June 24, 2007

Foot in Mouth of (back in) the Day

Our winner today: the Sandhurst-"educated" Mr. Ayub Khan, once the most powerful man in Bangladesh.

Recently, his diaries have been published which really does not contain any surprises for any Bangali (not "Bengali", you Urdu-speaking, North Indian, colonised piece of ****) who has read the relevant parts of his autobiography "Friends not Masters". Not to give any more circulation to this sort of colonial, Orientalist crap peddling itself as scholarship simply because a powerful man wrote it, but my "favourite" quote has to be Ayub on the Bangalis he so despised (and therefore was the BEST person to judge impassionately): "they have no culture and language of their own, nor have they been able to assimilate the culture of the Muslims of the sub-continent, by turning their back on Urdu."

Yes. Last time I checked, both the Quran and the Hadith emphasised a good Urdu education for all Muslims. Ayub Khan wouldn't know a real Muslim if he got hit by one. Which is why he didn't see Mujib and his millions coming straight at him. His legacy to Pakistan was this enormous amount of institutional blindness that he left behind. Which is why they didn't see us either, and still don't get us.

Foot firmly in Mouth for the last 60 years and counting till your "country" breaks up into four ethnic fiefdoms. We'll see how "Muslim" Urdu is at that point.

Joy Bangla!

(PS. To those who are curious: I deliberately do not consider our two leaders for this prize because I do not want to hand this out every single day. And no, saying "Joy Bangla" does not make me an Awami League supporter. And yes, I do consider Bangla to be a Muslim language. Hindu, Christian and Buddhist too.)


Fugstar said...

calm down bro!

I just got hold of it. Its interesting, like any other document from interesting times and powerful people who moved around alot and imprinted their minds on a lot of policy and institutions. Be a little more agnostic about it. Its a terrific ride. Boy are autobiographies/diaries(even blogs?!?) self indulgent!

the editor, Craig Baxter has written in interesting book on bangladesh. im not sure how to place him.

some things might suprise you.

'maulana ather ali came to see me. he is a clever and cunning old fox..... He made a statement which is not easy to beleive: that Bengalis are very ungenerous and uncharitable people and treat eachother like a bit of dirt and with severity. Formally they are very religious but they know very little about the philosophy and spirit of Islam as they do not take to the language i.e. Urdu, in which it is expressed in the subcontinent." fridau 16th december 1966

and this corker, during a visit north bengal.

18th sunday dec 1966. 'the people of north bengal sometimes talk deeply of a bridge over the brahmaputra about four to five miles wide in the summer. This is a utopian idea, will cost about 200 crores and take 20 years to build and i doubt if it would hold as their is no solid foundation. The answer is to have several modern ferries for quick crossing'

and this monday 3rd october 1966
"there has been a devastating cyclone again in east pakistan affecting several coastal districts. chittagong town has been worst hit. a lot of loss of human life and cattle, crops and property has been reported. I have sanction 10 lakhs for releif work. I feel sorry for the people of east pakistan. they suffer one calamity after another, but also admire their courage and the way they bear it. Last winter their crops failed through a long drought, then bouts of extensive floods and now this cyclone'

asif said...

What's your point Fugstar? That because a guy said something nice about us once in a while, we should excuse his role in overseeing the birth of an instituional culture that ended with 1.5 million people dying? (And DON'T even think of trying my patience on the question of the figure. Do your own study and prove me wrong.)

I suppose it wouldn't be hard to find something nice that Bankim or Sarat Chandra said about Bangali Muslims if I had their books. Too bad I don't have copies of Orientalism, I'd quote you some of the most complimentary things that Bernard Lewis says about Arabs before completely stereotyping them as "irrational" and "lazy".

I don't know if you're Bangali, but I do know you're Muslim. When we face westwards in Bangladesh, we don't do it to face Islamabad. This is a real request from me to you: NEVER, ever bandy about apologetics for ANY Pakistani/Iranian/Arab who talks like this about Bangladeshis. Never.

Fugstar said...

This is a raw issue for you, and you are assuming things about me that you dont really need to.

Your review, or rather foot in mouth of the day, comes at a time when i got hold of the book. I am trying to encourage people(especiali bangladeshis) to read/borrow it to extract some value beyond the predictable ritual 'abusement'. borrow it to be sure that you arent funding his mausoleam or something!

Not all analysis of dictators lifeworlds is apologetic bandiness. Theres a mine of information here, it adds a dimension and is further confirmation that the leaders of the 60s looked terrible naff except of course King Faisal.

His attitude does deteriorate with time and experience(im at 1968), but i found a lot of fruit about people like Akhtar Hameed Khan and Fazlur Rahman that i did not know. Characters im interested in. Why else does someone open a book for gods sake! for suprises or for a safety blanket? or to wind you up?

The diaries contain very hurtful things about bengalis and the muslim bengalis in particular. Bangla muslims today in particular smart at the accusations of being disloyal, lesser muslims, conspiratorial and what not. any group would. but for us the root is that period of time.

Scattered within are pieces of information that would benefit people interested in recurring development and religious problems were faced by previous regimes.

Thankyou for performing some kind of takfir on my racial identity. How about this, if i face westward i can see my own backside!

Small question. Accusations of laziness, ingratitude, the rareness of trust and abundance of shortsightedness are things that we hear in bangladesh, from bangladeshis, bangali ones.. regularly. *if we listen*

These are not intended to demoralise but to discern and improve matters. ok?

asif said...

Yes, my friend. This is a very raw issue for me. Perhaps on print I portray it to be rawer than it actually is, because too many of my countrymen still seem to regard this monster as somehow having been "right" about the Bangalis, too many of them still admire him for having tried to do something for the Bangalis. I don't see it, I admit. These might be the Bangalis you hear making such sweeping, over-generalised statements.

These statements help no one and illustrate even less. Whether derogatory (in this case) or complimentary ("politically conscious" a departing Butenis called "us"), they say little about Bangalis. All Bangalis share is their language. No amount of laziness, "mindset", defeatism or "culture" is universally Bangali.

I apologise if you took that statement as as instance of takfir. I hate takfiris of any kind. My intention was neither to disenfranchise you nor to question your loyalty which you are free to withhold. If anything, that was the one statement that had me laughing. My only assumption however was that you're Muslim and defending Ayub's sweeping statement (which it seemed you were). Now that I jog my memory, I remember that we've had a few conversations in Bangla.

My original intention in this entry was to highlight my own beef against it. It's certainly not a review. Neither is it a call for censorship. Of course the book is worth SOMETHING. Every book is. That is why I've always been anti-censorship, a point that critics of the Satanic Verses (of which I am one) frequently misunderstand about my stance. Yes, I'm saying that that book shouldn't have been censored either.

This is no rawer an issue for me than the statement of the Indian ambassador. Both are symptoms of that strange North Indian disease: not knowing your close neighbour. In Ayub's case unfortunately, it led to death.

Lastly, I really did enjoy that excerpt about the Jomuna Bridge (I assume). Thank you again for taking the time to put it down in print here.

nazzina said...

My 8-year old British cousin believes Bangla is Muslims language, literally. My uncle who practices Islam very obediently never corrected him :-)

asif said...


It's great to hear about your uncle. That's the way it should be IMHO.