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National poet 'inter-faith advocate'

Bangladesh marks national poet's birthday

National poet 'inter-faith advocate'
Kazi Nazrul Islam reporter, Dhaka

May 26, 2011

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Bangladeshis began celebrating the 112th birth anniversary of their national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam yesterday to mark his great contribution in fostering religious harmony in Bengal before and after independence. Three-days of celebrations are being held to honor Nazrul, a Bengali Muslim popularly known as Bidrohi Kobi who died in 1976. At Bangladesh’s highest educational institution, Dhaka University, the Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue Center organized a half-day discussion that highlighted inter-faith advocacy in the great poet’s works. Around 150 students and leaders from various religions attended the event at the university’s Advanced Humanities Research auditorium. “Nazrul’s writings fostered religious harmony and still teach us how to respect other religions,” said the university’s vice-chancellor Arefin Siddique, the chief guest. “The younger generation needs to know more about his work so they can contribute to maintaining and improving a harmonious society,” he added. He warned the gathering against who he termed “traders of religion” who are very active these days, some of whom are strongly opposed to government moves to ensure equal rights for women. Nazrul's writings explore themes such as love, freedom, and revolution. Throughout his career, he wrote short stories, novels and essays, but is best-known for his poems and Bengali ghazals (classical songs). Nazrul composed nearly 4,000 songs, collectively known as Nazrul geeti (Nazrul songs), which are still widely popular today. Dr. Saumitra Shekhar, the Bengali Department head at the university, said Nazrul was very outspoken against religious bigotry, which sparked many communal riots and clashes between Muslims and Hindus during British rule. “We shouldn’t only memorize his songs and poetry, but we should also internalize his inter-faith mindset, the Hindu academic said. “Christians use Nazrul’s songs in liturgies because they speak of humanity,” World Religion Department assistant professor, Father Tapan D’Rozario said. “Religious leaders have lots to learn from him as he paid the highest respect to all religions in his writings” added Father D’Rozario, who heads pontifical mission societies in Bangladesh. The center’s director Kazi Nurul Islam said the government should declare the poet’s birthday a “national inter-faith harmony day” and help the center’s initiatives in fostering interreligious solidarity. Several students said the discussion made them realize that they have lot to learn to promote inter-faith harmony. “There is no use getting hyperbolic against any religion because all religions are good,” said Majidul Islam, 19, a Muslim student. Pranab Kumar Barua, secretary for a Buddhist cultural organization agreed. “We can ensure harmony when we sit, eat, speak and think together. It’s a demand of time,” he said. END Related Reports: Archbishop blesses inter-faith cemetery Bangladesh praised as interfaith leader
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