It’s a universal truth that death is not a new fad; people die all the time. The tradition has been around since the world began, so we should be used to it and accept it by now. The possibility of death is ever-present 24-7 and in, most cases, strikes when least expected.
One such death occurred on April 25, 2016. A young ‘bright spark’ Bangladeshi was murdered by Islamist extremists. What’s another murder added to the elongated list, one might ask. It’s the sort of danger one can expect in a major metropolis like Dhaka.
This one, however, is significantly different. The murdered young man, Xulhaz Mannan, did no harm to anyone. In fact, he lived his life diagonally opposite: he helped everyone all he could. His only ‘crime’ was being different in the eyes of an ignorant few despite all humans being equal in the eyes of Allah.
Last year, when I read the heart-felt glowing and richly deserved tribute to Xulhaz by American ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat I was quite upset and annoyed that Xulhaz’s life should end that way and bring international shame to the nation.
It wasn’t a case that I knew him all that well. The truth be known, I did not know him well at all. But that’s the incredible thing, you didn’t need to know Xulhaz well to like and admire him.
I was one of the fortunate people to know him well enough to declare him a consummate professional, a gentleman, a person of great compassion, a man who had great love for humanity and, undoubtedly, an ambassador for Bangladesh and a valuable asset to the American Embassy.
There’s no doubt Xulhaz was talented, gifted and special. His heart was made of 24-carat gold, pure and soft. Inside the hallowed walls of the American Embassy, he was a Godsend to the charity projects I had going at the time. He gave them every assistance and support, both tangible and intangible, without even a sigh of hesitation or expectation of anything in return.
Without being asked, he once edited/re-wrote a proposal I had submitted to the American Embassy to ensure a greater chance of acceptance. There wasn’t even a hint of expecting something in return for his valuable contribution.
I think he was put on this earth to help those in need and this he did willingly without seeking anything in return, not even a ‘thank you’… but he received many and I doubt if these only came from me.
It’s tragic that his life ended so young and in the shameless brutal way it did. They say, however, that Allah works in many mysterious ways and while Xulhaz is no longer physically among us, perhaps his legacy of truth, honesty, compassion, love of mankind, acceptance of all, and efforts to structure a society that’s beneficial to all, will inspire us to support and fight for what is right, just, decent and honourable whatever the odds or consequences.
While I hold the personal opinion that Xulhaz is a “one off”, I hope his mould has not been broken and there are more people similar to him somewhere out there wanting, trying, working towards benefitting and building a better Bangladesh.
Xulhaz Mannan is one of those people who will be missed, but never forgotten. May Allah embrace him eternally.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a foreign friend of Bangladesh.