How Hurricane Sandy affected Bangladesh!

Yeah yeah, you read the title right. Hurricane Sandy may have ransacked the East Coast of the United States, but its effects have been widespread and felt as far away as Bangladesh.

Hurricane Sandy and its devastation

But here in Bangladesh most of the people are actually happy that the United States has had a violent death toll due to a natural catastrophe. And the reasons are as varied as the number of individuals who have given a thought to the issue.

One facebook friend put up this status:

ঘূর্ণি ঝড়ে ইউসএ র অবস্থা দেখে বেশ ভাল লাগছে! প্রাকৃতিক দুর্যোগ মানে নাকি ওরা বাংলাদেশকেই চেনে! জলোচ্ছাসের ঝাপটায় ভেসে গেছে ওদের আধুনিকতার প্রযুক্তি। এই দুর্যোগেও ওদের জনগনকে খারাপ কাজ করা থেকে বিরত থাকতে অনুরোধ করতে হয়। আমরা ওদের চেয়ে অনেক উন্নত জাতি!

which in English translates into:

I am pretty happy to see what’s happening to the US due to the hurricane! And all this time the world thought Bangladesh was the only country most victimized by natural disasters. The cyclone has swept away their ultra-modern technological prowess. But even amidst this disaster I must endeavor them to keep away from the dirtiness of their hearts. If you consider the dirtiness, we as a nation are much better than them!

While the status does echo a public sentiment against the Americans here in the East, it also designates that the East has had its fair share of natural disasters, and thus it is time for America and the West to have them as well. Cyclones are a part of growing up in a delta country like Bangladesh. Although it has been at least five years since the last time we have had a major hurricane or anything in the capital city, the coastal areas are a frequent victim of similar dangerous natural disasters. Every year, the flood water kills dozens of impoverished coastal residents, and erases the livelihood of hundreds who are directly dependant on the natural waters of rivers and lakes for food and living. And thus for us, cyclones have been a part of our growing up process.

Images of the world-famous New York subway completely submerged, cars stuck in deep waters, buildings ransacked all over New Jersey, and people fleeing for their lives——it’s been all over on the newspapers, international media outlets and local news. And thus my mom wasn’t left out of the tide either. She, however, had a different take on the issue. According to her, “It served America right. Such a war-mongering nation. Killing and raping Muslims all over the world. This is only a trailer of God’s wrath for America. Soon the entire film will be showcased.”

While anti-American sentiments have been all the rage in the Islamic world in the post-9/11 era; and have been cemented with the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; and elevated with the ongoing talks of a new war against Iran, which is treated as an elder brother in the sub-continent because of the fact that Islam was brought to the region by the Persian Sufis and saints; statements such as those from my mother aren’t a very abnormal one. Rather, after the release of Innocence of Muslims in the United States, this rage has been further heightened to new levels (and resulted in a blockade of youtube) and so now the political parties of the sub-continent are also politicizing this popular feeling. A Pakistani railway minister even went as far as announcing a huge monetary reward for the Pakistani Taliban if they successfully executed Sam Bacile, the maker of Innocence of Muslims. In Bangladesh however, since the government firmly follows a neutral diplomacy due to the founding father, Sheikh Mujib’s idea of turning Bangladesh into the Switzerland of the East, although there was a widespread condemnation of the movie, behavior towards America have been quite moderate in comparison to the countries of the Middle-East and other parts of South Asia.

The facebook friend who put up the happy status due to Sandy, however, was not met with assertion from the people on his friends’ list. The Bangladeshi expats in America condemned his views, and one of them even went as far as telling him that ‘life in America was beautiful, but the same could not be said for Bangladesh”. And another asked him to be a human being; after all, despite our racial and religious differences we are all human beings. It is unsure whether the friend had a change in viewpoint about hurricane Sandy and America, but regardless of everything, the issue created quite a public debate in this part of the world.

Anti-American memes on social networks are as popular as anti-Muslim ones

America got what it deserved– that isn’t actually the dominant opinion here, but a lot of loud voices like to draw attention to America’s brutalities in Iraq, Japan, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, Vietnam and Afghanistan; and many even went as far as reminding the people of Abeer al Janabi, a 14 year old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped by US soldiers in front of her family and later on murdered and burned along with the family in their home. Several people have also recalled the Afghan girl who was mass-raped by US marines to such an extent that her genitals had become mutilated beyond repair, and the doctors could simply watch while she bled to death.

The public at the end of the day is torn between being humane and vengeful when it comes to America. An idea that is increasingly becoming evident in the progressive circles of modern-day’s politically-conscious Bangladeshi citizens.

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7 comments on “How Hurricane Sandy affected Bangladesh!

    • ahh ‘democracy’, an enigmatic Western luxury. We have had enough of democracy for a lifetime lol 😀

      Although you call yourself you-know-who, I don’t know who you are. So clear that up if you meant it literally.

  1. I’m not sure I can agree with any of the sentiments expressed here to be honest. I have no time for anyone – either on the American/West side or the Muslim side who takes the tone of violence and revenge. The hurricane in America will have caused damage and death to Muslims living there, was it would to Christians. Plenty of Western people have died and girls raped at the hands of Muslims (take the current gang-rape issues in the UK at the moment which highlights just that point). I don’t say this to point any finger back but merely to point out that ALL finger-pointing is guilty of maintaining the very evil I would like to believe we all want to see gone from the world.

    Both Islam and christianity (amongst many other religions) at their best desire peace. I think it is discrediting both when people talk in terms of hate and vengeance. Even secular democracy – at ITS best – promotes the desire for peace. There will always be idiots like Bacile around. For as long as we give him publicity people like him will propagate – on both sides of the tension. But if we ignore such people, don’t give them a voice, and build peace together, I am certain we can build a strong and certain future build on mutual trust and respect. I would like to believe that anyway.

    • There is no road to peace. Peace is the only road”—-Mahatma Gandhi.

      I really agree with you. All this violence, vengeance. None of it is going to do any good. We need a society based on the strictest principles of justice, equality and accountability. And secularism and equality of thought seem to be, at best, modest solutions to our multi-faceted world. But like you said, people like Bacile and Terry Jones, will be there on both sides of the equation. The only way to counter them is through allowing freedom of expression in a way that does not harm the views of the majority in a race. And of course, it is our duty to be tolerant of dissenting views and opinion. It is these dissidents who actually make us realize our identities and have profound impacts on our philosophies.

      More than ever before, I think it’s time people started to think like human beings, and started solving issues like the Israel/Palestine conflict. While the leaders of the world are deadlocked in corruption and embezzlement, we the ordinary people are the ones who suffer from problems like hurricane Sandy.

      • I agree with you except for one comment that seems innocuous but is loaded with a terrible danger today. You wrote:

        “The only way to counter them is through allowing freedom of expression in a way that does not harm the views of the majority in a race”

        This seems innocent enough, and I think you intended it this way, but fails to account for the huge rise in militant atheism growing, not just in the West but in the Islamic world too.

        Now I have no problem with Atheism, I think it is a vailid religious choice, but the problem is that for militant atheists ANY religion is disgusting and offensive. This means that in, say, the UK no Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim is truly able to talk freely about their beliefs because the majority (or at least vocal majority) take offence.

        I think people like Bacile should have the full force of the law thrown at him not because of his views – ignorant and outrageously offensive but ultimately nothing new – but because of the deaths and destruction that ensued as a direct, and predictable, result.

        I DO agree with your statement that “it’s time people started to think like human beings”. I think this is key to solving issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict as you say. Personally, I think it starts with positive discussions and debates such as we are having in these pages here!

  2. Thank you for pointing out the interesting divergence of viewpoints. Reminds me of the question put forth by Rawls and Sen: are you an utilitarian, egalitarian or a libertarian. The divergence of opinion perhaps arises from that characteristic.

    • I always find it interesting how differently each of us treat an issue. I think perspectives matter a lot, and are shaped through an individual’s bringing up, education, family background etc etc. For instance, the comparison between Alexander the Great & Hitler. Both were empire-builders, invaders and were more busy commanding armies rather than listening to their constituents. Ironically, one went down in history as one of the greatest rulers of the world; while another became the most hated personality for history authors. But the core ideology which worked to create them both was the same. 😀

      This is what Sen says in his books, isn’t it? For the creation of the perfect society all viewpoints must be considered. And it is imperative that the ones who are at the bottom of the ladder and class are addressed at first.

      Thanks for reading by the way 😀

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