Equality, the term fast becoming redundant

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 12 Aug 2017, 19:16:05
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Equality, the term fast becoming redundant

Mahmudur Rahman
The much decried and defamed Libyan leader, the late Muammar Gaddhafi took his famous tent wherever he travelled, preferring its home-built comfort to that of the suffocating environment of fancy hotels. It was about feeling 'at home'. It was also, largely symbolic. Those without his kind of wherewithal continue to discover that the 'home away from home' concept is a costly proposition. 

The yearly pilgrimage Hajj of the world's most scientific religion, is a case in example where the very equality preached by it is sadly compromised in exchange for the worldly world of money. Facilities in the Hajj accommodation at Meena and Makkah come with price tags, the more expensive, the more facilities. It becomes worse in that more affluent nations have their accommodation more conveniently positioned towards the central points of the ritual. Again, making it more trying for the less fortunate. 

The pilgrimage astounds the rest of the world in that it brings together millions from diverse nationalities, each individual driven by personal desire and belief footing their own bills. India does have certain pilgrimages but they pale before the sheer size and economic activity centring Hajj. The variance of comfort for the Bangladeshi pilgrim is just as stark. For those of very frugal income, every year the story is the same. Sheer mismanagement and a nexus of profit maximising agencies result in many pilgrims either missing their flights and thus the pilgrimage or subject to unending man-made hurdles. Had this been a societal issue ruled by the regulations of the world, there would have been revolt. But every pilgrim is restrained by the Islamic teaching that stipulates worldly issues are to be foregone during the pilgrimage and strong emotions such as anger are to be held in check and digested. Regrettably, these are the reasons why action against errant agencies are few and far between and why the government management goes from bad to worse.

Whereas government to government interaction should lead to seamless arrangements the excuses are inevitably the same. The blame is tossed between agencies, government and the Saudi government. Given the third party doesn't need to respond, we are left with two of our own that promise the heavens, plan for the earthly and deliver close to trite. Atheists have questioned the necessity for pilgrimage for countries that are decidedly poor. As usual, the question is misdirected towards the religion rather than the individual. Hajj is compulsory only after certain obligations of the worldly are met, including not being in debt and having taken care of family needs. These are often ignored as much by the atheists as by the individuals. 

In prayer congregations the only rule applicable is people stand shoulder to shoulder to pray, their only identity being they are followers of the faith. With the increasing influence of worldly issues, the front rows are cheerfully reserved for the high and mighty in the political and social strata. Another beating taken by equality. The head-bent Facebook generation will have seen a President of a South American country sitting in queue to see a doctor. They will also have seen entire roads shut to allow our President and Prime Minister to travel.  No doubt, the instance of a simple traffic policeman holding up the Indian President's retinue to allow an ambulance to pass won't have been missed. 

The concept 'if you break a heart, it is as if you've destroyed a masjid' holds true for matters beyond that of the heart. The disappointment and heartbreak of the stranded pilgrim, the helpless close-one of an ill patient and a hapless mother agonising over her child's impending delay for an exam all amount to the same. If those responsible could be truly tracked, their untold setbacks would be revealing to say the least.

mahmudrahman@gmail.com

 
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