorrow- victory is ours.”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wars and Famines of Bangladesh

A Dead in the Famine of 1943. See more images here.
(Real Time Bangladesh, March 2011)
The earthquake in Japan has once again brought attention to natural disasters. In recent time we heard much about earthquake, tsunami, flood, cyclone etc. However, the most devastating of the disasters to hit Bangladesh are none of the above but famine.  The word ‘independence’ in the region has a strange connection with famines. Here are glimpses from our history.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grameen Circus

Ms. Sufia Begum- who inspired the Grameen concept spinning her heirloom wheel

(A Real Time Bangladesh Blog Report, March 2011)
The recent dramatized ouster of Dr. Yunus from Grameen Bank- has stirred quite a bit of media storm about the Nobel Lauriat founder and the Bank. Many articles- naturally mix personal issues concerning the founder with the issues of microcredit. A key question is- Does microcredit help the poor of Bangladesh? Indeed, there are also assertions that it hurts!