Religion at the Margins: Resistance to Secular Humanitarianism at the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh
2. Background and Related Work
2.1. Religious Background of Rohingya Crisis
2.2. Forced Mobilities, Human Rights, and Religion
2.3. Modernity, Secularism, and Humanitarian Projects in Refugee Camps
“With a boat, we reached to Teknaf. There we stayed for two weeks. We could eat some dry foods once a day. Then, one day, a huge “gari”( vehicle, not sure it was a bus or a truck) arrived. That gari brought us to Kutupalong. Once we arrived, they (UNHCR) told us to build our own shelter. They gave us a “terpol” (canvas for tents) and 10 bamboos. My Abbu (father) built a temporary shelter with those. A few days later they moved us to this Camp 4E. They built this house for us. This new shelter is a very small one. We sleep in the same room. 7 people in one room. Abbu sometimes works when the NGOs call. Other than that, none of my family members work. We are entirely dependent on the ration.”—Nafisa, 26 years old, female.
“We are from a very reputed Muslim family. My father was a businessman. We had our own house. Our house had 3 rooms—one guest room, 2 bedrooms, and a kitchen. We had a separate bathroom and a cattle house. We had many trees around our house. Those trees worked as ‘purdah’ (screening) from male outsiders. I had a flower garden with 12 different species. In a separate land, we planted potatoes, eggplants, and other vegetables. We had banana trees, Mango tree. We had jack fruit and lemon trees, coconut trees, etc. Near our kitchen, there were two coconut trees, 5 betel nut trees, and a guava tree. Our seasonal income from these trees often used to exceed 20 thousand takas1”.—Nafisa, 26 years old, female.
“I have never cooked using others’ stove. Families like ours do not do that. Moreover, going to another place (community kitchen), carrying the raw foods and utensils there, and coming home with cooked food on a daily basis—this is not convenient for us at all. My neighboring women and I want to maintain proper purdah. Going to a distant place for cooking doesn’t help us much as many male members of the camp spend their time sitting at the street corners and often end up teasing women pedestrians.”—Nafisa, 26 years old, female.
“Disagreement on an issue with the neighbors is a common scenario here in my block. One day, two neighbors had a fight over a chicken. Let me tell you the story. Abbas, took a chicken from his neighbor Shajjad’s small poultry farm, without Shajjad’s permission. Abbas claimed that his wife had asked permission from Shajjad’s wife before taking the chicken and Shajjad’s wife did not have any problem. Abbas was trying to marry off his elder daughter to a boy from the eastern block. That day the boy’s family came to see3 Abbas’s daughter. Abbas did not have any cash to buy some chicken for his guests from the local market. Therefore, he took one from Shajjad’s poultry farm with Shajjad’s wife’s permission since Shajjad was not at home. However, Shajjad complained to me that he was the owner of the chicken, how could Abbas take it without even asking him? I told Abbas to pay Shajjad for the chicken immediately. Abbas denied to pay and said that he did not have any cash to pay Shajjad. Shajjad was very angry and started to shout at Abbas. I called them both at the mosque after Asr prayer. I also let the Imam know the situation and asked him to help me solve the dispute. At the meeting, the Imam explained to Shajjad why Islam said it was a good thing to help a father, who was trying to marry off his daughter. He convinced Shajjad that unknowingly he actually had done a great deed by giving his chicken to Abbas and Allah would give him reward in return. The Imam told to Abbas that Abbas should invite Shajjad at his daughter’s wedding and treat him well to express gratitude for his help. Both of them calmed down after the Imam’s speech. I always try to keep a very good relation with the Imam to keep the community as peaceful as possible.”—Badshah Mia, 40 years old, male.
“My family did not have much food for ourselves during the Rohingya influx. However, we shared whatever we had with them. We did that just for one reason. They were our Muslim brothers and sisters. If I did not help them, Allah would not help me in the future. After a few days we had no food left for ourselves, our savings were at stake too. A and B NGOs told us that if we, the landowners of this area put our lands on leases, they would built shelters for the Rohingyas and pay us intermittently for using our lands. We agreed. However, A and B do not pay us regularly. Most of the cases they postpone payments. I have to go to their office and sometimes after waiting for a whole day, I come back empty-handed. Right now, I have lost all of my lands to this camp people. The pond water is polluted by the latrines. I cannot collect fruits or vegetables from my trees as the Rohingya people are eating those. I have no control over my own property except for my house.”—Amir Ali, 60 years old, male.
“I am an old man. I know I am at the end of my life journey. I do not see myself capable of farming my land again. Even if they (Rohingyas) leave today, this land won’t be fertile enough to produce crops in the next 5 years. Maybe, my sons, grandsons will be able to work again on our land. However, if you ask me, Chacha (uncle), are you happy? My answer will be Alhamdulillah. I am happy that I have helped this many Muslims with my food, my land. my vegetables, my fruits, my fishes (from his ponds). I know Allah will reward me for this in the afterlife.”—Amir Ali, 60 years old, male.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
Conflicts of Interest
|WFS||Women Friendly Space|
|RRRC||Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner|
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Nafisa mentioned Bangladeshi Taka as currency so that I could understand the value of her family’s earning from their fruit garden.
In the camps, under the direct supervision of local Government Rohingya refugees are organized under the leadership of a group of community leaders, known as ‘Majhi’. In general, every majhi is responsible for 50–300 families or a block in a camp. In the larger camps, several block-majhis work under the leadership of a ‘head majhi’ or ‘camp majhi’.
It is common in Rohingya culture that during an arranged marriage groom’s family come to meet the “potential” bride at her house and ask questions to test her religious and domestic knowledge.
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Mim, N.J. Religion at the Margins: Resistance to Secular Humanitarianism at the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh. Religions 2020, 11, 423. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080423
Mim NJ. Religion at the Margins: Resistance to Secular Humanitarianism at the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh. Religions. 2020; 11(8):423. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080423Chicago/Turabian Style
Mim, Nusrat Jahan. 2020. "Religion at the Margins: Resistance to Secular Humanitarianism at the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh" Religions 11, no. 8: 423. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080423