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Two pages ripped, an entire nation torn apart

January 31, 2024

DHAKA – A couple of days back, I woke up to video clips on Facebook showing a furious man ripping pages from a book and encouraging hundreds of onlookers to follow suit. Curious, I dove in to find the original 11-minute video, only to discover that the reason behind this viral stunt was an excerpt from the Class 7 Itihash O Samajik Biggyan (History and Social Science) textbook which discussed the need to respect and include people from gender-diverse communities, specifically those from the Hijra community.

It was all the more surprising when I found out who this enraged man was: Asif Mahtab Utsha, apparently an adjunct faculty member at BRAC University. Seeing an educator from a top private university openly disrespect an NCTB book at a Jatiyo Shikkhok Forum event was quite ironic. And, needless to say, appalling.

This is not to imply that we ought to police what others believe. People have the right to live life by their personal codes of morality, including abstaining from supporting certain causes and agendas. However, Asif crosses the line when he calls for forcibly imposing his beliefs onto others. And as the video continues to get thousands of likes, shares, and positive comments, I can’t help but be concerned about the ramifications of his actions on the most vulnerable people in our society.

Regardless of the inciteful rhetoric he uses to describe marginalised communities, he ironically fails to respect the bare minimum required of an “academic,” which he claims to be: presenting factually correct information.

Firstly, Asif conflates the very basic difference between sexuality and gender, using them interchangeably. In fact, the text does not address homosexuality at all, which is illegal in