Comments on "Mahfuz Anam's": Where are our leaders leading us to? Part 3: Taliban in Bangladesh? By Dr. Alamgir Hussain E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org DS editorial link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mukto-mona/message/5372 Related Links: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mukto-mona/message/5367 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mukto-mona/message/5385
Mahfuz Anam's comments are quoted in blue and in parenthesis . [Hence the near universal condemnation of the FEER piece which, as an editor I feel, is a slur on serious journalism. Our disappointment grew further when the same piece was reproduced in the Asian Wall Street Journal, which is done very rarely.]
_ I donít agree with notion. FEER, AWSJ have a high reputation of their own and they donít take any interest to malign that.
[The FEER piece has triggered a widespread debate in Bangladesh as to the nature and extent of fundamentalism in the country and whether or not there is any link between our Islamic parties and global terrorism. We think the subject needs to be brought into the open, and discussed thoroughly in a free and objective manner.]
_This make sense. Wonder if it would ever happen.
[In making this recent debate partisan the Awami League has played a very damaging role. In an effort to depict the BNP-Jamaat government as fundamentalists to the West the AL started saying, from the outset, that this government contained Taliban elements, pointing to the two Jamaat ministers in the cabinet. To justify its stance it recalled some rallies held in Dhaka more than a year ago where pro-Taliban slogans were chanted. It also cited the Jamaat's attempt to raise funds for the victims of the US war against Afghanistan as evidence of the party's fundamentalist character. A senior AL leader and a former minister wrote in a signed article that there was Taliban network and Al-Qaeda pockets in Bangladesh without providing any evidence to support such a damaging claim. We think such a position of the leading opposition party was extremely damaging to our national interest.]
_I donít see much inaccuracy in AL campaign. The latest deliberation by Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami speech at the 4th General Islamic Conference organized by the Muslim World League (MWL) in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, say it all. Itís time to act, else are bound to be doomed.
[The Bangladeshis are a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious people, the majority of whom are Muslims.]
-Itís true, seems nobody knows that!
[We also have a deeply entrenched tradition of religious tolerance. Yes, there have been occasional clashes because of religion but they were the outbursts of the moment, or a reaction to something happening in some other parts of the world.]
-Whatís there about tolerance! Itís a disgrace that most people, like the DAILY STAR editor, take such too soft stand against such outbursts even after at the scale it have had happened recently. And why these outbursts, it should have some reasons behind! And we talk about tolerance!
[To the question whether we are becoming a fundamentalist country, our reply is a definite no. It is our firm view that our cultural and intellectual heritage will never allow us to become so.]
_I donít quite agree! Come back to it later.
[Within the undivided India we took the side of partition with a view to protecting our religious heritage.]
__Thatís what our true identity is!
[There are of course those among us who are more attached to religion and would like to see our country be ruled by the Islamic shariah.]
_Itís purely true and their stature is growing steadily while secular forces are losing grounds.
[As we have said in our last commentary, that one FEER or Wall Street Journal article cannot damage Bangladesh unless we do it ourselves. Herein lies our challenge.]
_Is there someone to take up the challenge? And if do, are we going to prevailí?
[The world knows us and respects us for being a moderate, open, tolerant, multicultural and multiethnic, Muslim-majority State. In the world of extremes we have been able to carve a niche for ourselves as an oasis of moderation.]
__I believe we used to command some respect along that line. But not sure how much we do command at present and where are we going to?
[However, there is no denying the fact that there are streaks (some may say streams, and still others flood) of intolerance - which is contrary to our basic ethos - growing within us. We must also admit that there is a strong, insensitive, unthinking and brute majoritarian thrust in our society that leads us to ignore the plights and concerns of the minorities. Sometimes this thrust comes in the name of culture and sometimes in the name of religion. The example of the former is the way we treated the Chakmas, the Garos, the Khasis and other ethnic groups. The example of the latter is our treatment of the Hindus, the Christians and the Buddhists. To put it bluntly both our religious and ethnic minority groups have been marginalized from the mainstream society.]
_That's what has started showing to be our dominant instinct? And thereís no campaign to stem that.
[Our unthinking majoritarianism prevents us from examining the minority issues in an objective manner. In fact, it is difficult to hold a scientific and factual discussion on these topics without temper flying and irrelevant issues clouding the debate. This same thrust prevents us from acknowledging that there are groups among us who are exploiting the deep religiosity of our people for their narrow political ends and who want to impose their obscurantism on us.]
__Thatís true and thatís where we are we moving to, a destination irreversible.
[The challenge of the moment is to prove the FEER prognosis to be totally baseless.]
__True itís the biggest challenge and itís a challenge unredeemable.
[This we must do through action and not propaganda, public relations exercise or banning. A point of great satisfaction for us and one that gives us a legitimate sense of pride and confidence in ourselves is the fact that we were able to pass the Gujarat carnage without any incident here. It is to the credit of the government (for its timely and effective action) but greater credit to the common men who really came together as a people irrespective of ethnicity or religion. It is our duty to build on this. We have to strengthen those aspects of our society and culture for which the world respects us - that is multi-culturalism, multi-ethnicity and multi-religiousness, openness, tolerance and democracy - all within a Muslim-majority population. This is the real challenge before our two biggest political parties. With variance in degrees both the BNP and the AL represent the aforementioned fundamental ethos. Their narrow party rivalry has prevented them for realizing this fundamental fact. Electoral alliances notwithstanding, these parties must work together to strengthen the real Bangladesh, as outlined above. Will the two leaders take the nation in this direction? We know the FEER article is wrong.]
__This is what truly needed. The surprising calm in Bangladesh in the backdrop of carnage in Gujrat and around India is indeed an encouraging instance. I believe itís the widespread criticism of the Govt regarding post-election oppression of minority/opposition must have had put them on guard. But the truth is that with sincere effort of the Govt, itís possible to resist the ĎEDIDEMIC intolerance symptomí we have grown over recent times. What is necessary is that itís wise to take lead from the FEER article which is a timely wake-up call for our Govt. With fundamentalist tendency growing in strength amongst our people which has been clearly demonstrated through increasing attacks/hatred against minorities and with the Jamatiís growing in strength and gaining wider acceptance AND recognition. Under the circumstances, I would say the FEER article is an eye-opener for us. We may not be where itís being depicted to be in the article right now but we are for sure moving to that direction at a steady pace. If not in 10, in twenty years we are right up there, a point of no return. What we need is not the rejection of the article; itís the counter-revolution being rightly suggested in the article. A counter-revolution doesnít need to be a wide- scale armed one but itís the educational one. We need a directed educational propaganda campaign for tolerance, equality, human value and justice to all irrespective of religion or ethnic origin. And it has to start at the school as well as mass level. Itís a pity that we have hardly been taught to be tolerant to all, regardless of religion, ethnic groups or social classes during our schooling days (mid-seventies thru eighties). There are hardly any curriculum in our school books that preaches such teachings but we definitely start learning the religious lessons which only teaches us that non-Muslims are inferior. I donít know if the Hindu student taking religious teachings (Hindu Dharma Shiksha) also teaches the same regarding non-Hindus. Itís not only religious/ethnic issues our education system teaches us so little respect for human values is that itís so easy for us to slap that little boy serving you tea in a restaurant for minor or no faults. Our respect for human values are so base which is easily reflected through our way of behaving with the maids/servants, rickshawalas etc. But I think these are all a mammoth ask from our Govts. In a country where political thuggery from lowest to the highest levels rules the roost, who has time to look into these apparently-meaningless (to our political guardians) issues. Where religious issues (which is very useful indeed) are being increasingly exploited by politicians and especially when our most popular party BNP taking fool advantage of it along with the resurgent Jamatis. I believe these thought are just futile imaginations of our minds. And we talk about our leaders working together; I think thatís the most unlikely thing that might ever happen on our soil. Well, I believe we had a chance when AL offered a joint Govt (BNP participation) in itís tenure. Itís a lost opportunity that is never to be redeemed since both parties have committed boundless atrocities on each other over the subsequent 5-6 years and as it continues. I donít see they can bury the hatchet and put trust in each ever. But what we are going to see is that with the AL-BNP fighting each other with little contribution to the cause of the people, Jamatis are coming to be stronger alternative force. I truly liked this one Indian friend last time opining: with AL-BNP at loggerheads, Jamatis become the winner, just the way BJP has grown stronger in India with Congress- Lefts-Secularists fighting without showing any performances.
[Let's prove it to the world.]
__Hope we can prove it. Iím afraid we may have to wait endless time.Many Bangladeshi friends on this forum have expressed outright rejections and condemnation of the article. However, this is just my opinion; no hard feeling folks. _Alamgir.
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