Friday, June 14, 2002

'Moderate Islam' and the 'real' Bangladesh minority

Bangladesh, with the Awami League (AL) in power, earned the 'unprecedented' laurel of 'moderate Islam' during Bill Clinton?s visit in 2000. What our people have conveniently forgotten was that the former US President could not visit the Martyrs? Memorial in Savar as there were, according to the government of the day, alleged 'threats from Osama bin Laden's supporters'..

The facts on the ground were however different. The AL contributed to this great public relations disaster by slickly crafting a booklet called 'The Fangs of Fanaticism' through sycophants in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and passing its copies on to the media team accompanying Bill Clinton and his retinue along with the diplomatic corps in Dhaka. This was nothing less than a scare campaign. Nowhere else in the world, may I add, has any government done anything as perfidiously suicidal to its own nation's image.

The entire purpose of the booklet was to insinuate that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally, the Jamaat-e-Islam, had links with the Talibans and that the 'process of Talibanization' was already ongoing! In other words the AL government wanted to tell the Americans: 'We are your best choice.'

This was in effect an effort to loop in an international audience to our local politics, when much of the world was least interested in our plight. The massive show of disapproval for all that the AL was scheming in its overt ?love? for Hindu fanatics of India, and to appease the Americans with a ? moderate Islam? label, resulted in the party?s massive defeat in October.

None of the ruses worked. Everything backfired. The AL's credibility sunk to a super low, and it eventually fell from power and grace. Betrayed of course were the ordinary people of Bangladesh, who till this day live with an unfortunate stigma not of their own making. The more rabid section of the anti-Muslim Western press sunk their fangs into Bangladeshs image. Even The Far Eastern Economic Review, known for its sobriety and restraint, printed the infamous collection of lies, allegations and speculations in the story 'Beware of Bangladesh'.

Now we must tackle a very simple question: What is moderate Islam?

The answer to that is there is no such thing, because accepting that terminology would also mean accepting the notion of 'immoderate Islam' or 'terrorist Islam'. It would have been fair if the Americans had looked at 'moderate Hinduism' or 'moderate Zionism', but since that is not the case the arguments and logic for 'moderate Islam' are no longer relevant.

What the Americans don't know in their ignorance is that Islam is Islam, and the various connotations of Islam serve a purpose which has got more to do with US domestic and foreign policy and their multifarious dimensions rather than understanding its 'new enemy' Islam, again an overblown hate agenda of its Free Masonic media.

What is little known is that unlike Christianity, which exhorts its followers to offer the ?other cheek? when one is slapped, Islam goes steps further. It expects its followers to be literally 'shoved', and only when pinned to the wall does it permit reprisal in self-defence. Readers should note that the word 'permit' does not mean 'allowed', and there are set conditions for reprisals and means of protest in Islam, which is what the 'jihadis' on the other hand will not talk about!

However, what is of great shame to many Bangladesh citizens is why the BNP or the Jamaat or the AL should be lapping up these American connotations. The answer to that is simple. No Bangladeshi Muslim is prepared to see himself on the thin line that divides the post September 11 world. Beggars simply cannot be choosers.

It is a divide that is made more painful as the prevalent status quo requires appeasing the Americans as a necessary mean of survival. Euphemistically termed a 'developing country', which actually means a ' poor country', Bangladesh has surely no other choice but to join the 'international chorus brigade'. We are not Iran that we can proudly tell the US, 'We are neither with you nor with terror.' All the self-righteous governments in the 31 years of Bangladesh's history have done everything conceivable for this so called 'image', but have failed in keeping the citizens from going hungry.

Post-election violence has been merciless for the Hindu community in Bangladesh and it has all got to do with their alleged support for the AL that has given rise to attacks by 'pro-fundamentalist' elements. The first groups of Hindus that took shelter in the AL central office turned out to be AL workers with valid police cases against them ' they have merely used the AL premises to save themselves from real or imagined reprisals. When engaged in crimes Hindus are Awami Leaguers' when they are on the receiving end, they quickly don the mantles of minority members.

But that is only part of the story. My independent investigation with the help of friends in the Hindu community revealed that everybody admitted that reprisal killings and attacks were taking place, yet none could give me specific examples of such attacks within their immediate family or circle of friends!

What is important for all to note is that the biggest safety factor for the Hindu community in Bangladesh is the country's conscious citizens and media. Had it not been for the tolerant and peaceable nature of the Bangladeshi citizens, things would not have been blown further out of proportion. The AL-friendly media churned out reports to make mountains out of molehills, and it seemed that for every Hindu that was killed or repressed the papers mentioned hundreds! Unsubstantiated reports made more news than real cases of killing and repression, as did news of a 'pogrom', which even the West Bengal government denied.

Bangladeshi Muslims also experienced the flip side of 'communal hatred' in the campaign of the HRCBM. Anybody watching their video in the Net will not have failed to notice the rather tendentious interviews of the victims ? at one stage the interviewer nudged a village lady to utter the English word ?rape? repeatedly. There was also the coverage, fulminating in fury, of a pond from which 'fishes were looted by Islamic fundamentalists'. How bizarre!

Of interest to readers will be the efforts of Muslims on the Net to create a relief fund for the Bangladeshi minority. Nearly US$ 30,000 was raised, and it went directly to the welfare of the Hindu community in Bangladesh. It is sad but true that we see no such relief efforts for the succour of Bangladeshi Muslim refugees from Gujarat who are pouring into Bangladesh in droves. No Muslim or Hindus have undertaken any such efforts on the Net. Why is anybody's guess.

Adding salt to wound was the buffoonery of the BNP Home Minister. When he alleged that these were 'planned conspiracies', he left one wondering why he could not thwart the attacks on the minorities if he had prior knowledge of such so-called conspiracies. The conclusion on the so-called 'minority' issue is simple.

The Bangladeshi Hindus know for a fact that they are much better off than their cousins across the border, both in economic, political or religious terms. If the Langolband Hindu Fair, where devotees in hundreds of thousands flocked from all over the subcontinent, and which surprisingly did not make the mainstream press, or the zero retaliation on the community after the Gujarat carnage are any indicators, the Hindus are safe as long as they don't toe the lines of fanatics masquerading as AL workers and don't subscribe to the views of the communalist HRCBM who seem to have more of an AL/BJP/RSS political and communal agenda than a Bangladeshi one.

Which brings me to the final question. Are their Al-Qaeda or Talibans in Bangladesh?

The answer to that, if only half in jest, is a thumping 'YES' in that if both the words are to be checked etymologically, Al-Qaeda or 'the base' is the compulsory study of Arabic alphabets in the country's madrassahs by millions of its 'pupils', i.e. the 'Talibans', which means student or seeker in Arabic.
This brings us to the issue of whether or not the process of Talbanization has started in earnest in Bangladesh.

Those who wish to brand Bangladesh as a 'cocoon of terror' fail to realise that terrorism is the order of the day in Bangladesh and this has nothing to do with 'Islamic fanaticism' in particular, but rather the almost paranoiac agenda of the major political parties, the AL and he BNP in particular, to capture and hang on to state power by lunging at each others, throat at any given opportunity.

The terrorists, no matter which party they belong to, have the backing of the Indian communal and drug mafia elements that seek to destabilise Bangladesh, threaten the pluralistic aspects of its society and condemn it to remain poor. Notwithstanding the presence of fanatic 'kut mullah' interests who are dogged in their dreams and aspirations for an Islamised Bangladesh, all that these perverted elements seek is the division of Bangladesh, taking on the old colonial legacy of 'divide and conquer'.

Those arguing the daylight out of the 'Talibanization' of Bangladesh haven't the foggiest notion about the country?s pluralistic society, and neither do they have any idea of insurrection, guerrilla warfare or revolution.

The Talibans could only ride out of the rough-hewn villages in Afghanistan to capture State power because they had the solid backing of Pakistan, and to a large degree the US media that was fed up with the failures of the American backed 'jihad' that saw warlords at the helm of affairs. They also had the support of their Islamic neighbours.

The conditions in Bangladesh are quite unfavourable for a Taliban-like uprising because the essence of guerrilla warfare is to ensure both internal and external supply and support bases. With a 'fundamentalist Hindu' India and Buddhist Myanmar on both flanks, the Muslims of Bangladesh, while being demographically a 'majority community' in Bangladesh, are actually a minority who will get no external assistance and no over-the-border bases.

The 'geographical minority' of the subcontinent, the Muslims of Bangladesh, are thankfully not so naive, neither do they believe that the Jamaat-e-Islam are the 'sole agents' for Allah or Islam, as the AL is no sole agent for the 'War of Liberation', and as the BNP is no 'sole agent' for Bangladeshi Nationalism.


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