In Detroit’s west side, life nearly comes to a halt as soon as the night falls. Mohammed Masuduzzaman preferred this semi-graveyard shift as a laundry-mart attendant as he could use the time to catch up with some studies. A PhD candidate at Wayne State University College of Engineering, Masuduzzaman probably typifies the middle class Bangladeshi who, after being disgruntled with the anarchy at home, sailed abroad in search of a better life. Masud was apparently a little late to start his voyage. With an eleven year old daughter and 3 year old son and a bachelor’s degree from BUET, several MS degrees in civil, environmental and urban planning, at the age near 50, he was still struggling for a safe existence in USA, the land of his dream.

On Monday, some assailants attacked Masud at his laundry mart, mercilessly chopped him over his face, head and all over the body. Masud was finally declared dead on Wednesday. When some of Masud’s BUET batch mates met his wife Dr Rubina Yasmin, she had an anticipated expenditure of around 12 thousand dollars including funeral arrangements and travel cost and had not more than a couple of hundred dollars in savings.

First e mail went out Wednesday asking for financial help to at least pay part of six thousand dollar funeral home cost. An amazing thing startd happening. People started calling the fundraisers from all over the world. They all want to help. And by Friday, when Masud’s Janaaza (last rite) was being held, the same email traveled the world, several times. I received the same mail at least 4 times by the end of the weekend. And at least 4 to 6 times of the intended funeral cost had already been raised in cash or in promise.

Masud’s Namaaz –e-Janaza was held at a mosque at Bangladeshi ghetto of Hamtramck in Detroit area. Hamtramck is home for almost 30, 000 blue color Bangladeshis, mostly from Sylhet area. While several thousands attended the Janaaza at one mosque, four other mosques in the vicinity raised the funeral cost just during the Friday sermons.

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As I was attending the Janaaza I felt the collective anger in the thousands of attendee. Masud was not the first to die such death. Recently there have been a string of hate crimes on Bangladeshis in Detroit area and the attendees there didn’t have the appetite to absorb yet another hate crime on their community and another death very passively.
When speakers asked permission for an impromptu blockade of the road in front of the mosque, Caniff Street, all the thousand attendee roared YES in a chorus. Poster papers were bought from local Office Depot, placards were written, and city councilor, smart youth Shahab Ahmad rushed to the city hall for blockade permission.

The blockade was all over in the local TV and media. Thanks to the half an hour blockade of Caniff Street, Masud’s case was instantly elevated from a lowly “waiting to be assigned” case to a “high profile” case with concurrent involvement of federal authorities.

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The Bangladeshi diasporas planning the blockade were definitely encouraged by a much larger scale blockade thousands of miles away at their native land. But the irony is that Masud escaped the relentless chopping of the nation by thugs and looters, but succumbed to another assault for belonging to a land which he fled. And while the 30 minute blockade of Caniff Street elevated Masud’s case to a high profile case, hundreds of hours of political maneuvering and nationwide blockade back in that land do not change the profile of the people even a tad.

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