Friday, 7 January 2011

Jashim Salam: Celestial Devotion

Photo © Jashim Salam-All Rights Reserved
Jashim Salam is a Bangladeshi photographer, who's currently working for Driknews international photo agency. He was recognized with a Jury Special Award in the 6th Humanity Photo Awards 2009 Contest, sponsored by the China Folklore Photographic Association, the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee and UNESCO. He also received awards in the 69th International Photographic Salon of Japan (Asahi Shimbun) in 2008, a honorable mention in the USA Legatum Center Photo Contest in 2009, a special award in the People & Planet photo contest 2009 in Australia, and otjers.

Jashim's atmospheric photo essay Celestial Devotion is featured by the website SocialDocumentary.net, and is about an an orphanage and Islamic school in Chittagong. The orphanage/school claims to have mentored thousands of youngsters to memorize the Qu'ran since it was established in 1970. It currently hosts some 200 orphans who share very basic facilities. According to UN statistics, 6 million students are enrolled in the madrasa system in Bangladesh.

Madrasas have received (some deservedly) a bad reputation in the West, and being synonymous with fundamentalist teachings. Some are just that, but the larger majority seem to be nothing more than institutions providing social assistance to orphans and the poor. This is not a novel concept, but one that is shared by many other religious traditions such as Buddhism, and Hindu Vedic schools as an example.