Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Nostalgic Keane Bridge of Sylhet

The Keane Bridge is the only connection between the south and the Sylhet city until 1986 to cross over the river Surma. The bridge reminds me of many memories with my friends and family in Sylhet.  

It is 395 metres long and 5.5 metres wide. It is a steal truss bridge, one of the oldest types of modern bridge. It was built at a cost of 56,000 taka.

a sunny afternoon at the Keane Bridge  

The bridge was constructed in 1936 and was named after Sir Michael Keane who was the Governor of Assam from 1932 to 1937. 

The Government house, residence of the governor

I could not find any photographs of the Governor or any other information about his life; I found some pictures of his daughter Kissane Keane and the house the governor lived in. The pictures must have been taken during the period Sir Michele Keane governed Assam (1932-37). 

Kissane Keane, daughter of the Governor of Assam Sir Michael Keane

The photographs were taken by famous Austrian ethnologists Christopher von F├╝rer-Haimendorf (1909 – 1995) who spent forty years of his life doing fieldwork in northeast India. 


Kissane Keane and a smoking man at a horse race in Shillong

© SOAS Library, University of London
©Some Sylhet lovers discovered through Google 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

On Mustafa kemal Ataturk & The 'Holy Ottoman Empire'

The Ottoman Empire & Islam

The Ottomans are an interesting subject and I am bemused to see many Muslim blindly romanticising this as an Islamic empire and unable to look at it as just another political phenomenon that occurred with an Islamic coating in that period. The Ottomans were shrewd enough to produce and sustain a great credibility amongst its ruling population by taking on an Islamic umbrella. They become the custodians of the two holy mosques and claimed to be the caliphate. However, when I visited Topkapi Palace and saw the imperial harem, read about fratricide and many other elements that clearly reflects the classical practices of the kings and kingdoms; I wondered how Islamic they were. However, some of the Sultans was probably sincere in their devotion to Islam such as Suleiman Kanuni (Suleiman the Magnificent) who did some great work in defining the Islamic law (Shariah). I don’t know much. But I think calling themselves ‘Sultan’ and their kingdom ‘caliphate’ was mere branding and an attempt to distinguish themselves from other contemporary kings and kingdoms in order to have a strategic advantage in being sheltered under the greatest ideology of that time, ‘Islam’.      


Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

You will have a lot against Mustafa Kemal if you are assessing his actions from an Islamic point of view. We as Muslims are often ignorant of his bravery against the invading forces e.g. Italy, Greek and the allied forces during WW1 and later how his leadership sustained the leftover of the Ottomans Empire and created the Republic of Turkey. It is due to him today that Turkey is one of the most advanced Islamic countries without having oil or any natural resources. Yes he can be criticised for his harsh policies in secularising the state, but a lot of his initiatives have actually formed the foundation of today’s Turkey such as building thousands of schools and free primary education, giving women equal civil and political rights, etc. The Muslim majority countries are yet to accomplish such achievements.

I was impressed by the people of Turkey’s love and respect for him despite their disapproval of some of his actions. His secularisation drive still did not alienate the Turks to that extent that even today they don’t question his leadership or undermine his contribution for the nation. It was very difficult for me to get a single negative word out against Mustafa Kemal even from hard-core AK party supporters in Istanbul.


Blame on Mustafa Kemal for the Ottomans demise

You cannot blame Mustafa Kemal for naturally dissolving the Ottomans, ‘the sick man of Europe’, which came to an end because of its decaying ability to maintain an Empire and keep up with the technological advancement and industrialisation of the Europeans. This ultimately paved the way for the Europeans to take over the Middle East and the Zionist’s to cut a deal with the British following the Great War. If you want to blame anyone, blame Faisal I of Iraq, a Hashemite, descendent of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and the third son of the grand Sharif of Makkah, who signed the Faisal-Weizmann agreement during the Paris Peace Conference - the booty ceremony of WW1, in 1919. He was foolishly dreaming to be the king of a United Arab and making a pact with World Zionist Organisation.

Mustafa’s Young Turk movements not only laid the foundations for a modern Turkey it also secured a big nation state for the Ottoman subjects who were majority Muslims.