Lecture gives insight on Bengali culture

Daily Sundial

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The first Kazi Nazrul Islam Endowed Lecture focusing on the art, culture and literature of Bangladesh and Bengal was held April 23 by the College of Humanities.

The lecture, held in the University Student Union Thousand Oaks Room, focused on Kazi Nazrul Islam, a Bengali poet, songwriter, humanist and philosopher. Islam, according to many, was an influential figure during the 20th century. His work illustrated his dissatisfaction with British rule over India, social injustice and religious fanaticism. Islam was alive during a time when India was experiencing religious rioting, and he also supported equal rights for women.

June McDaniel, presenter of the lecture and a religious studies professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, said there is a need for a new understanding of Islam that is progressive because regressive ideas lead to destruction and religious wars, much like those experienced during the poet’s time.

“(Kazi Nazrul Islam’s) voice is much needed today,” McDaniel said. “Not enough people are talking about peace.”

From 1919 to 1943, Islam tried to join Hindus and Muslims as a voice of global unification, said Gulsan Ara Kazi, chair of the Nazrul Studies Committee and a member of the Taranga Association of California.

“I am Muslim, but my words are for all lands, all ages and all people,” Islam wrote in one of his works.

Funding for the lectureship was provided to the College of Humanities by the T.A.C., Bengali community members, and CSUN’s Religious Studies Department, said Phyllis Herman, religious studies professor.

The department was approached by the T.A.C. to s expose the community to Bangladesh and the Bengali culture, Herman said.

“Now is the time to bring in (Islam’s) philosophy,” Kazi said. “This is what’s needed at this time.”

People throughout the world show hatred toward each other instead of helping each other, Kazi said.

During the lecture, the Rotary Club of Dhaka, Bangladesh, donated a collection of books to CSUN’s Religious Studies Department. The collection of about 50 books included various works on Bangladesh and its culture.

Herman said there is a large Bengali community in this area, and she would like to see the community represented at CSUN.

“(The Bengali community) should be able to read about their own culture,” Herman said. “There’s a lot of interest in Islam.”

Kazi said students are the leaders of the future, and it is important that their ways of thinking be enriched.

The College of Humanities and the T.A.C., along with members the Bangladeshi and Bengali community, started raising money in 2003, after the program was established in 2002. The North American Bangladesh Community contributed $1,000 to the fund, said Omar Farooq, webmaster of the Kazi Nazrul Islam homepage. About $12,000 was needed to fund the lectureship.

The department will offer one lecture per year. The Bangladesh community hopes to sponsor three lectures a year, providing the speakers in the department offer the space.

“They’re willing to give their support outside of the lectureship,” Herman said.