Monday, January 10, 2000

Documentation: Background tothe song PARWARDIGAR - ' The Creator'

The Liberation War of 1971, was following a rejection of the people of Bangladesh to the rulers of Pakistan, who carried out the worst carnage known to man with a systematic reign of genocide and ethnic cleansing all in the name of Islam. The racist Pakistani mindset chose to demean the predominantly Bengalee Muslim population with insinuations of being lesser Muslims or Hindu converts when it cried out against oppression and demanded freedom.

With the plea of 'Islam being in grave danger', the murder machine employed local lackeys and collaborators to further their evil design - and by the time it all ended nine gruesome months later on the 16th of December 1971, millions of Bengalee - the majority being Muslims in particular, perished. The actual number of dead in our war has always been debated, however what we choose to forget is even in the greatest wars for the establishment of Islam all over the world 1500 years back, less than two thousand Muslim's lost their lives! The carnage in Bangladesh is perhaps the worst case of Muslim/Muslim carnage in Islamic history. In Bangladesh insane Pakistani Muslim mindset chose to slaughter millions of their fellow Bengalee Muslims - with only one claim, 'superior man' or superior Muslims.

Out of the ruins of that traumatic war, we were born a nation with a deep identity crisis. While secularism became one of our states pillar - the secular possibilities in Islam was never explored - and consequently communal and reactionary forces harped on by hate propaganda, chose to demonize Islam - and attempts were made to strip Bengalee Muslims off an identity that they had lived with for thousands of years.

Meanwhile, lot of us took comfort in calling ourselves secular, without realizing that the Bengalee tradition and culture by and large has always been secular with Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam - never interfering in affairs of state. Complex was our attempt to preach secularism in alien dictions to a population that had all elements of secularism already present. The resultant confusion created the kind the situation that encouraged more demons of distrust and intolerance to rise and raise their heads. Liberal's were swearing at Islamist as fundamentalist, while extremist considered liberals as atheist and heretics.

Came a time, through intrigue and conspiracy the remnants of the collaborators, the hate monger returned to the limelight of Bangladesh's political history. In no time they swerved public opinions and whilst they democratically remain a microscopic minority, their public profile thanks to the press and gross mistakes of our liberals, appeared to threaten Bangladesh's very existence. There have been international demands to condemn Bangladesh as an 'Islamic terrorist state' - a la Sudan, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. It pained me greatly to see that we were unable to do anything to clarify our actual position - so great was our fear of the extremist, and so great was our ignorance. Great also was our fear that choosing Islam would mean being condemned to the 'back seat' of progress.

While we preached secularism without reference to its natural existence in our culture - a new minority trend rose among liberals that equated all cap and beard wearing Muslim into the 'fundamentalist' mindset. This together with the term 'razakar' or collaborator equated simple God fearing Muslims to the category of national enemies. While it is true that predominantly Muslims chose to side with the Pakistan murder machine - what is never discussed in public is that many Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Bengalees also collaborated with the enemy. No other community therefore, other than the Muslim in Bangladesh had to pay a higher price for their personal belief system. A generation of cap and beard sporting Muslims born after the Liberation War and with no connection to that period of infamy in our national history, are considered national enemies - only because they are practicing Muslims, and wear its habits scrupulously.

That misunderstanding was the bone of contention and further divided Bangladesh and all plural aspect of its society. The Taslima Nasreen controversy further exacerbated the crisis and more and more Islamist extremist spread hates - as also the old hysteria of 'Islam is in danger' was revived.

What liberals forgot, is the Liberation War was fought NOT as a rejection to Islam, but specifically Islamic extremism of the Pakistan State. The Pakistani fatwa of Bengalee Muslims being Hindu, was proved wrong as 28 years since our liberation - more than 90% of our population still subscribe to the Islamic faith. Clearly Islam has never been in any danger of extinction in Bangladesh, and remains after Indonesia the second most populous state with an Islamic population.

Liberals were left a clear option - either to side with the common people or, align with the city bred and based intellectuals preaching a brand of secularism that was misconstrued as atheisms or Hinduism. The communal frenzy of hate and suspicion amongst community continues in Bangladesh till this day... but thankfully its is not as serious a situation as is made out to be by the media, which has taken on the fashionable culture of anti-Islamic bias so popular in the West. Hindus, Buddhist and Christians enjoy a large degree of religious autonomy and freedom in Bangladesh.

For a Muslim God fearing liberal such as me, from a unique Buddhist and Persian lineage, with liberal agnosticism being the backbone of a culture in which I grew up, and a missionary school and college education in my formative years, I could not accept this deep divide and was deeply pained.

I knew all along that contrary to popular misconception, Islam did not permit fundamentalism or coercions of any kind. The concept of jihad is the worst nightmare we have, in that our religious extremist have chosen the jihad of weapons - considered among the lower forms of jihad as their political agenda - as opposed to the highest form of jihad, knowledge, logic, arguments, examinations and debate.

It was time for me to address the issue of Islamic extremism from an Islamic position and Parwardigar: The Creator was born. The approach is from the Islamic concept of fariyaad or plea to the creator, complaining about the frailties, insensitivity and intolerance of my fellow Muslims. It calls for tolerance and secularism and draws a clear picture of Mosques and Temples leaning side by side in harmony - in LOVE.

Acknowledgements and Gratitude :

Parwardigar : Creator is Bangla adaptation of the American singer, the late Jim Croce's original song against Christian fundamentalism, 'which way are you going'

English translation of the Holy Koran by Daud and Pickthall - my constant source of reference. Husnein Heikals 'Life of Muhammad PBUH'. Karen Armstrong 'A History of GOD' and to my mother Late Nurjahan Haque Sona, the only Islamic teacher I have had in my life.

Unpublished - written by Mac sometimes in 1996-97


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