I just got back from a trip to what the British newspaper The Telegraph once called “the world’s most vegetarian country.” The country is Bangladesh, where – according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – the average person consumes only about four kilograms of meat annually. For comparison, in the United States, the per-capita meat consumption is 120 kilograms.Continue reading “Veganizing Bangladesh”
The use of postcards to send greetings to friends and family has sharply declined in recent times, mainly due to the rise of email and social media. Postcards take days, weeks, or even months to reach, and buying and posting them requires both time and money. Yet, there is magic in sending handwritten postcards that cannot be found in the digital world. Postcards travel large distances and pass many eyes before they reach their intended recipients and at the same time are more intimate and personal than an email or social media post. Kept in a safe place, a postcard is a physical reminder that someone thought of you, and cared enough to make the effort of sending it. It is a memory that lasts.Continue reading “Bangladesh’s first-ever Postcrossing event”
Peter Singer‘s Animal Liberation, a modern classic in the field of ethics, is now available in Bangla! It is one of the most important books that you will ever read. It might change your life. It did change mine.
প্রাণিমুক্তি আন্দোলনের বিজ্ঞানসম্মত প্রামাণিক ধ্রুপদী গ্রন্থ
Pranimukti Andoloner Bijjansammta Dhrupadi Grantha
Hasna Begum, former professor of philosophy at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, has died. She was known for her work in feminist, social, and moral philosophy, her poetry, and her love and kindness toward others.
Hasna was born on February 24, 1935 in Dhaka in what was then the British Raj. She went to school in Kolkata and Dhaka until her family arranged for her to get married at the age of only thirteen. For the next thirteen years, during which she gave birth to six children, she dedicated all of her time to her family. She then resumed her education and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dhaka in 1968, followed by a master’s degree from the same university in 1969. In 1978, she was awarded a PhD in Philosophy by Monash University in Australia, where she was the first doctoral advisee of Peter Singer, now the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. For her dissertation, which was later published as a book, she investigated the moral philosophy of British philosopher G. E. Moore.Continue reading “Bangladeshi philosopher, feminist author, and social activist Hasna Begum dead at 85”
Almost everything about my birth as a girl from a middle class family in the subcontinent presaged my life as a dutiful daughter, a good wife and mother. I was the elder of two daughters of Abdul Hafiz, a man of extraordinary scholarly achievement, and his wife Rabeya Khatun, modestly educated but an independent thinker. She saw no reason why her children’s gender should hold them back. My life began in 1935 in Dhaka, East Bengal, at the home of my mother’s elder brother, Dr. Momtazuddin Ahmed, House Tutor of Salimullah Muslim Hall. Dr. Shahanara Husain is my only sister.
As a young girl, I was enrolled in school in Kolkata. These were years of extreme political upheaval and communal strife among Hindus and Muslims at the conclusion of British colonial subjugation. Thus my early education was mostly home tutoring. When my family moved to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, I actually completed an entire school year. My schooling was once again interrupted when my 39 year old cousin requested my hand in marriage when I was barely fourteen. My mother did not wish this for me and with her brother’s help, hastily arranged my marriage to the eldest son of Professor Kazemuddin Ahmed, Nuruddin Md. Selim. I became a young wife in 1949 and a mother to my first daughter within a year.Continue reading “Housewife to Professor, by Hasna Begum”
Leaving behind family and friends in Bangla Desh, a grandmother has come to Australia to satisfy her longing for higher education.
A very young grandmother, Hasna Begum, who was 36 last month, was married at 13, which is unusual even in Bangla Desh.
“Arranged marriages are really no longer the custom in my country now,” she said when I called to see her in the outer Melbourne suburb of Clayton, where she is staying.
“Mine was the last in my family as my younger sister did not marry until after she gained her Master of Arts degree.”
Hasna Begum (which means Beauty Queen) was married to a cousin, Selim, who is ten years older but, she said, “very considerate.”
Her first child, a daughter Shama, was born when she was 14. “I was a child with a child,” she said rather ruefully. “But we had no sex education and had to cope the best way we could.”
Shama now has a six-month-old son of her own.Continue reading “Self-imposed exile is simply a matter of degree”
Moyna cannot sit at the table and eat with the rest of the household. She is the other — in the house, but not a member of the house. Her humanity is reduced to the work she does. Who she is as a person, those around her do not know. She functions in the background, keeps the household running. She is a six-year-old domestic worker in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. “I wake up at six in the morning and go to bed at midnight. My daily chores include sweeping and wiping the floors and stairs, doing the dishes and laundry, opening the main gate downstairs, switching on machines, a little bit of shopping, cleaning the toilet.” In the morning, her workload is particularly heavy, Moyna tells a researcher with the Bangladesh-based Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society. “I help to prepare breakfast, and I eat two breads for myself in a hurry. The same situation arises during lunch and dinner time; I always eat last.” Moyna has no father, and her mother remarried a man who beat her for no reason, which is why her grandmother sent her to Dhaka to work. She has never been to school. Her employer does not allow her to watch TV or talk to outsiders, and makes her wear worn-out clothes. She is slapped or verbally abused for small mishaps, and brutally beaten and locked up for up to 24 hours without food for what her employer considers more severe offenses. Continue reading “Child domestic labor: We must refuse to accept the unacceptable”
Before Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter, there was the postcard. Many young people have never sent one to anyone. Communication today is mostly instant, and mail is derogatorily called “snail mail” by the digital crowd. Since the world’s first picture postcard was sent to London-based writer Theodore Hook in 1840, the postcard has enjoyed much popularity as a means to share images and thoughts across regions and cultures. In recent times, that popularity has rapidly declined, mostly due to the rise of mobile phones and social media. Sending a postcard takes more time and effort than sending an email, or a message on social media, which makes postcards even more meaningful now than they were when there was no instant alternative.Continue reading “For the love of postcards”
On Tuesday, December 3, 2019, the Department of Philosophy at Jagannath University in Dhaka, Bangladesh hosted a day-long workshop on the life and philosophy of American philosopher Tom Regan. The workshop was conducted by Wilson John Simon, a researcher at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and me. We were invited by the Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy, Professor Siddhartha Shankar Joarder, who also moderated part of the discussion. Continue reading “Jagannath University students discuss the philosophy of animal rights”
Dyu Publication, a Dhaka-based press, published a Bangla translation of Tom Regan‘s The Philosophy of Animal Rights (ISBN: 978-984-93197-6-4; English original available here), which offers an accessible and compelling introduction to the philosophy of animal rights. This is the first time any of Regan’s work has been translated into Bangla. Continue reading “Bangla translation of Tom Regan’s The Philosophy of Animal Rights published”
The way we think about and treat non-human animals is deeply confused, and scholars are in a unique position to provide some clarity. The Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics hence decided to dedicate two special issues to the relationship between human beings and other animals, and asked me to be the guest editor.
Less than two weeks after the first issue was published, the second special issues has now been published as well, and is available here. My editorial, which includes brief summaries of the articles, is available here, and this is the table of contents:
- Bob Fischer (Texas State University, U.S.A.):
Wild Fish and Expected Utility
- Akande Michael Aina (Lagos State University, Nigeria) & Ofuasia Emmanuel (Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria):
The Chicken Fallacy and the Ethics of Cruelty to Non-Human Animals
- Iván Ortega Rodríguez (Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain):
Animal Citizenship, Phenomenology, and Ontology: Some reflections on Donaldson’s & Kymlicka’s Zoopolis
- Rhyddhi Chakraborty (American University of Sovereign Nations, U.S.A.):
Animal Ethics and India: Understanding the Connection through the Capabilities Approach
- Robin Attfield (Cardiff University, U.K.) & Rebekah Humphreys (Trinity St. David’s University, U.K.):
Justice and Non-Human Animals – Part 2
Continue reading “Second Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics Special Issue on Animal Ethics published”
Last August, I accepted an invitation to edit a special issue of the Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics, devoted to animal ethics. The interest was so great that one issue became two, the first of which has just been published.
The first special issue is available here, my editorial, which includes brief summaries of the articles, is available here, and this is the table of contents:
- Robin Attfield (Cardiff University, U.K.) & Rebekah Humphreys (Trinity St. David’s University, U.K.):
Justice and Non-Human Animals – Part 1
- Eric X. Qi (Rice University, U.S.A.):
Special Relations, Special Obligations, and Speciesism
- Yamikani Ndasauka & Grivas M. Kayange (University of Malawi, Malawi):
Existence and Needs: A case for the equal moral considerability of non-human animals
- Sreetama Chakraborty (Belda College, India):
Animal Ethics: Beyond Neutrality, Universality, and Consistency
- Gabriel Vidal Quiñones (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Chile):
Singerian Vegetarianism and the Limits of Utilitarianism: A path towards a Meaning Ethics
Continue reading “First Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics Special Issue on Animal Ethics published”
Today is the first birthday of Avijit Roy that we commemorate without him. His life was taken by Islamic terrorists earlier this year, when he was in Bangladesh to attend the Ekushey Book Fair. Avijit was a prolific and accomplished author, a fierce defender of human rights, and dedicated much of his life to the promotion of freethinking, humanism, and rationalism. Continue reading “Commemorating Avijit Roy on his 44th birthday”
I am featured in this year’s special Eid issue of the Bangladesh Pratidin, a daily Banga-language newspaper in Bangladesh that has a circulation of 550,000. They asked me about my relationship with Bangladesh, and the upcoming Eid festival. Here is what I said, for those who are interested and cannot read Bangla: Continue reading “Eid Mubarak!”
Last month, the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states of the Union, and the District of Columbia, adding the United States to the list of nearly two dozen countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas, that recognize marriage between a man and a man, and between a woman and a woman. The decision, which is nothing short of historic, made waves around the globe, including in Bangladesh, and is a cause for celebration for everybody who believes in equal human dignity. Continue reading “Marriage equality in Bangladesh”
আপনি কয়জন বাঙালীকে চেনেন যে শর্ষে ইলিশ ভালবাসে না? কাচ্চি বিরিয়ানি অথবা গরুর রেজালা ছাড়া কোন বাংলাদেশী বিয়ে কল্পনা করতে পারেন? অনুমান করতে পারি আপনার উত্তর হবে খুব বেশি না অথবা একেবারেই না। যদিও বাংলাদেশ সম্পর্কে আমার জ্ঞান সীমিত, আমি এটুকু জানি, বাঙালী মাংস ভালবাসে, মুসলমানেরা হিন্দুদের থেকে বেশি, আর সব বাঙালী মাছ ভালবাসে। সেজন্য মনে হতে পারে বাংলাদেশে প্রাণীদের অধিকার নিয়ে কথা বলা বাতুলতা। কিন্তু আমার অভিজ্ঞতা সম্পূর্ণ বিপরীত। Continue reading “নিরামিষ খাবার নিয়ে দু’টি কথা”
How many Bengalis do you know who do not like shorshe ilish? Can you imagine a Bengali wedding without kacchi biryani, or beef rezala? If I had to guess, I would say that your answers are “not many,” and “hardly.” Even though my knowledge of Bengal is rather limited, I think this I know: Bengalis love meat, Muslims probably a bit more so than Hindus, and virtually every Bengali loves fish. One might think that makes lecturing about animal rights in Bangladesh a quixotic exercise. I found that the opposite is the case. Continue reading “Eating animals”
I am deeply saddened by and strongly condemn the heinous and cowardly murder of Dr. Avijit Roy. Avijit was a prolific author, a loyal supporter of Bangladesh’s LGBT rights movement, a fearless defender of free speech, and the founder of Mukto-Mona, a secular online platform dedicated to freethinking, humanism and rationalism. In the few interactions I had with him as a contributor to Mukto-Mona, he was always very kind and encouraging. Continue reading “Statement on the Murder of Dr. Avijit Roy”
গত ২২শে সেপ্টেম্বর ভারতের ভুপালে পশুপাখীর অধিকার সংরক্ষণ কর্মীরা তাজ-উল-মসজিদের সামনে, ঈদ-আল-আধাতে মুসলমানদের পশু কোরবানি না দেবার অনুরোধ সম্বলিত বাণীর প্ল্যাকার্ড নিয়ে শান্তিপূর্ণভাবে দাঁড়িয়ে ছিলেন। তাঁদের বক্তব্য ছিল নিরামিষ আহার স্বাস্থ্যের পক্ষে ভালো তো বটেই, উপরন্তু পরিবেশ, প্রকৃতি ও পশুপাখীদের জন্যেও ভালো। বেনাজির সুরাইয়া ছিলেন এই কর্মীদের একজন। তাঁর পরিধানে ছিল সবুজ রঙের হিজাব এবং লেটুস পাতা দিয়ে মোড়া পরিচ্ছ্দ। তাঁর হাতের প্ল্যাকার্ডে লেখা ছিল Make Eid happy for all- Try Vegan, অর্থাৎ ঈদ যেন সবার জন্য আনন্দময় হোক, নিরামিষ খাবার খেয়ে দেখার চেষ্টা করতে পারেন। Continue reading “পশু কোরবানি কি ধর্ম হতে পারে?”