January 27, 2007

Islam Is Mercy and Tolerance

From: The 11th Annual International Picture Contest: PHOTOJOURNALISM
By The Popular Photography & Imaging Staff
January 2005

The caption reads:
G.M.B. Akash, 28
Dhaka, Bangladesh

You're initially drawn in by the youngster's sad eyes, but then react in horror to the lock and chains wrapped around his ankles. G.M.B. Akash was visiting a [Quran] village school in Dhaka, where this young boy was restrained as punishment for refusing to study.
So what, one might say. The picture is heartbraking, but we have seen worse from the religion of peace. At least the little fellow has still got all his limbs, eyes and seems to be generally physically unharmed.

GMB Akash, photographed by Tajnur Jahan Trisha.

But the story doesn't end here. Yesterday, the German newsmagazine SPIEGEL ONLINE reported, that this photo was not without consequences for G.M.B. Akash. In spite of warnings, he insisted on the publication of the picture and the influential and much read Nepalese glossy "Himal" put it up on its frontpage.

Akash gets threatening phone calls from Islamist extremists. he tries to explain. He intends to help the Koran school to change its way, he says. The voice at the other end of the line says: "If you are doing it like that, you are lost." Some days later, five men are visiting Akash's parents' house. Akash stops going to the office. Just at that time, a series of Islamist bomb attacks is ravaging Dhaka. Akash remains silent. "They threatened that if I say anything they will punish me." The police? "Policemen are evil people. If you need help, they laugh at you."

Since two weeks now, G.M.B. Akash is living in Germany. The charitable foundation "Hamburger Stiftung für politisch Verfolgte" granted him and his wife a stipend and made it thus possible for them to stay for a year here. He says "I wish to reach two goals with my photographs … to change grievances and to make people to value more what is good."

A slide-show of G.M.B. Akash's work can be seen HERE. The captions are German, but the pictures are self-explaining.

Hat-tip: PI!