The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam

Another goodreads reco. I’ve said it before, I love the recommendations section of Goodreads.

GoodMuslim

The Good Muslim is a sequel to ‘The Golden Age’, and that is on my list to read. Set in independent Bangladesh, in the 80s, the book revolves around Maya Haque and her family. Maya, a medical doctor, has been away from her home for many years – the years following Bangladesh’s independence. She returns home to her mother and brother and realizes that her brother has completely changed. Before the war, Maya had been a revolutionary and she and her brother had been inseparable. The war had impacted both of them in very different ways. Maya continued to be a revolutionary, while her brother Sohail, had turned to religion. Both of them felt the need to atone for what they did during the war, but both chose different means.

Returning to Dhaka, Maya realizes that things have changed, much more than she would have imagined. She finds that her views and her independence is no longer considered good, in a society that was getting rigid by the day, just like her brother. She forms a close bond with her motherless, nephew, Zaid. Zaid, left alone, by his father, barring religious instructions, was growing up wild. She realizes that her brother has no time or interest in anything except religion, not even for his little child. Maya finds ways of engaging with the little boy, sometimes angering his father.

The story shifts between 1977 and 1984, giving us an insight into what Maya and Sohail went through. Maya doesn’t let her brother’s beliefs stop her. She writes about her experiences and refuses to be cowed down by the atmosphere of fear and unease that seems to be prevalent in Dhaka. Maya’s mother’s dilemma and ways of dealing with the situation opens up another view of the situation. A mother torn between two children, both right in their own ways.

It’s a heart-wrenching tale of a family, mirroring that of a young nation, caught in the crossroads, confused and traumatized. While I empathized with Maya’s character, I found it difficult to empathize with Sohail. Especially his neglect of his own little son. His turning a blind eye to things which should have been obvious to any parent. The book, in a way, shows how easy it is for people to change, to take up a path entirely different from what they were, when circumstances test you, when you lose hope in things that you trusted and believed in. Again a story which touched me, and one that will stay with me.

I would recommend the book to anybody who likes books with a political background – I love books of this sort. It gives me an insight which just reading about political unrest doesn’t. Books that show you the human side of every uprising, of every country liberated, of every political movement.

A life lost in vain

News in general, seems quite sad, but some days, it is absolutely heart breaking. To read about Savita Halappanavar’s death just because doctors in Ireland refused to perform an abortion on a foetus which had already miscarried was just heart breaking.

The sad fact that the woman’s right to life was totally ignored in the belief that the foetus had a right to life. Never mind that she had already miscarried and that the baby had no chance of survival. Makes one wonder about the laws that totally ignore the mother and the conditions that surround the request for an abortion. Makes one wonder how anybody can consider such laws fair. Especially, since Irish women have been campaigning for years to get rid of the archaic laws that control their reproductive freedom. I remember a case of a young girl, who had been pregnant as a result of rape, and had been prevented from travelling to the United Kingdom for an abortion. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that it had been a while ago. I remember wondering how cruel can the laws be that they were ready to force that girl(a young teenager, if I remember correctly) to go through a pregnancy, which she had been forced into. Today, its so much worse. A young woman had to die – for no reason at all. Can anything justify her death? A woman, who was neither Irish nor Catholic, became a victim of the laws of the religion and the country.

Just another proof, I suppose, of how religion and it’s interpretations can lead, to lives being taken, unnecessarily. All the more proof that personal choice needs to be above religious guidelines or dictats. It never fails to amaze me that pro-choice and abortions are still election issues and debated issues in countries like the US. Why is it such a difficult thing to let the people involved decide whether they want to terminate the pregnancy or not. Health issues or not, why should religion or laws decide whether someone should or not terminate a pregnancy.

All I can say, I guess, that hopefully her death would not in vain. Hopefully, an incident like this would shake up the Irish govt and people in other countries as well, who, in their pro-life propoganda, completely forget about the mothers they might end up killing. Hopefully, one day, women will be in control of their reproductive choices and their own lives.