Muslim House, Mohsin Habib, ISBN 978-984-92182-7-2, Behula Bangla, 2017
The title of Habib's work is suggest why did our valiant freedom fighters liberate this country? Why did the martyrs go through hell for their mother tongue? The answer cannot be penned outright; it has to be felt first. Unfortunately, most of us have paid scant attention to their achievements in the first place. Moreover, some of us have tarnished our glorious history of liberation because of silly political maneuverings. Surely we are unique among nations for so blemishing the past. Mohshin Habib tries to depict that process discerningly in his work Muslim House.ive but does not fully represent its content. His is a novel about a young boy, Majed, who views the liberation war from his point of view. He is raised by his mother under the guardianship of Atahar, a powerful person in Faridpur who supports Pakistan blindly and wants Bangladesh to be defeated because of his religious prejudices. Throughout the book, readers come across instances of the violence done by the (West) Pakistan military and their local collaborators and Bihari supporters. The storyline develops through Majed's growing perception of the situation. It ends with his understanding of the bitter truth that after liberation real freedom fighters have often been suffering while some hypocrites have attained success and are even treated with respect.
It has to be said that to his credit that Habib manages to treat the essentially serious events of Muslim House with humor, something rare in this sort of book. The book is also a compelling read because of its vivid delineation of educated razakars or collaborators' lifestyle and the way they use their learning to justify (West) Pakistani demands on Bangladeshis and to make religion the only barometer of nationality. Hamid underscores the way some educated people are still using religion and the issue of language to meet their own ends. Habib's novel is admirable also because of the flow of his writing.
However, there are portions in Muslim House that can appear monotonous, especially when Habib attempts to reproduce political conversation. The ending of his book is also too abrupt. Surely the development of the story demanded a longer conclusion.
Nevertheless Habib's Muslim House is worth reading in our time for it deals with issues that still have significance for our national and political consciousness. The incidents depicted in the book can also be connected to events occurring around us. There are too many razakars flourishing even now and freedom fighters in plight or forced to do things that sully them. The sacrifices our freedom fighters made during the liberation war and trauma they had to undergo subsequently are sad and depressing facts; they can never be compensated adequately for what they underwent. But it is good to have writers like Habib reminding us of the neglect they have suffered and the unfortunate consequences of the betrayal of the ideals that led to our liberation through his compelling novel.
Ishrat Binte Aftab is a student at BRAC University