As a Muslim, I feel personally ashamed at what happened on September 11th, 2001. I know I shouldn’t be – I wasn’t (nor any Muslim I could possibly personally know) involved in that heinous act.
But Islam emphasizes unity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian Muslim, Arab Muslim, or a Bangladeshi Muslim. It makes me think: the 9/11 hijackers probably prayed in the direction of Mecca and fasted for Ramadan just like me.
Yet, the first thing that most Muslims around the world did was point out that the perpetrators of 9/11 don’t represent them or Islam. As if distancing ourselves ...
Have To Be Poor To Help The Poor?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I'm back in Bangladesh. When I'm Dhaka, I live with my maternal uncle and aunt. Lately, I've been noticing a trend.
Just a few days ago, when I came back home carrying a bunch of groceries, my uncle chastised me saying "you better not have used any donations to pay for those groceries!". In his mind, using donations - however small - for my own food, clothing, or anything that benefits me would be tantamount to stealing.
[caption id="attachment_3748" align="aligncenter" width="499" caption="Toilet paper, antibiotics, soap, and pajamas - not taking a salary from ...
An Open Letter to Invisible Children Supporters
Dear Supporters of Invisible Children,
A lot of you may be confused at all the criticism that Invisible Children (IC) has faced as of late. Perhaps you feel that this criticism is coming from people who fail to understand the mission and nature of IC. Alternatively, perhaps, you may feel that this criticism - while having some merit - has been unfairly blown out of proportion.
What I think needs to be understood is that there is no such thing as black and white. Invisible Children, as an organization, isn't some nefarious evil group robbing people of their money. But, at the ...
After my latest videogot featured on the YouTube homepage, there were so many people leaving comments about how fat I was, how I talked, or just leaving racial epithets, that I was resigned to the fact that my message had been lost among all the hateful messages. Then, something really amazing happened. A group of well-spoken, intelligent, and considerate group of commenters appeared. And, for the first time since being featured, a real conversation emerged.
Of course, as with any discussion, we didn’t all end up agreeing. But at least we addressed some important issues. Here is a summary of some of the topics that were touched upon:
Canada maybe a “first world” developed country, but when it comes to cellphone service, it’s got nothing when it comes to Bangladesh. Don’t believe me? Ask Piotr Staniaszek – who recently got a bill for over $85,000 from Bell Mobility. What was his crime? He used his cellphone as a modem so that his computer could get on the internet. He downloaded some high-definition video and transferred a lot of large files which, as the BBC put it resulted in “massive extra charges”.
You know what’s so funny? I do the same thing but it costs me only $20 a month. I seriously give my cellular provider a run for its money. I’ve done over 2 gigabytes of activity in the past few weeks alone. The latest episode of The Uncultured Project on YouTube took me 300 megs alone. But, unlike Canada, the cellphone providers here don’t care how much you use or whether you are using the internet on your phone or connecting your phone to your computer. Plus they have a feature so that prevents you from accidentally incurring excessive charges.
I used to think that Canada, having the status of a “first world” country meant that it did everything better than “the third world”. I guess, when I hear those terms, I imagine it as an analogy of a race. But, whenever I look at my cellphone here – I’m reminded that there are some things Bangladeshis do better than Canucks. I feel sorry for my friends in the Frigid North.
I wrote an article about this on NowPublic.com. It’s after the jump. It’s the same thing that I said here though – just more news-ish sounding.
Myth #1: Extreme poverty has always existed in human history and will always exist.
Myth #2: Anyone claiming global poverty can be eliminated is asking for “communist” or “socialist”-style massive economic redistribution.
Myth #3: People living in Muslim-countries hate America.
Hopefully this new episode I uploaded to YouTube will provide some hope that these beliefs are just myths. At the very least, watching the video you can find out what happens when you show off an American flag near a Mosque while the call to prayer is being broadcast (Spoiler alert: I don’t get shot).
In a country like Bangladesh, its hard to tell where the corruption ends and the legitimate difficulties begin.
Take this recent water crisis in Dhaka. I wanted to wait a couple of days to be sure, but it seems that – for those living around me – the water shortages are over. Both my house and the neighboring apartments have had continuous access – without interruption – to city water for over 48 hours. But here’s the thing: no pipes needed to be replaced, no pumps needed to be repaired, and no city capacity had to be increased in order for this to happen.
In fact, the only thing that happened was that I showed up at the Water Authority with a camera and started asking some questions.
God knows I love Notre Dame. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have pet peeves about the place. Recently, since coming to Bangladesh, one of my pet peeves has turned into an issue that boils my blood. Notre Dame has a beautiful, lush, and green campus. They need to water it to keep the place green, of course. In that effort, there are over 65,000 sprinklers on campus that are dedicated to doing just that. I can understand the need to water all that grass. What I can’t understand is the need for the sprinklers to water all the sidewalks too.
When the sprinklers pop up, there doesn’t seem to be an inch of sidewalk that is left dry. I am not the only student who has noticed this either. On the Notre Dame Facebook network, the group “ND Students Who are against Watering Sidewalks” currently has 97 members while a group that asks the simple question “Why are we watering concrete?” has nearly 500 members. On campus, watering sidewalks is something I would laugh at off as either a product of some efficiency study or just part of a plan to make sure no student arrives dry to class. But, since coming to Bangladesh, this has been less and less of a laughing matter to me.
For the past 6 hours, I haven’t been able to flush my toilet because I don’t have running water at the moment. When I’ve needed to wash up, I’ve had to do so using buckets of water I had saved from earlier in the day when there was some running water. Saving water and washing up from a bucket has become a routine for me and is a daily fact of life for many people living in Bangladesh. That is if you are lucky enough to have running water in your home at all. By the turn of 21st century, just over half of the people in Bangladesh had access to clean water and sanitation. That means that – as bad as I have it now – over 70 million people in this country are much worse off. Globally, one in five people don’t have access to clean water. Thankfully, this number has been lowering in recent years.
I know that the problem of water in Bangladesh doesn’t get magically solved if Notre Dame stops watering its sidewalks. But, this kind of useless consumption of resources seems to betray the ideals of that Notre Dame seeks to uphold. Afterall, this is the university that inspired me to fly thousands of miles to try and make a difference – all while having to live in a place where I have to wash my hands out of a bucket and schedule when I can flush the toilet. Right now, I’d give my left arm for the same access to water that our campus sidewalks are getting at this moment.
[Update: Looks like the facebook group “Why are we watering concrete?” is now over 500 members and climbing. Big thanks to Jessica Kim for the pic.]
Over ten days ago, I asked the question, “what do I have to show for all this?“. Things have been tough here. A few days ago, I waived a family member goodbye at the airport. Having come along to help me with this project, this family member ended up being hospitalized for both Dengue Fever and Typhoid. It was just too risky for her to continue to stay here. I haven’t got sick – but with the Muslim month of Ramadan (a period where Muslims don’t eat or drink any liquids during daylight hours) now in full swing, it is hard to move around the city. Dhaka seems to shut down way too early to really go anywhere.
But, I finally do have something to show for all this. And it starts with this photo:
This is a photo of a single mother of two I met while visiting a rural village in Bangladesh. Her husband died of a stomach related illness. She was not only left with two kids to raise on her own but also was left with loans from her husband’s medical expenses. When I went and saw where she was living – a small straw mudhut – I was taken aback. People in North America have more garage space for their cars than this lady had for her family of three. Not only that – but there was no electricity and only a small window near the floor which only served to prove how dark the inside of the house was.
I wanted to make a difference in her life. I knew I had money and stuff that I could give her that would help her. But making a difference is more than just being a parachute Santa Claus. I started talking to her. How is she doing? How is she paying for her son to go to school? Does she have medical expenses from her husband left over? How can your kids read in such a dark house? I tried my best not to tell her what she needed – and tried to figure out from her what I could do to help to make a difference in her life.
Maybe it’s the Fighting Irish in me, but the first thing that I decided to do was come up with a game plan.