The Front Page will highlight cartoonist Arifur Rahman's incarceration until justice is done
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WRITE A LETTER TO ARIF. FOR DETAILS, SEE BELOW.
(This is the front page of the blog and will remain so as long as the cartoonist is denied justice and media coverage. For the latest content, please click on the link at the very top. Watch this post for updates.)
Early February: I am sad to report that the earlier reports of Arif being freed quietly by the regime is false. I am informed that he seems to be in good spirits, and is in a cell with one other
person. I understand that a petition has been moved to discharge him from the case for hurting religious sentiment (now pending before Dhaka Magistrate's Court) on the gruond that:
- there was no basis to the case,
- he had no such intention,
- he was not responsible for publication of the cartoon,
- the cartoon was not offensive,
- Islam preaches tolerance and fprgiveness, and
- he has in any event apologised for any inadvertent offence caused to anyone.
I also understand that his legal team pleaded procedural points of error.
I am informed that a decision is expected on 25th Feb.
Early January 2008: I am informed that Arif has been freed quietly by the regime, and his well wishers want the issue to be not highlighted. Shada Kalo is also reporting similarly.
October 22nd: I am happy to report that unlike a few weeks back, the blogs are now reporting that Arifur Rahman is not in some "undisclosed location", but rather at Dhaka Central Jail. Unheard Voices has begun a letter writing campaign for the jailed cartoonist. Please write to him to show your support and solidarity at this trying time in his young life. The letters can be addressed to:
Mohammad Arifur Rahman,
Son of Mohammad Matiur Rahman,
re CR Case No. 2298/07,
Dhaka Central Jail,
I would like to request my fellow bloggers to highlight this letter-writing campaign as well, especially in Bangla blogs. I'm almost ashamed to ask more from them given superb job they've done since our local media lost all its spine in dealing with this issue!
One particular line from the UV post is worth quoting: "We also urge those offended by the cartoon to write to him, for compassion towards one’s adversaries is a fast-vanishing Islamic value in today’s world."
Very few will disagree with that.
October 17th: It is exactly one month since Arifur Rahman's arrest. 30 days. Arif has spent the better part of Ramadan in prison and has spent Eid away from his family. Even his exact whereabouts are open to question.
Let me take a moment here to note the absolute silence about him in the mainstream media. A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E.
Ask yourself: is this what the Prophet (SW) would have prescribed? Given the stories of his sense of generosity, forgiveness and JUSTICE we all grow up with, the answer would have to be a resounding "no"! But of course, this will fall on the deaf ears of the people who use the Prophet's (SW) name explicitly (and that means YOU Hizb-ut-Tahrir!).
I have complained previously about how "secularists" drive an unnatural wedge between the religious sphere and every other sphere of life. Let me say here that I've always regarded this is a two-way process: ek haathey shottiyi taali baajey na! Religious people - and Islamists in particular - drive just such a wedge by barring a cartoonist from speaking about religion (or in this case, what passes for religious practice in Bangladesh).
When you bar your creative people from talking about religion, you cannot then come back and complain that they have become "so secular and worldly"!
Free Arifur Rahman and let him live with security and dignity.
October 1st update: Keep Me Honest has a must-read piece on the cartoonist. Turns out that he recently won a contest for the best cartoon against corruption, this current government's raison d'etre.
The list of bloggers in the September 28th update will be regularly updated. So please keep posting about this issue until justice is assured.
28th September update To my knowledge, the following bloggers have issued calls for the release of the cartoonist Arifur Rahman:
Shourav of Somewherein - The creator of the sticker you see above and on the sidebar, and his personal blog.
Addafication which highlighted the injustice of it all.
Third World View
Voice of Bangladeshi Bloggers
In the Middle of Nowhere, who rightfully asks us not to forget the BRAC worker kidnapped in Afghanistan either!
Keep Me Honest.
I'd like to thank Sid and Rezwan bhai for most of the bloggers on this list.
If you are a blogger who has written about Arifur Rahman's predicament, called for his release or even simply put that sticker up, I would highly appreciate you leaving a comment here with the link to your blog/post. Same goes if you know someone who has. I'd like to highlight the bloggers who are doing all this. Thanks.
I'm too middle-class to go out into the streets and protest for anyone's release, I confess. There are many notables languishing in jail right now for whom the clarion cry of "Nishortey Mukti Chai" will be raised no doubt, once the CTG relaxes the ban on politics. I have not joined them on this blog till now and I will not join them in the future.
But when I see a 23-year old BANGLADESHI civilian being picked up and thrown into jail for no reason but that he offended some old men with decrepit ideas, I see injustice of the vilest sort. And protesting injustice, ESPECIALLY when it affects the weak, is a fundamental part of my religion.
It's been late in coming, but the realisation has finally hit those of us who still think independently. Last week Addafication wrote clearly as to why this was less about censorship and more about injustice. Today I found this post on Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying, highlighting the growing web campaign to free this artist.
Very few times in your life will you come across an act whose darkness can completely drown out the bright light of justice. This is one of those times. Raise your voices.