In the third world countries as well as in the downtown areas of the developed nations, we come across persons of both sexes seeking people's generosity in the form of alms. Alms is any material gift (money, food or other types of material items) given to a person out of charity.
Some of these people are really physically sick or indigent. Some others, apparently look young and healthy, but are mentally challenged to hold on to any job. Then there are certain others who are cheats -- too lazy to work or move their bodies. All these types of people will always be there in any society.
All religions speak favourably of almsgiving. They speak of neighbourly love for the poor, sick and downtrodden. Millions of people's lives are dependent on the generosity and alms of their neighbours.
Those, who have, are morally bound to come to the aid of the have-nots. Let us not hesitate to participate in almsgivng in cases of the really needy.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of Bangladesh independence movement Photo courtesy: Press and Information Department (PID), Govt. of Bangladesh, 1972
After long 35 years, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, hangs five of 12 convicted killers of the Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal) on January 28, 2010 early morning, reports The Daily Starof Dhaka.
Heavy security measures were taken both inside and around Dhaka Central Jail, where these convicted persons have been hanged: Lt. Col. Syed Farooq Rahman, Lt. Col. Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Major Bazlul Huda, and army lancer A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed. The Bangladesh Supreme Court on January 27 rejected the appeals of these men against their conviction.
On November 19, 2009, the Supreme Court had awarded death sentence to 12 living convicts -- of whom, these five men were already in Dhaka Central Jail, and six others (Lt. Col. Khandakar Abdur Rashid, Lt. Col. Shariful Huq Dalim, Lt. Col. A.M. Rashed Chowdhury, Lt. Col. Noor Chowdhury, Captain Abdul Mazed and Risaldar Moslemuddin) have been absconding from Bangladesh and living in different countries -- USA, Canada, Libya, and some European countries). One othe convicted person died in Zimbabwe, Africa.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave the lead to Bangladesh independence movement in 1971. After independence, he gave leadership to the new country. Those who were pro-Pakistan and against the independence were looking for ways to undo the new country. They, along with some foreign countries, influenced and supported a group of young army officers to revolt and stage a coup against the elected government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
These army officers, on August 15, 1975, attacked the house of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and brutally shot and killed him, his wife, two sons and their wives, and one young son and many others who worked in his house. A total of 20 people were killed in the house that night. Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana, two daughters of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, escaped the massacre because they were in Europe at that time.
When Sheikh Hasina came to power for the first time in 1996, she started the trial of these army officers by removing the "Indemnity Act" which was enacted by the killers with the help of Khondokar Mustaque Ahmed as the president of the new military government. This infamous Act barred anyone from taking action against the killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and members of his family. Previously, Khondokar Mustaque Ahmed was important Awami League member and a minister of Bangladesh under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In 1998, fifteen persons were found guilty and sentenced to death. In 2001, the High Court acquitted three. As Sheikh Hasina lost power as the Prime Minister in 2001, the new government of Khaleda Zia, her bitter rival, did not pursue the case any further.
After winning landslide victory in 2008, Sheikh Hasina restarted the case which came to conclusion with the execution of the five killers.
(L-R) Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mukul and Osman Chowdhury Photo courtesy (left: www.notundesh.com/ and right: www.dailymail.co.uk/)
When some highly-paid corporate CEOs and honchos have been raiding their companies bankrupt in New York, there are examples of poorly-paid persons winning over their greed and covetousness with plain honesty and integrity.
The stories of Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mukul, 28, and Osman Chowdhury,43, -- both from Bangladesh and working as taxi drivers in New York city -- are such examples.
Mohammad Asaduzzaman Mukul
It was Christmas Eve, December 24, 2009. Felicia Lettieri, 72, an Italian grandmother and six others hailed two taxis to go from midtown Manhattan to Penn Railway Station -- both in New York city. One of the taxis was Asaduzzaman Mukul's.
Mr. Mukul, a Bangladeshi medical student-cum-part-time taxi driver, later finds Ms. Lettieri's purse on the back seat of his taxi. When he opened it to look for any address, he found bundles of euros, some expensive jewelry, and a few passports with an address of Patchogue, Long Island, 60 miles away. Without even counting the money, his only thought at the time was to return the purse to the owner with its contents.
He then deposited his taxi to his company and called a Bangladeshi friend with a car and requested him to drive him to Patchgue following the address. When they reached the address, there was none available there. Yet, Mr. Mukul left a note on the door of the house. In the note he gave his cellphone number and asked the owner of the purse to call him so that he could return the purse.
Later the expected call came and Mr. Mukul again went there again to return the purse. The owner was Ms. Lettieri from Pompeii, Italy and she was extremely happy to get her purse back. There was US $ 21,000 worth euros in it. She wanted to give some money as a reward but Mr. Mukul declined it by saying that he was a devout Muslim and, therefore, he could not accept the reward.
Mr. Mukul went 240 miles (386 kilometres) in total spending his own money for vehicle gas but proved his honesty sacrificing any compensation.
Police and others had advised Ms. Lettieri that there was little chance of recovering the lost money and goods.
Francesca Lettieri, 79, the sister of Felicia Lettieri, told the Newsday that the honest taxi driver had saved her family's vacation. "We really love what he did," she said.
Mr. Mukul, a full-time student at a city college near his apartment in Jamaica, Queens, started to drive taxi a few days a week when his work hours were reduced at a factory job.
To a question of why he was so honest with the money, he replied: "My mother is my inspiration. She always told me to be honest and work hard."
He also said: "I'm needy, but I'm not greedy. It's better to be honest."
It was a day in February, 2007. A woman from Dallas, Texas, rode Osman Chowdhury's taxi to go from the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan to an apartment about 15 blocks away in New York city.
Some hours later, when Mr. Chowdhury opened his taxi's trunk to keep luggages of three other passengers, he realized that the woman from the hotel got down from the taxi without taking her luggage.
He then drove to the apartment, as since he did not know the apartment number of the woman, he took the suitcase to the headquarters of the New York Taxi Workers' Alliance where he is also a member.
When opened, the Alliance president and Mr. Chowdhury found two display cases with 31 diamond rings inside. After finding a luggage tag inside with a Dallas phone number, they called and reached the woman's mother and told her about the find.
Later in midnight, the owner of the suitcase went to the Alliance office and retrieved her luggage. When the woman offered Mr. Chowdhury a cheque for US $ 100, he first declined it but later accepted it on insistence to cover the fares he lost while trying to locate her.
Osman Chowdhury was a contractor in Bangladesh before coming to the USA 17 years ago. He drove taxi in New York by renting one.
"I'm not going to take someone else's money or property to make me rich. I don't want it that way," he said. "All my life, I tried to be honest. Today is no different," he said.
Bangladesh School Textbooks Should Include These Stories
These stories of real-life honesty in face of temptations and competitions should get a place in Bangladesh School Textbooks. The next generations of Bangali students will find them inspiring.
What Do We Learn From These Stories?
Some strangers, some foreigners in our midst may be bad, but all strangers and all foreigners are not evil-charactered. Some Muslims may be terrorists, but all Muslims are not so.
We may recall the parable (story) where Jesus Christ mentioned of the "Good Samaritan," who was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a pagan! (See the Bible: Luke 10: 25-37)
Notun Desh -- an online bi-lingual (Bengali and English) weekly --from Toronto
Notun Desh (new country), edited by Serene Ferdous, is the online Bangla (Bengali) weekly that debuted in Toronto last year. It is updated every Wednesday. It is perhaps the first regular online newspaper in Bangla in Canada. There are, of course, several other Bangla print newspapers that are being published from Toronto. This weekly deals with news, articles and opinions on events and issues of both Canada, Bangladesh and world featuring politics, economy, entertainment, environment, literature, sports, and more. It also has a small English section.
The real Elvis Presley with his typical musical pose Photo courtesy: http://wallpapers.free-review.net/
A Silverman impersonates Elvis Presley and entertains the public at the Scarborough Town Centre. It is one of the busiest malls in Toronto. In the weekends, thousands of shoppers and window-shoppers descend on to this mall.
It was Sunday, January 10, 2010. In front of the Sears store, Elvis Presley songs were blaring from a cassette player. Dozens of onlookers, young and old, transfixed their gaze on a single figure on a small pedestal. The person is bathed in silver colour from his hair to his shoes. Because of his silvery colour, I call him "Silverman." He calls himself "Silver Elvis" -- large silver letterings done in metal stand on the floor around the pedestal. Several metal containers are also placed there for the public's monetary contribution.
Some of those who see the silvery figure for the first time, mutter among themselves, "It's a statue!", but others who know the trick say, "No, it's a man, it's a man!"
This confusion arises at what point of time you look at the silvery figure. At one time, you see it with a Presley-like statuesque pose, at another time he is shifting to his next pose!
Most of the onlookers shake their bodies in consonant with the beat of Presley's songs. This is a good example of public amusement through impersonation. This is one of the ways the Elvis Presley legend lives on from one generation to the other.
The Real Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977), popularly known as "Elvis Presley," was an American pop singer of international repute. His music was influenced by American country, Christian gospel and black R&B music. His singing style and acrobatic body postures were unprecedented and unique.
The young and the old of the day were attracted to his music like bees to flower nectar. Teenage girls would be "delirious" and were mad after him. Throngs of groupies would follow him from one singing venue to the other.
Elvis Presley also acted in films -- 33 in all. His music is still popular worldwide. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, he died of overdose of medicines in his home in Memphis, Tennessee.
Elvis Presley is dead, but he still lives on in the hearts of millions.
Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti is in total devastation. This is considered to be the worst earthquake disaster in a century. The saddest thing is that the government of Haiti was totally incapacitated, there were almost no government personnel to help in the rescue efforts in the first day or two. The world watched in horror how the common people were trying their best with their most limited and amateurish equipment and implements to rescue fellow Haitians from the rubble. Thousands of dead bodies are still lying on the sidewalks.
Fortunately, the world governments, voluntary agencies, institutions and individuals responded immediately to the catastrophe. Although quite late, their efforts will definitely save many precious lives.
Immediately after any disaster, the first 72 hours (three days and three nights) are very crucial in rescuing and saving lives.
Immediate Response and Relief
As workers of Caritas Bangladesh and later World Vision of Bangladesh, we had to deal with several deadly flood and cyclone disasters in Bangladesh in the 70's, 80's and 90's. From those experiences we can say that the following emergency response and relief materials are needed in the first 72 hours:
Consideration of local environment, weather condition, local customs, and people's food habits (Christians can eat almost everything, Hindus can't eat beef, Muslims can't eat pork, etc.) is very important for relief effort.
Employ rescuers and rescue machineries and vehicles. Bury the dead immediately.
Initially distribute dry foods (bread, immediately edible (munchable) cereals, dry fruits, snack bars, chocolate bars, edible nuts and seeds, chips, flattened rice, puffed rice or rice crispies and so on. Due to disaster, cooking facilities may not be immediately available.
If some people still possess cooking facilities, bulgur wheat, oatmeals, rice, lentils and beans can be given to them.
Provide bottled water or water purification tablets. Much of the water available in the disaster area gets polluted.
Provide enough medical personnel and medicines. Rush the seriously wounded to nearby hospitals or clinics and, if these are not available, arrange field clinics.
Arrange to provide cooked food through gruel kitchens.
Give cash to victims so that they may purchase food from the locality, if available.
Tents are very important to save the exposed victims from the sun or rain.
Battery-run torchlights and battery-operated radios are urgently needed.
For sleeping or just sitting and resting, mats, cheap carpets, inexpensive blankets and sleeping bags are important.
Clothing for men, women and children.
Baby food, powder milk, and energy drinks like 'Ovaltine' are important for children.
If possible, give sandals, cheap shoes and boots.
If possible, provide hurricane lanterns and kerosene oil, candles and match sticks.
Small pots and pans also can be given to those who have access to cooking facilities.
Building temporary public toilets is very crucial in stopping diseases to spread.
Some Useless Relief Items
When a disaster strikes and the news is everywhere, people get very much carried away and feel to be very generous. They want to give anything they think would be useful without consideration of the location, culture and habits of the disaster victims. There are items that should not be sent as relief items:
Warm clothes and heavy blankets in a tropical or warmer country.
Toothpastes and tooth brushes.
Typical women's clothes of western countries, such as undergarments, brassieres, hats and caps, etc. A country, where women do not wear western dresses, will find these items not only useless, but also embarrassing.
Expired or soon-to-expire goods, food items and medicines. What you cannot or should not use for yourself must not be given to others.
Rehabilitation and Development Work (Long Term)
Rehabilitation and development work take longer time to accomplish. These should be well-planned and coordinated, otherwise there is likelihood of duplication of work. Under this category the following can be done:
Building infrastructures: Houses, institutions, government offices and roads need to be repaired and rebuilt.
In a tropical country, one-storey houses can be made of corrugated iron-sheet roofs and walls. Pillars of the house can be made of concrete. Houses with more than one storey should be made with concrete and bricks strictly following local conditions and building codes.
Medium and deep drinking water tubewells need to be repaired or installed.
Educational materials (school exercise books, pencils, pens, papers, school books, school bags, etc.) are to be given to affected students.
Crop and vegetable seeds for farmers.
Fertilizers, irrigation system andthe relevant agricultural facilities need to be restored.
Assistance in income generation is important. Under Test Relief work, men and women can be employed on daily wage basis to do repair or rebuilding work -- houses, roads and other infrastructure.
No asbestos sheets should be used in building purposes. It is now proven that asbestos is dangerous to human health.
It's An Opportunity to Build Port-au-Prince Anew
In the news it was told that this city has accessibility problem. It has only a few main roads with many unplanned narrow roads. Roads get clogged all the time.
Since most of the houses are devastated or precariously standing, a well-thought-out plan needs to be taken to demolish the standing houses and rebuild Port-au-Prince with more and wider roads. The UN can give a leadership and coordination in this respect.
A powerful earthquake, measuring 7.0 in the Richter scale, struck an area 16 kilometers (10 miles) away from Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, on January 12, 2010, causing destruction of thousands of buildings and infrastructures and innumerable deaths. The government of Haiti at this moment estimated the death toll to be around 100,000. The number of deaths is expected to rise to several hundred thousands in future.
The earthquake was just 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) below the earth's surface. This shallowness of the earthquake shook the ground more dangerously causing widespread devastation in the capital city, where most of the building were constructed without following strict building codes necessary for an earthquake-prone zone.
Haitian President Rene Preval told the CNN, " You have to see it to believe it. Lots of houses destroyed, hospitals, schools, personal homes -- a lot of people in the street dead." The President said that he himself has been affected by the earthquake. "I cannot live in the palace; I cnnot live in my own house [palace]. The two collapsed. But now I am working on how to rescue the people."
President Preval appealed to the international community to be generous: "We need doctors, we need medicine, we need medical help in general, " he told the CNN. The President mentioned that in the meantime, Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Venezuela, and the United States started to provide help for the earthquake victims.
Canadian Presence in Haiti
Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a generous help for Haiti. The CTV reports that the Canadian government has a large presence in Haiti. Canadians are also attached to the United Nations Stabilization Mission there. A good number of Canadian Mounted Police and members of the Department of National Defense also work in that country.
Michaelle Jean, the Governor General of Canada is originally from Haiti. She came to Canada when she was a child. In a statement she said: "This natural disaster has hit a country with an extremely fragile infrastructure, where many buildings are already unstable, and where living conditions are often very difficult. I fear for its people. I would like all Haitians to know that they are not alone and that the people of Canada will respond to this emergency."
Background of Haiti
Haiti is a rugged and mountainous country of 27,750 kilometres and a population (80% Roman Catholic and 16% Protestant) of over eight million. Presently it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
When Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola (presently the same island divided into the two countries -- Dominican Republic and Haiti), Arawak Amerindians populated there. The Spanish administration almost decimated the Arawak people within 25 years. In 1697, due to French presence and pressure in the island, the Spanish gave the third part of the island to the French which later took the name of Haiti.
Since the Arawaks were almost extinct, the French brought African slaves to work in the forestry and sugar industries. Later the slaves under Toussaint L'Ouverture revolted against the French and in 1804 declared Haiti's independence. Haiti was the first black republic.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an interview with the Canwest News Service and the National Post on January 6, said all Canadian soldiers will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2011, reports the National Post.
He was interviewed mostly on Canadian politics. When asked about Canadian troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, Mr. Harper said: "...the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011. There will be a phased withdrawal, beginning in the middle of the year. We hope to have that concluded by the end of that year."
He further said: "We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind of activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become strictly civilian mission. It will be a significantly smaller mission than it is today."
The Prime Minister also expects that Afghanistan at the end does not become a failed state.
Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan
Canada militarily got involved in Afghanistan when troops of the USA and some other NATO countries started the war against the incumbent Taliban government that provided shelter and training to Al Qaeda terrorists, some of whom destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Canadian soldiers since then have been playing a vital role in that country in combating the ousted Talibans and other insurgents.
So far, more than 2,500 Canadian soldiers are involved in Afghanistan. Of them, 138 soldiers died there by December 31, 2009.
It was December 25, 2009, Christmas Day. It happened inside a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Detroit, USA. Umar Farouk Addulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian engineering student-turned-jihadi tried to detonate powdery explosives hidden in his underwear little before the plane was to land. Due to aggressive interference of fellow passengers Umar failed in his mission but was seriously burned from partially-ignited explosives. This act of terrorism brought about an international row about airport and airlines security.
Stricter Measures by the USA and Canada
In the light of the above-mentioned incident, USA, Canada and some other countries have decided to gear up their new strict security measures.
New security measures include:
Additional precaution about and extra searches on passengers traveling to the USA via or from these 14 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The USA considers these countries having some kind of links to terrorism.
Introduction of full-body and invasive security scanners at airports dealing with international flights.
Increased electronic scanning of passenger baggage for arms and explosives.
Prohibition of certain items in carry-ons: such as pocket knives, box cutters, cork screws, liquids and the like.
Strengthening and strictly following of the no-fly lists.
More use of sniffing dogs for detecting explosives in luggage.
No getting up from one's seat in the plane for the last one hour of the flight.
Items that could be mistaken for explosives in the scanning machines should be taken as hand luggage.
Suitcases should not be locked.
Books should be laid flat, not stacked.
International flights entering the USA will have their baggage checked at their first landing airport, even if the final destination of the flight is elsewhere in the USA.
Concerns Over the Stricter Measures
Civil libertarians and privacy advocates are expressing concerns over these measures. They say that:
These measures will cause extraordinary delays of flights leading to serious inconveniences to passengers.
The use of full-body and invasive scanners will invade the privacy and decency of persons and the photos taken thereby might get misused by some unscrupulous scanning machine operators.
In certain countries, especially in Britain, taking of scanner-based photos of underage children is liable to breach child protection laws that ban creation of indecent images of children.
Citizens of those 14 countries may feel specially discriminated in world airports because of extra security measures to be taken against them.
New Airport Scanning Machines
To learn more of the new airport scanners, you may visit the following:
Snow or snowfall has created a culture of its own. It has influenced people to adapt themselves to snow or snowfall, even in extreme situations. People also celebrate snowfall in different ways -- by skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowballing, snow-writing, snow-angeling and the like.
Toronto has been experiencing snowfall from the beginning of the new year. The above photo shows a sample of snow-writing.
Today is the New Year! A year with all the ups and downs is gone, a new one is on the doorstep. We hope that the year 2010 will be a more peaceful one. Let all the negativity of the past year be gone and give way to more positivity and optimism. Let the world citizens be more tolerant of each other, let the attitude of give-and-take bring about more mutual respect, cooperation and solidarity. Let the hope sprout into a strong determination to do more good.