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Published:September 20th, 2010 15:17 EST
Media Towards Muslims: Should This Double Standard Be So Naked?

Media Towards Muslims: Should This Double Standard Be So Naked?

By Farjana Mahbuba

That was the first time I met this professor, in a post-graduate gathering.  Being a fresh PhD student, I was very nervous. Moreover, I had just arrived in Australia a year ago, my ears weren`t yet used to the Aussie English Accent. In the morning tea break, when I was trying to hide myself in the corner of that room so that I wouldn`t have to talk with anyone in my broken English with a different accent, this professor got me! She found me out and said `hi there! I just heard that you are from Bangladesh?" I still remember how my heart started to beat faster and I replied in a weak voice, "Yes, I`m from Bangladesh".


I had never seen anyone to be so happy knowing that I`m from Bangladesh!! She was excited and got me to another corner where two other professors were having a serious looking conversation. "Look who I got here! She is from Bangladesh! Remember I was talking about Taslima Nasreen? She is from the same country!" All of a sudden I was there amidst three professors storming me with hundreds of questions "Why are people so angry with Nasreen?" "Why do they want to kill her?" "Why is the state not supporting her?" "What`s wrong with criticizing a religion? It`s her human right!" "What about the feminists in your country, why can`t they do something for her?" With my clumsy English and little interest to talk about Taslima Nasreen, I understood clearly that my answers couldn`t satisfy them. 


To be honest, I never liked Taslima Nasreen. She seemed to me a genius who wasted her talent in running for cheap popularity; who could have made constructive criticism of religious people`s blindness; instead she capitalized on and used Bangladeshi Muslim women`s sufferings in her literature to get herself a world-famous feminist position.  I also never liked people`s aggressive fatwa to kill her!  However, I was surprised to see how academics from different parts of the world are so concerned about one woman who is actually leading a luxurious life abroad, manipulating world sympathy in her favor and in reality doing nothing significant for the victims " she shouted for!


Interestingly and coincidently, just a year later, I again met this professor this month in another post-grad gathering. This time my clumsy English got a little bit better and I was presenting a short talk on Bangladeshi Muslim women`s sufferings under the new-secularist state government. Naturally I had to talk about this governments` past history of cold-blooded mob-killings of 13 political members of opposition parties in broad day light in 2006; and discuss what the government is doing now. Uncountable illegal political arrests, brutal torture and permanent physical damage of victims in the name of police-remand, government`s forceful control of media broadcasting, shutting down all non-biased newspapers, banning hijab in various governmental sectors; and all these are being done to completely erase Islam from a country where 91% of the population is Muslim!  Along with other participants, the professor was surprised! Her astonished comment was, "Oh my GOD, we know nothing of these things happening there in BD!"


On my way back home, I was thinking to myself, how come so many people of the world know about Taslima Nasreen`s suffering in the 1990s; but know nothing about thousands of people`s sufferings in today`s Bangladesh!! How come the world gets to know even when a single illiterate village Imam declares a fatwa to punish a village girl; but no one knows about 28th October 2006, the day our prime minister (the leader of the opposition then) called for her party members to attack on any opposition party members wherever they could be found and her obedient party people did exactly what they were ordered, they savagely lynched 13 opposition members in the light of the day- celebrating and laughing as they did so! How come the world comes to know about how local people are resisting NGOs` anti-traditional activities in the name of women empowerment; but know nothing about three girls being arrested on 3rd July 2009 from Pirojpur district under the flimsy accusation that they have connection with "Islamic` extremists! Ignoring the court rule, the girls were taken to police remand as well. And after nearly three weeks of police remand and custody, the girls were proven innocent! 


The more I think, the more I understand that, there is only one answer to all these questions; the world doesn`t want to know about any sufferings of "Muslims"; and that`s it. They would buy any tiny piece of stuff against Islam and Muslims; but they won`t talk about it when it comes to the question of Muslims` sufferings in the hands of anti-Islamic fanatics. In April 2010, the Social Science Department of Rajshahi University (a public university in Bangladesh) banned any form of veil for female teachers and students. Accompanying continuous harassment of veiled Muslim women, very recently on 16th July 2010, Deputy Speaker Shawkath Ali of Bangladesh National Parliament said that women a use burka (veil) to hide their ugly faces! In a recent article published on Harvard International Review, the only son as well as advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sajeeb Wazed Joy attempted to portray Bangladesh as a home-ground of "Islamic` extremism without any specific evidence and advised that Bangladesh government should ban burka from all government premises. But not a single feminist voice has been heard in Bangladesh or outside of Bangladesh in favour of these Muslim women`s freedom of choice; freedom of expression and freedom of religion!!  Now I come to believe a saying I had heard, when anti-Muslims criticize Islam they call it freedom of expression, but when any Muslim defends his/her religion they call it extremism!


If one compares the world`s reaction to the case of Taslima Nasreen to what`s going on in present day Bangladesh against Islamic religious parties and Muslim women, it would become crystal clear that the world has a naked anti-Islamic face. They would buy every single story about Taslima Nasreen and shed tears for Muslim women who are suffering in the name of religion; but they won`t even bother to look back when anti-religious secularists undemocratically torment the same Muslim women. They would get angry when Ayan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen, Irshad Manji or any other similar woman would come out with complaints of `unjustified` behavior to them; but they won`t see or hear Muslim women`s cries when their hijabs are forcefully taken off, their job opportunities shrunk because of their Islamic attire, in every single sector of the society they become victim of racist comments and threat just because of holding their Muslim identity! The more I watch this double standard of world media towards Muslims and Muslim women, the more I wonder and ask myself, should this double standard be so naked?


*Farjana Mahbuba is doing her PhD on Islamic gender studies at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.