Guest post by Anisur Rahman
Bangladesh may not be a big country, either geographically, economically or politically, but it is strategically a significant country as far as religiosity is concerned. It is significant because it sits more or less in the moderate section of the Islamic religiosity, maintaining its own culture, language and tradition, away from the Arab Bedouin culture and tradition. If it verges into the ultra-religious section of Islamism, then the hope of salvaging the country having a vast, mostly illiterate population from the depth of Wahhabism would be very difficult indeed. As things stand at the moment, Bangladesh is showing all the signs of gradually and irretrievably sliding into Islamic fundamentalism.
The spate of killing in Bangladesh in the name of religion had been accelerating for some time now. Whereas in the whole of 2015, there were 23 brutal murders including four high profile murders – Avijit,Roy, Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy, Ananta Bijoy and Oyasiqur Rahman Babu – in April of 2016 alone there were four murders – Nazimuddin, Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, Xulhaz Mannan and Nikhil Chandra. There were 45 vicious murders over the past three years, all in the name of religion (read Islam), and most of them were claimed by Islamic groups. Why were they killed? Because they were humanist bloggers, free-thinkers, secularists and even music loving academics!
Bangladesh came into being as a country, free from the shackles of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, upholding four fundamental principles as embedded in the constitution – nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism. So, why supporting secularism and writing in favour of it is a crime? Does that warrant the top hierarchy of the present political machine – in the shape of the son of the all-powerful, all-knowledgable Prime Minister of Bangladesh – declaring that “we (meaning the government) cannot be seen to side with the secularists”? That comment was made after Dr Avijit Roy, an American of Bangladeshi origin, was hacked to death and his wife was grievously injured by the barbaric Islamists on the street of Dhaka in 2015.
That comment was effectively a carte blanche licence to the murderous gang of the Islamic fundamentalists. As the government cannot side with the victim, it sided with the perpetrators. No murderer was apprehended so far when murder after murder were committed all over the country. In fact, when a murderer was captured red handed by the public when he was running away and the murderer was handed over to the police, it transpired that the police could not keep him in custody as he ran away from the police station! This was the efficiency of the police force! The Inspector General of the Police (IGP), the topmost man of the Police Service, recently said that they cannot ensure safety and security of the bloggers and free-thinkers. They need to ensure security by themselves!
This is the country that Bangladesh has become now. The IGP is advising people to ensure their own security – as if the police are maintained and financed by the country to have picnic for themselves! And what is the implication of his advice? Is it not that the vigilante groups are encouraged? In any civilised country, a police officer advocating the formation of vigilante groups would lose his job immediately; but not in Bangladesh!
The root of the present problem, particularly with regard to Islamism, comes from brazen political corruption and moral depravity of the political hierarchy of the country. Let me deal with these issues separately in a sequential way.
A few years ago, in fact in 2007, when the CareTaker Government (CTG), took over the rein of the country after the unprecedented turmoil and breakdown of law and order in the country due to most uncivilised spat between the two ladies, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, leading the two political parties, the CTG encouraged the formation of a third party, away from the most vicious and obnoxious leaderships of these two parties. When the green shoot of the third party came into being with moderate, highly literate and politically savvy people, these two ladies ganged up to denounce and smear the potential leaders of this third party. These ladies may be semi-literate and illiterate respectively, but they are shrewd enough to realise that they can yo-yo into power at the moment, but the existence of a third party would blunt their chances forever. The third party in the hostile and dirty atmosphere of these two vicious ladies did not come into fruition. Since then, these ladies had been resorting to unfathomable political cataclysm to gain power and remain in power.
Moral depravity comes from the fact that power and money are the two most desirable commodities for these ladies and anything else – like human lives, national interests, country’s Constitution and even egregious claim of religiosity – is dispensable. The country’s Constitution had been used by these two ladies and their mentors as a mere ping-pong ball – introducing and eliminating ‘Islam as the State religion’ and ‘secularism’ as it suits them! At the moment Islam and secularism are huddled up in the Constitution, like these two imbecile ladies huddled up in the country.
The present prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, is playing the dirtiest political game with the lives of human beings and the sentimentality of the public toward religion. She has branded, to some extent rightly, the other lady, Khaleda, as Jamaat-e-Islam’s puppet and the agent of Pakistan. When vicious Islamists started murdering free-thinking moderate non-sectarian people, Hasina blamed Khaleda encouraging such murders. To the educated moderate people of the country, Khaleda became the byword of Islamic fundamentalism and hence she had been cast aside. Conversely, Hasina projected herself as a progressive, non-sectarian, enlightened leader upholding the Constitution of the country with secularism embedded in it.
Then the sting in the tail came out. Hasina’s son, Joy, proclaimed they (the government) cannot side with the secularists, thus giving the murderers carte blanche permission to carry on with their activities. The more murders are committed, more blame goes to Khaleda and more political leverage comes to Hasina! It’s a win-win situation for Hasina.
But in politics there is no one-way street forever. As Islamic fundamentalists, belonging to Jamaatis, JMBs and innumerable other offshoots of al-Qaeda and Taliban, are encouraged by Hasina gang, they became emboldened and extended their range of activities. Now they are killing not only secularists but also humanists – those who had shown interests in education, music etc. What Pakistan could not do eliminating the intellectuals of the then East Pakistan back in 1971, the political leaders of the independent Bangladesh are undertaking to complete their unfinished business! In this respect, one must be reminded that the modality of the Islamic fundamentalism aiming to establish Wahhabism (with Sharia law at the core) is to eliminate free-thinking and rationalist people. Bangladesh seems to be well on its way towards that ultimate aim of Wahhabism – thanks to Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.