A Bangladeshi social media sensation in a recent interview exposed the extent of online hate, bigotry, abuse and chilling threats from Muslims she had to endure, all because of her religious identity. Hundreds of people not only used unspeakable profanity against her and her family, but also the Gods she prayed to. Some even left threats describing how they would molest her. The virtual terror unleashed upon her not only wrecked her mental wellbeing, but made her second guess every aspect of her identity and life in Bangladesh. Is it a sin to be born as a Hindu in Bangladesh? She recounts that she couldn’t sleep for days.
While speaking with Manju Ahmad, anchor of a Bangladeshi talk show, the celebrated TikToker Samonty Shoumi stated that she had posted a video of herself at the Durga Puja Pandal on the seventh day of Durga Puja this year. In response, Muslims, who had so far been unaware of her religious background, hurled unimaginable abuse at her, including: “You are a sub-human”; “You Hindu whore”; “F*ck you and f*ck your fake idol-worshipping religion”; “Dirty Hindu maid,” and so on. There were choicest of obscenities, very descriptive ones, for the Hindu Goddess Durga as well. While most of the expletives were beeped out on the show, we have tried to provide the closest possible translations of the Bengali slang. Apart from these, in numerous comments people said that they were unfollowing her upon learning that she was a Hindu. Muslims, irrespective of gender or age, tagged each other, directing people in their network to unfollow her because she was a Hindu. Samonty further revealed that around a thousand people unfollowed her that day.
In response to the Islamic attack, Samonty said that she was raised in Bangladesh, but it never occurred to her that she didn’t belong there; she has, however, now been introduced to the jihadi side of the society of which she is a part. Looking into the camera, she asserted that she took extreme pride in the family she was born into and the religion she belonged to. She emphasized that it was not Hindus who carried explosives onto a plane, and pointed out that the recent attacks on the Hindus were carried out for alleged blasphemy against Islam, though everyone knows now who is the real culprit was (a Muslim man, Iqbal Hossain, placed a Quran at a Durga Puja pavilion, triggering an anti-Hindu pogrom in Bangladesh).
Samonty is not the first Bangladeshi celebrity to be harassed for not being a Muslim. All hell broke loose when National Award-winning actor Chanchal Chowdhury posted a picture of him with his mother on Mother’s Day this year. As he has a religiously ambiguous name, most people had no idea he was a Hindu. However, the bright vermillion on his mother’s hair partition (a sign of matrimony worn by Hindu women) gave away his religious affiliation. Rabid religious fanatics came out of the virtual woodwork to spew vitriol against him and hurl revolting epithets at his mother. Some suggested that he must convert to Islam, while others explained how every human being is born a Muslim, but goes astray after he starts worshipping idols.
Things are not very different either for Hindu sportsmen in Bangladesh. A couple of years ago, Hindu cricketer Liton Das drew massive hate for being a Hindu after he shared good wishes for Durga Puja on social media. Some Bangladeshi Muslims can get remarkably creative with their slurs. One Md Metun stated that the status of the Hindu goddess Durga was lower than that of a strand of a fur on a dog’s paw in a Muslim’s home (domesticating dogs is haram in Islam). Liton was compelled to concede and take down the picture featuring good wishes for Durga Puja.
Interestingly, in portraying itself as a sad, hapless, underprivileged South Asian country struggling with lack of educational and medical infrastructure, Bangladesh has received massive grants from international welfare bodies. But beyond that pity-arousing surface, Bangladesh is home to hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have no interest in the growth of their country. Their efforts are all directed toward hating non-Muslims, forming massive mobs and ransacking Hindu villages, putting up fake stories of blasphemy by Hindus, and then attacking them. If they are not able to attack anyone physically, these religious zealots quench their fanaticism by hounding non-Muslims online. It is funny because just a couple of forefathers ago, this entire demography was a Hindu civilization converted to Islam through the application of force or fear, by some Muslim invader or the other from across Asia.