Tag Archive for 'Islam'Page 2 of 2

“Lying” in Aid & Development

Last month, I wrote a blog post about negatives attitudes to NGOs in Bangladesh. I’ve also talked about how these negative attitudes can be avoided by being a “free agent”, emphasizing blood ties, and respecting and understanding Islam.

I’d like to elaborate on that last point because I recently stumbled on this video:

Before you click play, I should probably point out this video is not for everyone. At the very start of this video, the Imam suggests that all non-Muslims (with a particular emphasis on Israelis) are liars.

It’s also important to note that this particular Imam, has got in trouble in the past and has been accused of hate speech. But, honestly, what he’s preaching would not be out of place in many conservative villages in Bangladesh.

Traditional Islam has a strict standard on what is and is not considered a lie. There is no such thing as an “innocent white lie”. Moreover, the penalty for lying is severe and can incur the wrath of God (including the afterlife – Qu’ran 4:145).

“Fear Allah, and be with the truthful.” (Qu’ran 9:119)

In the strict interpretation of Islam, even hyperbole is considered a grave lie (i.e. “I called you a million times!”). In fact, as the Imam points out, even wearing colored contacts or dying your hair is a form of dishonesty.

But how does this pertain to aid and development? And why does not being a NGO or charity seem to help foster greater trust in more conservative villages in Bangladesh? Find out after the jump

Continue reading ‘“Lying” in Aid & Development’

Religious Riots in Dhaka

Dhaka Riots (image by Getty Images)I’m glad I stayed home last Friday because riots broke out yesterday in Dhaka City and dozens were injured. There hasn’t been riots for a while in Bangladesh. The last time this happened was around when I first started this blog. Unfortunately, unlike the previous riots, these ones were religious in nature. Religious extremists were (violently) protesting plans to give women equal rights in regards to inheritance (equal rights for women? For shame! /sarcasm).

The simple fact is – especially when it comes to Islamic extremists – such protests are nothing but an exercise in hypocrisy. Because there is supposed to be “no compulsion in Islam”. If these religious extremists were truly following their religion – they should not have been trying to forcibly impose their particular interpretation of Islam on others. God gave us all free will and I – for one – will be damned if I accept the attempts of some of his more extreme followers to try and take away that gift.

As disturbing as these developments are this is proof of what Dr. Jeffrey Sachs has been arguing. There is a connection between religious extremism, terrorism, and poverty. It should be no surprise that these religious extremists were able to mobilize during a time of severely rising food prices. These food prices have already caused a lot of people to protest and riot. It’s very easy to redirect one’s anger when they are hungry – and that’s what the extremists have been doing.

To fight Islamic – hypocritical – extremism we need to fight poverty. It’s just that simple.

$130 Million Donated to Bangladesh… Anonymously

Wow. $130 Million. Dollars…. $130 million. That’s the amount donated to Bangladesh anonymously by an individual earlier today to the Islamic Development Bank to help rebuild after the damage done by Cyclone Sidr.

Let me put it this way. If you donated $500 you could provide for all the nuts and bolts to rebuild 50 homes in Bangladesh (sound like a good idea? here’s the charity that does that). $130 million could help build 13,000,000 homes. Or build schools. Or roads. Whatever it will be spent on it will help families recover, rebuild, and help to resume their lives.

I would like to think I made a difference in the Cyclone Sidr relief efforts. But, in reality, I was only able to spend about $200 in my personal out-of-my-pocket on that three day trip to Bagerhat. Imagine what $130 million could do? It boggles my mind.

Here’s the original story by the Associated Press. and thanks to my friend Mo back in Toronto for making me aware about this story.

Christmas Episode Now on YouTube



What does Christmas, Islam, America, and Bangladesh have in common? I talk about these topics and more in this episode. This is mostly just a blog where I talk about what it’s like spending Christmas for the first time in my life away from my parents. I also give thanks to people who have helped spread the word about the Uncultured Project.

I also make reference to America’s help in saving lives after Cyclone Sidr. Normally, when you hear about American troops in the news – it’s in the context of the Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror. You probably didn’t know that some of the most amazing work done by American forces is in the area of disaster relief. I make reference to operation Sea Angel II in this video. You can see the work of the United States Marine Corps in this video:



Blood Covered Streets: Eid Festivities in Dhaka

Last Friday was, by far, the most surreal day since arriving here in Bangladesh over six months ago.

December 21st was Eid here in Bangladesh. Eid ul-Adha is a religious holiday which is as important to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians. Like Christmas, it’s a time when people get together to spend time with their family. What that means for someone like me – living in Dhaka City – is that most of the city empties out as people head to the countryside and rural villages to spend time with loved ones. It was very weird seeing all these empty streets that are normally filled with bumper to bumper traffic. I was able to get from my uncle’s home to my grandmother’s home in under 10 minutes. Any other day it would have taken anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Eid, like Christmas, is also about giving. But, there are no presents under a tree for this holiday. Instead, it’s all about feeding the poor and feeding family. Those who can afford it usually buy a cow, a goat, or lamb. They then divide it so that a minimum of 1/3rd goes to the poor, another third goes to loved ones, and the rest is kept for oneself. Early Friday morning I had gone outside of my home to a very odd sight. Every few feet there was a cow or other farm animal tied to a fence or post. It’s like how you find bicycles in Toronto tied down to almost anything that doesn’t move. Except it was farm animals instead of bikes.

So the busy streets of Dhaka – normally full of the sound of cars honking and rickshaw bells – was eerily silent. Except for all the mooing. What came next though was really something.

As part of Eid, it’s a religious tradition that the family that buys the farm animal divides the animal up themselves. And by “divide” I mean that Dhaka basically became an open-air butcher shop. I have photos but, in good taste, I’m not uploading them. Friday morning started off waking up to the sound of mooing instead of the sound of cars. Friday afternoon that mooing was replaced with the sound of knives cutting. Along the roadside, every few feet, there was someone cutting and slicing. The streets were literally filled with blood. What was even weirder is that those parts of the city that had gated communities had their gates all closed and locked up during the day. Outside those gates stood dozens upon dozens of homeless and poor – hoping to get some of the meat that was being chopped up inside.

As shocking as such a sight was, upon reflecting on it for a couple of days, I think it’s been more good than bad. No wait – don’t close your browser window just yet – hear me out. First off, for me personally, I’ve become more respectful and mindful about where my food comes from. Back home, it’s sometimes easy to forget that a life had to be taken for you to enjoy that steak on your plate or that burger in your hand. After all, the meat from the supermarket comes prepackaged, vacuum sealed, and saran-wrapped. It’s also a refreshing change to see a religious holiday where the gift of giving is not just extended to friends and family – but also to random poor strangers.

Giving meat and beef away to the poor is actually something the poor need. Malnutrition is actually a major problem in Bangladesh. The most common issue with malnutrition is a lack of protein – particularly among the very young and poor. The poor in Bangladesh usually can only afford to buy foods which are high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Some may not even buy food. Before coming to Bangladesh, I saw a news report on BBC World News which showed that a lot of the poor in Dhaka simply boil up leaves they find near their homes and eat that for dinner. For many of the poor that had gathered near the various gated communities, Eid was the first time this year they were going to be able to have a meal with protein.

And since anyone partaking in this tradition has to give a minimum of 1/3rd to the poor – it also makes you more mindful about the plight of poverty. Can you imagine what kind of world we would have if 1/3rd of the presents we were buying during the holidays were to be given away to poor strangers?

South Bend to South Asia

  • 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).

You can watch it here: