State in a State of Denial
there is one thing consistent about our government, no matter
what the ruling party is, it is to be in a state of denial.
This is why the New York Times (NYT) Magazine's
unflattering story "The Next Islamic Revolution?"
has provoked such self-righteous outrage from the government
so much so, that it completely refuses to acknowledge even
a shred of authenticity in the report. Bangladesh's Permanent
Representative to the UN, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, has
sent a rejoinder to the offending publication saying that
the story was "baseless, partial and misleading".
government has even hinted at a customary witch-hunt to
find the local sources that aided the foreign journalist
who wrote the story. Director General of the foreign ministry,
Zahirul Haq, has said that the report is one-sided and could
very well be written with ulterior political motives. Haq
further added, "to suggest that Bangladesh is becoming
a Taliban country is humorous at best and is the result
of ill motives". Haq rejected all the allegations put
forward in the story, saying, "the people of Bangladesh
are committed to democracy and Bangladesh has achieved great
progress in social indicators highly appreciated in the
international forum." One can only wonder what 'social
indicators' are so encouraging as to dilute the significance
of the continuous spate of unsolved murders and incidents
of violence that take up the headlines everyday.
it may be a little premature to say that Bangladesh has
become the latest hot spot for a Taliban revolution. The
majority of the population does not subscribe to a militant
form of Islam, one that is intolerant of other religions
or one that advocates extreme violence to make a point.
On the contrary, most Muslims of this country observe their
religion and are at the same time tolerant to people of
other faiths. It is also true that the NYT Magazine
story deliberately avoided comments from moderate Muslims
in the country who make up the majority of Bangladeshis.
to claim that the threat of religious bigots, whatever the
political motive they may be nurturing, do not pose as a
serious threat to the secular principles on which this nation
was formed, is ludicrous in its stupidity and dangerous
in its intransigence. It is a bit like the mother of a psychopath
refusing to admit that her son has been a 'bad boy' even
after he has been caught red-handed slicing up his victim.
Bangla Bhai. Leader of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh
(JMJB), a militant organisation that wants to establish
a Taliban-like rule in the country, Bangla Bhai has successfully
established a reign of terror over villages in the northeastern
region. Reports of torture and cold-blooded murders by this
group continue to pour in with chilling progression. Last
year, the Prime Minister gave orders for his arrest but
this terrorist who changes his name at the drop of a hat,
still manages to be out of the grips of the law enforcers.
Plus, it is more than obvious that Bangla Bhai has enjoyed
the support of ruling party members as well as the police.
Which is why he still has full control and power over his
lackeys who are continuing his work of terror and intimidation.
Under the guise of religious uprightness-- something that
in this country cannot be questioned or challenged.
rather funny that while the RAB's (Rapid Action Battalion)
weeding out criminals with their 'caught-in-the crossfire'
methods, continues with hyper-efficiency, they have made
no headway in catching Bangla Bhai. According to news reports,
the JMJB has killed at least 15 people and tortured and
maimed many others. JMJB cadres have also been circulating
leaflets calling for Muslims to prepare for jihad against
'infidels'. Recently the State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman
Babar told reporters that Bangla Bhai would be arrested
as soon as he is found, but when talking to the BBC radio
he said that the government did not 'officially' know of
Bangla Bhai's existence. Babar said that the only news of
Bangla Bhai (who also goes by the name Azizur Rahman and
sometimes as Siddiqul Islam) the government had was from
local police high ups have also played this game of denying
his existence and then saying he would be arrested if found.
government's ambivalence regarding this mercenary is mystifying.
It is not clear whether it is because of his 'cleansing'
of leftwing extremists or his attacks on AL leaders or his
proclaimed zeal to establish Islamic rule of law, that has
made the ruling coalition look the other way while he continues
his criminal activities. His motives might be far from religious
but the fact is that he is using the banner of religion
to continue his terrorist activities.
There are, indeed, innumerable other reasons for the Western
Media to be paranoid about a rise in Talibanism in this
otherwise obscure, poor, overpopulated region. Many of the
terrorists' targets-- a Pahela Boishakh celebration
at Ramna Botomul, an Udichi function in Jessore,
cinema halls in Mymensingh, the British High Commissioner,
Dr Humayan Azad, jatra performances-- all represent
opposing values from those prescribed by religious fanatics.
Intelligence operatives have expressed their opinion that
many of these terrorist attacks were the work of religious
extremists but the investigations never progressed due to
pressure from the authorities.
attacks on Hindus and Ahmadiyyas are on face value, examples
of religious bigotry. Of course there may be political ramifications
to all these acts but the indifference of the government
as regards investigation of these crimes (don't forget their
agreeing to ban Ahmadiyya books) does indicate a tacit tolerance
for this kind of religious extremism.
could be more dangerous for this country. We know of instances
of women not being allowed to vote because a local religious
leader thought it to be un-Islamic, of women being denied
the right to work to earn a living, of women being forced
to wear burkas and men being forced to keep beards. From
time to time evangelical tirades advocating a repressive,
medieval form of religious rule abound in places of worship.
True they are sporadic events and are not representative
of the social structure of the entire country. But they
how small the area where such incidents take place, no matter
how few the numbers being intimidated (compared to the general
populace), these are incidents that, if allowed to continue,
will take on uncontrollable proportions. Unless the government
makes honest efforts to eradicate these elements of fanaticism,
unless it punishes terrorists like Bangla Bhai, it has no
business making indignant remarks about 'politically motivated
stories by the western media to destroy the image of the
want to say Bangladesh is not a hotbed of a Talibanesque
revolution then prove it. Nipping fanaticism in the bud
would be a most prudent start.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004