No Difference: Busby, Alberta vs. Dhaka, Bangladesh
On September 7th, 2015 Jennye Blain made a call from her home in Busby, Alberta to the administrators of the Busby Alberta Facebook page. She had been trying to connect with other families in Busby through the Facebook page, but their posts were not being allowed, nor would the administrators tell them why.
“So I phoned them up to find out what we were doing wrong and how to make it work. As soon as he knew that I was the one trying to find support against the Lord's prayer, he began screaming expletives at me - my husband took the phone, and he told my husband to take his prayer rug and leave!”
The crazy thing is Jennye’s husband is not Muslim nor is he of Middle Eastern descent! “We are both fishbelly white, of Scandinavian descent!”
“My husband asked him if it was a racial slur and he said yes! We had a giggle about it, but also shook our heads sadly...”
“We were on the phone, so he couldn't see us, but that didn't stop him from racially profiling us as Muslims, That's what you find here - we will not be surprised if someone gets burnt at the stake or stoned to death by some of the radicals here! Honestly, I am physically sick with fear thinking of my child at school... I brought it on us, so I don't mind the backlash, I just feel bad for my daughter.”
In Alberta, Canada individual public school districts set their own policies on religion in the classroom. Some districts allow prayer with various restrictions, while others specifically prohibit the practice. In the farming community of Busby, the elementary school has 102 students. In September, Jennye Blain raised concerns about the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the school day. Her 11 year old daughter had come home concern because she did not want to recite the prayer as she and her family do not believe in god. They are atheists. The fall out has been unbelievable. “The hate messages I've been getting today are scary”
The day Jennye is referring to is September 30, the day Busby Elementary School Parent Advisory Committee held a meeting to discuss the current issue of the recitation of the Lord"s Prayer and vote with each family from Busby Elementary being entitled to one ballot.
The outcome of the vote was of 64 available votes; 30 for Prayer. 3 against. 31 did not vote.
Today, October 1st, 2015 in the little farming town of Busby, Alberta Jennye Blain is at home screening calls and fearing for the safety of her daughter. She is unapologetic about what she has done and what she is willing to fight for. It is simply shocking that in this day and age of reason, persecution like this still occurs.
Or is it shocking?
On August 6th, 2015 Niloy Chatterjee, who wrote under the alias Niloy Neel, was hacked to death last Friday after men broke into his flat in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka. His family were locked in a separate room while the murder took place. Niloy had complained to the police about threats he had been receiving however his complaints reportedly disregarded by the police.
Niloy wasn’t the first blogger killed for his writings in Bangladesh. Over the last year (2015) three other bloggers were killed.
May 12 - Ananta Bijoy Das, blogger for Mukto-Mona website, killed while on his way to work in the city of Sylhet.
March 30 - Washiqur Rahman Babu, blogger, hacked to death by three men in Dhaka.
February 26 - Avijit Roy, a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger, killed while walking with his wife outside Dhaka University.
An Islamic militant group in Bangladesh has issued a hit list of secular bloggers, writers and activists around the world, saying they will be killed. Many of the bloggers on that list have gone into hiding or fled the country. Many have changed their names to avoid further danger or persecution of their families. One blogger, when interviewed by the BBC for their documentary ‘Our World: The Bangladesh Blogger Murders’ said, “I feel like I am in an open-air jail. I can see the sky but it is like a prison. I have to limit my movements. I have to be very cautious all the time.”
Although Bangladesh is a secular country the majority of it’s population are Muslim. The reaction of the Muslim community to the writings of the bloggers is frank. “They are speaking against Islam, Shariah, the scriptures, God and the prophet Muhammad. So it is essential to punish them according to Shariah law…We believe everyone has the right to speak in a democratic country. This is true, otherwise how can you have liberty? But you can’t do just anything you want…Nobody should dare speak against Muhammad. Nobody is allowed to do that. We [Muslim community] have the right and the power to punish such people.” (Muhammad Jaforullah Khan – Hefazat-e-Islam).
How is the reaction of the Christians in the community of Busby, Alberta any different from the Muslims in the communities of Bangladesh?
Certainly there have been no murders in the town of Busby and I doubt very much it would ever escalate to that level. My understanding of the community of Busby is that it is a tight knit farming community with deep roots in faith and tradition. They are a proud community.
People may look at places like Bangladesh and assume the Muslim communities there are backward or barbarian. Yet the communities of Dhaka are also proud communities. Tight knit with deep roots in faith and tradition.
The reaction of the Bangladeshi Muslims to the views of the bloggers is similar to the reaction of the Albertan Christians to the views of Jennye Blain and her family - Anger.
The Bangladeshi bloggers live in fear of persecution and death and Jennye and her family live in fear of persecution and community backlash. In fact many atheists in Canada live in fear the same way that Jennye and her family do. Fear is at the heart of this issue.
When fear stops people from saying what they want to say then fear has won and freedom and liberty are incapacitated.
[Sources: BBC Our World, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, The Edmonton Journal, Aljazeera]