Monday, March 28, 2011

Surrendering to Islamists in Bangladesh

by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Radical Islamist leaders, such as Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini, Moulana Rezaul Karim and their followers, are continuing to flex their muscles to signal the government in Bangladesh, the third-largest Muslim country in the world, that any decision that runs counter to Sharia Law or the fatwa [an Islamic religious-court edict, illegal under Bangladesh's constitution]will be confronted by these elements. A few days ago, Mufti Amini and Moulana Rezaul Karim called upon their followers to rage Jihad [holy war]against anyone attempting to ban the fatwa or pass any law which might go against the "Koran and Sunnah."

Since the secularist Bangladesh Awami League, the purportedly secularist party, came to power in January 2009, people expected that the muscle-flexing of radical Islamists would stop, as the ruling party always stated that it would ensure equal rights for every citizen of Bangladesh.

The situation has been seriously been worsening, however, as the government is visibly reluctant to take any action against the Mullahs, who freely continue their agitation. Worse, the leaders of the Islamist parties have been threatening the government and the judiciary to refrain from incorporating any law that runs counter to Koran and Sunnah.

Several hundred followers of Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini and Moulana Rezaul Karim on Thursday afternoon rallied in front of the office of Weekly Blitz newspaper [full disclosure: it is pur paper, and the only anti-Jihadist one in the region] in Dhaka, and chanted slogans such as, "Enemies of Islam shall be ousted from Bangladesh." As these demonstrators became increasingly hostile, we filed a Writ Petition with the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on March 13, 2001, requesting a court order to stop radicals from threatening violence and instigating Jihad. At the same time, several local publications, mostly patronized by Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist political forces, started publishing critical editorials against the anti-Jihadist movie project, a series of seven films, each exposing problems inside Sharia law and Islam. Its goal is to create public awareness about Sharia law -- Jihad, Burqas, Stoning, Beheading, Polygamy and Child Marriage -- to encourage people to speak out against Islamism, Sharia law, and voice the need for reform in Islam, the Koran and Islamic codes. The first film in the series, "BLACK," exposes the situation in the countryside -- similar to villages in other Muslim nations -- where Sharia law, Islamism, religious intolerance, hate speech and repression of women under Sharia are forcefully imposed on people, while systematic elimination of religious minorities continues. There are Islamic non-governmental organizations who fund men who convert girls to Islam. Other Muslim men are told that their forefathers will be awarded Paradise if he can convert a non-Muslim girl; every year, therefore, there are literally thousands of cases of the abduction and forceful conversion of girls, especially Hindus. Bangladeshi law protects the kidnappers by giving the label of "Romance" to these abductions.

Over 300 million people speak the local language Bangladesh and India alone; dubbing or sub-titles will be used for English, French, Hindi, and Urdu. The hope is to reach several hundred million people throughout the Muslim world.

Although the Writ Petition has yet to receive any decision from the Supreme Court, sadly a few days ago Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the parliament that her government shall not make any law that would go against the Koran and Sunnah. The Islamists see this statement as victory. It has emboldened the Islamists, who have begun further boosting their on-going programs of agitation programs throughout the country.

Although governments have already banned the most notorious Islamist militancy groups such as the Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh, Harkatul Jihad and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the current government's initiative to ban another Islamist group, Hizb-ut-Towhid [which was already black-listed by the interior ministry in 2009] has become uncertain.

According to reports published in the Bangladeshi media, several influential figures in the government, including the current Law Minister, Barrister Shafiq Ahmed, is unwilling to ban any more Islamist groups, out of fear of the wrath of the local radical Muslims and Islamists. At the same time, the current government is already hesitating about lifting ban on the religious publications of Ahmediyas in the country, even though the ban was imposed by the previous Islamist coalition government.

Although on various occasions governments in Bangladesh have made pledges to the international community to lift the ban on the religious publications of the Ahmadiya sect, for example, who hold that Islam is final law for humanity and that it is necessary to restore it to its pristine form, the experts on the Constitution as well as human rights groups see this ban as severe deviation from the constitutional rights accorded to every citizen in Bangladesh.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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