Published: Monday, June 17, 2013

Triumph of ‘atheist’ card

Hefajat, a few Islamist groups instrumental in whipping up religious sentiment against AL-backed candidates

Intense campaigning by Hefajat-e Islam and some Islamist parties that used the religion card against Awami League-backed candidates was a key factor in the victory of BNP-supported contenders in Saturday’s polls in four city corporations.
The strategy saw so huge a success that the AL-backed candidates lost to their rivals by wide margins. It involved propaganda that the elections were a crucial race between believers and atheists. And, of course, as they put it to voters during their door-to-door campaign, the atheists belong to the AL camp.
They propagated the dubious idea that the government had killed several thousand Hefajat men on May 5 in the capital. The campaign, which began soon after Hefajat men were flushed out of the capital, intensified in the run-up to the city polls. The main opposition BNP termed it genocide. But their claims proved unfounded.
Hefajat men carried out the propaganda both overtly and covertly with the Election Commission failing to notice the violation of election rules. It exposed the EC’s inability to act against such violations.
A day after the elections, Hefajat issued a statement, claiming that its stance had been vindicated. The Islamist group made it clear that people had given their opinion against atheists in the elections.
With its morale lifted by the election results, Hefajat now threatens to hit the streets afresh to press for the implementation of the 13-point demand it had made public in April.
In Sylhet, Jamaat and Hefajat succeeded in drawing voters to their vigorous campaign against “atheists”.
Voters were made to believe that if they cast their ballots for the 18-party alliance-backed candidate, it would help the cause of Islam.
“But we could not run any counter campaign,” said Nizam Uddin, a city AL leader.
Ex-lawmaker Shahinur Pasha, also convener of Hefajat’s Sylhet city unit and joint secretary general of central Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam, said, “We considered the election as a contest between believers and atheists, and ultimately the believers triumphed over the atheists.”
Pasha, an active campaigner for BNP-backed candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury, said, “Kamran lost acceptability when he expressed solidarity with the Shahbagh activists.”
The situation was almost the same in Khulna. Two days before the election, activists of the BNP and religious groups were seen distributing leaflets that claimed the government had killed hundreds of Muslims at Shapla Chattar on May 5.
A number of Khulna residents said they were still confused about the May 5 incident, and many believed the government had done something wrong on that day.
“The government failed to clarify what happened on that night or launch an effective campaign to counter the propaganda,” said Sheikh Abdul Quayum, chairperson of Khulna Nagorik Forum, a citizens’ organisation.
In Barisal, BNP men portrayed AL-backed candidate Shawkat Hossain Hiron and his supporters as “drunkards” and questioned people whether they wanted to see a “real Muslim” as the city mayor.
Apart from Hefajat, supporters of religious figures like Charmonai Pir, Sharshina Pir and Quayes Pir worked against Hiron, and propagated from city mosques that Hiron neither went to mosques nor made any donations to them.
“It cannot happen that the government will kill our men and we will sit idle … We have taught the government a lesson,” said Mohammad Mobarak Ali, a supporter of Hefajat-e Islam in Barisal.
Their campaign left a profound impact on people’s minds.
The Daily Star yesterday talked to at least 50 people at different wards in Barisal, and most of them were made to believe that the government had killed many Hefajat men and hidden the bodies.
In Rajshahi, a half-hearted campaign for Liton could not match the aggressive electioneering for Bulbul by an allied force of BNP, Jamaat and religion-based parties that labelled the AL government as anti-Islamic.
“The action against Hefajat has been considered as an act against Islam. Jamaat and Hefajat activists used it to tweak the religious sentiments of people,” said a voter at Kadirganj.
[Our correspondents covering the city polls contributed to the report.]

  • Iftekhar Hassan

    Good post…but you need to wait another 50 plus years…

    • Dev Saha

      Yes, time would eventually cure us from lies and fallacies.

  • Raf Chow

    Hefajat is just one factor — AL can choose to act like an Ostrich. Corruption, arrogance and blatant abusive absolute power mentality were the main reason for this downfall. We can spin doctor anyway we like but it is what it is. Arabic /Urdu did not spread in Bangladeshi delta for hundreds years and will not in future. Hefajat card went boomerang on AL .

  • Humayun Ahmed

    People of this country remain ‘uneducated’ even after getting a PhD degree. Otherwise they never voted for Khaleda Zia or Sheikh Hasina as an outcome of sympathy for death of their family members only.

    • cernventure

      U r right . How can university teachers and top listed so called enlightened man can support and sing praise son for corrupted people like Tareq Rahaman and his followers. Here there is no moral value of education which is just like Business and so many business centers are growing in Dhaka along with other divisional cities that will sing mermaid song for the corrupted rulers and their forefathers of this country .Days are not seems far away no educational and moral policy will work any more in this religious sentimentalist presidency some parts of the country .

  • M.Ashraf

    Disproportionate posting does help provide good grounds to play the atheist card. The public have a very short term memory. We are just repeating history. The fact that government has failed to curb corruption and shamelessly supported their minions beyond the legal system may have something to do with their utter and dismal loss. This is an indication that the ball is now in BNPs court and their turn to destroy the economy of the country for the next few years as Awami League has the last few.

  • Iqbal Khan

    BKZ in one of her last election campaigns had said ill and extremely derogatory comment on AL. I still remember her those words. Some parties always use this issue as trump card. Why let those use these issues always? It seems to me that may be it was created not to return to governance. National elections may see these in larger scale.

  • cernventure

    this must have to happen anyone can not resist that becos still in this post modern age some religions fanatics see man in moon at night . Welcome to second Afghanistan!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dev Saha

      Some people have resort on lies to make their points. It is sad but it still works. Thank you.

      Second Afghanistan is not a reality because we are geographically located in a different part of the world where Taliban cadres would not find any refuge in the neighboring countries.

  • Munirul Haque

    Freethinkders/atheists/agnostics/lefitsts always have worries and concerns that they ‘might be killed’ in the future if religious fundamentalists take over, while the religious fundamentalists ‘are being killed’ by the secular fundamentalists in most of the Muslim countries!!

    • Anas

      and you believe the current opposition is not being killed or abducted?

      • truthprevails53

        Photoshopped images showed Syedee on the moon. I dont know about you but I dont believe it. There may be some truth to your allegations. I just dont agree with many hefajot men disappearing. Please give the readers links for any evidence of that. Atrocities of Idi Amin and many others were open secrets. Disappearance of 2000+ people in one night and their family members being quiet is a bit hard to comprehend. Opposition members being killed and abducted happened in the past regimes thats for sure. I personally do not condone it. Jamaat are infamous for tendon cuttings, General Zia was infamous for secret killings of BtV members. AL did their share no doubt.

  • Samih34

    I find this Star Report quite baffling in the sense that on the back page of the same issue of TDS – the news report titled ‘What went wrong for them’ gives a completely different picture – that voters in very large numbers from all communities voted against 14-Party backed candidates for their various failures & indifference towards minority community’s complaint against Jubo League & BCL goons grabbing their properties. I, therefore, find the Star Report not entirely factual. If a cap & a punjabi (kurta) stand as an ID for a Hefazat / Jamat follower, than almost half the population of Bangladesh fall in to that category on a Jummah day!

  • Masud

    Dont feel sorry for, Liton, Talukdar, Hiron and Kamran. In the National Assembly elections they will get ticket for MP seats.

  • Anas

    FYI more people in BD are now hindi these days

  • Samih34

    Sorry to interrupt in your lively post. Do you have any idea from which strata of society in Bangladesh the most powerful drug lords come & who are their main customers in this country? Perhaps, you’d want to have a second thought after your findings!

    • Samih34

      For ‘truthprevails53′ – your post being inactive, am placing my ans. here:-
      “In fact I did mean it lively – main reason being hardly anyone was spared. Please don’t interpret it otherwise. Moreover, my query to you was very simple:- If you knew from which strata of society in B’desh the most powerful drug lords come & who are their main customers in this country (B’desh)? Nothing more, nothing less. I didn’t take any name of any country from where the drugs are coming from (I humbly put that I do have some geographical knowledge – being around a quite) – although it’s common knowledge as this is quite often in international media (both electronic & print) & discussed on local TV & social forums to bring awareness among people – particularly the younger generation. This is a subject that can’t be finished in just few pages. So, I end here. SAY NO TO DRUGS. Thank you.”

  • Dev Saha

    I am not for banning anybody, but more participation with being more informed and enlightened as a voter. Once people figure out that God has nothing to do with our elections and sweet meats would not be showered from the sky, they will be choosing right people for the right job. Yes, we are not that behind from those Americans. Ironically, the religious coo-aide is still a great weapon and it works.

  • Anas

    oh wow, you have judge so many people based on your ideology from bollywood.

    • truthprevails53

      I did not judge, I gave my views. You gave a statement and all I ask you is to back it up wih evidence.

  • Samih34

    Than should we not ban all ‘ism’ in politics? And please don’t make the word ‘terrorist’ so cheap by using it in every turn of the coin. Then the real meaning of this dreaded word would loose its charm. I don’t believe in any ‘ism’, but if I’m persecuted, bitten black & blue by the servants of the republic as well as its supporters just for being not aligned to the ruling party, I’ll defend myself in my own way. Only difference is: who does how? Thank you.

  • Dev Saha

    Point well taken! However, our ground reality is far different from a modern democratic society where majority people being aware of the consequences of religiously driven politics. We helped them to flourish and now, we can’t just wish away them from the scene.

  • Samih34

    This above ‘Guest’ post is actually in responce to Mr. Shafiqur Rahman.