Vol. 5 Num 351 Wed. May 25, 2005  
Letters to Editor

Politics and religion

The Jamaat chief has come out publicly (press reports) with some sober observations about the long-term policy of the Islamic political parties in Bangladesh. He said the first phase is successfully over, and the second, longer, phase, has to go slow. If the Islamic political parties have gained a foothold in the national politics, then all political parties have to review their long-term policies.

Even BNP is not clear on its new revised approach. The people have to be taken into confidence, or the base would erode, (in this fast changing world). The overall picture is that healthy politics is not working, as corruption is now firmly entrenched inside and outside politics. How religious fever is to be handled, without recourse to coercion and violence?

Jamaat also pinpointed that the Awami League was an anti-Islamic political party, and Jamaat sided with the BNP to prevent the AL from coming back into power. During the last three years, the rise of Islamic politics is evident to all voters.

AL tirade is mainly against the regime, or BNP (the big sister). The next general election might see a sharp rise in votes for the Islamic parties. There are two base advantages: madrassahs and the mosques (there is apparently no shortage of funds). It is not a new phenomenon, but the point to note is that the Islamic-oriented citizens (the vast majority is Muslims, but few are fanatics) are making their presence felt through the Islamic political parties. Can charisma dam the surge? Charismatic leadership is out of date, as it cannot deliver these days.

Awami League is operating from an outdated policy stand, which might be disadvantageous and misunderstood by the electorate: the secularism mantra. Religion has entered politics (globally), and it cannot be driven away in a Muslim-majority country such as BD. There is another coincidental disadvantage for AL the big neighbour is also secular in its official approach. This point is easily misunderstood by a large percentage of Bangladeshi voters. AL has to clarify its stand under the changing political flux. Hartals were exercises in futility (ran out of ideas to mobilise the new mass mind).

The world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, is still suffering from the after-effects of two autocratic regimes, which lasted for 60 years. Another Muslim country, Pakistan, is still grappling with the roots of democracy. Also, how far the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have changed the cultural trends in these Muslim nations?

The birth of the al-Quaeda cult is no mystery (progressing demands generate new types of supplies, exemplified by the 9/11 tragedy). What is Awami League's present share in the Bangladesh political market? The political parties have to compete (as the mobile telephone operators are doing now).

The political analysts have to generate gestures, which make sense in all camps. The informed voters are losing faith in the traditional political parties.