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Communal Violence In Bangladesh

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By Ishtiaq Ansari *

On 4th October, 2013 an article ‘Political Islam and “Communal Violence” in Bangladesh’ by Mr. Taj Hashmi appeared on The article is a “masterpiece” of fact less observations with dubious motive and contradictory and baseless arguments.

In the article Mr. Hashmi has introduced an “extraordinary” imagined theory. He said that ‘ I do not believe the Islamist Jamaat, Hefajat, Islamic Unted Front ( IOJ), Khitalafat Majlis, and the JMB and HUJI (although they are dormant not dead) are the main actors in “communal” fracas, loot arson rape and vandalism in Bangladesh. Most of the time, the so-called secular and liberal Muslims instigate “communalism”. This theory is both unique and ground-breaking in character. Because, even the most reactionary, fundamentalist, rightist theoreticians, political leaders and media have not yet blamed the secular and liberal forces for participating in or organizing communal violence.

Mr. Hashmi’s first argument to support his “theory” was that, ‘the Deobondis (aka “Indian Wahabis”-a misnomer though-coined by the British) and Jamaat-i-Islamists are NEVER known to have instigated (let alone participate) in any anti-Hindu/anti-Christian/anti-Buddhist violence since their inception.’ Unfortunately, this statement has failed to reach the level of ‘argument’ due to lack of examples, information and documents. Rather the opposite can be proved. Opposing the birth of Bangladesh, Jamaat leaders and activists killed, tortured, raped and looted people of Hindu Community, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh. Recent war crime tribunal verdicts have proved that. As their philosophy is to establish a Sharia-based state, it is just normal for them to instigate and participate in communal violence. They argue that they are the supreme, purest, believer and no non-believer has the right to live. Do not incidents in Pakistan and Iran prove this?

As Mr. Hashmi admits that communal violence is a process for re-distribution of wealth, he claimed that since the supporters of Jamaat, JMB or Hefajat-e-Islam are rural and lower-middle class people of the society, they don’t have any incentive to start communal violence. This statement is a self-proving fallacy. If the supporters are persons of lower-middle class then they can be provoked by the elites to engage in loot. This has been proved in different countries. Even, a communal violence is characterized not by the persons engaged in loot along the streets, in villages and towns, but by the interests ultimately gaining.

The article says that, ‘Then again, the Taliban are predominantly anti-Shiite, anti-secular Muslim. They don’t kill non-muslims (unlike what Al Qaeda loves to do)’. Mr. Hashmi also claimed that, ‘They (Jamaat-i-Islami) mainly attack and kill Muslims, especially Ahmadiyas.’ It should be noted that Jamaat and Taliban both have particular political and religious views. Anybody, muslim or non-muslim, who oppose those views are their targets. And, as the Taliban are in a war with the West, it is actually impossible to prove that they don’t kill non-muslims. Incidents in Pakistan and other countries are examples. Does Mr. Hashmi like to forget the killing of Christians in Pakistan and Egypt?

Mr. Hashmi identified Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party and secular muslims of Bangladesh as responsible for communal violence. If the secular and liberal muslims start communal violence then why they are the first to oppose it? Why they are always the major force to stop the communal violence? B.N.P might be connected with the communal violence as Jamaat is it’s main political ally. But, the idea Mr. Hashmi presented that B.N.P, AL and JP are ideological successors of Muslim League is astonishing. AL was founded by Mowlana Bhashani, a known anti-Muslim League, secular, liberal, prominent political leader. He opposed ML, it’s ideology and sectarianism. Even the party’s birthname ‘Awami Muslim League’ was changed into ‘Awami League’ –removing the word ‘Muslim’ to secularize its political name. And, If AL believed in the ideology of ML, it would have never rallied against the state of Pakistan. Besides, if the AL leaders believed in the ideology of ML, they could have simply joined in ML rather than building AL. As for B.N.P and JP-both these parties have born under military rule and with dictatorial favor.

A political party’s character is defined by its ideology, program and activities. Would, Mr. Hashmi kindly show how AL, BNP, JP and ML are of same type? If that is the level of his political thought, we wish to appreciate this.

Being politically rival why should AL and B.N.P ignite a communal violence ‘together’ and who is their ‘common political enemy’ they want to put the blame upon? This question was not discussed at all. The secular and liberal force (both muslim and non-muslim) have always stood against communal violence and opposed fundamentalists. History of East Pakistan and Bangladesh, and India and today’s Pakistan is the example. For their ideology and political interest, this force has never or will never participate in or start communal violence. So, it remains vague how they are responsible for communal violence. His statement creates confusion and probably that is his motive.

Now, the hard real facts. Since, the historic war crime tribunals of the Liberation War of Bangladesh started, a group of cowards, being incapable to stand for the war criminals publicly, have tried to confuse the public. Attempts to justify the demands of fundamentalists (like Hefajat-e-Islam) with the seal of ‘progressive’ have been carried out. Mr. Hashmi just joined that rank with Mr. Farhad Mazhar and Mrs. Farida Akhter among other known ‘progressives’. News sources have confirmed that the reactionary force has appointed lobbyists with a large amount of money to foil the on-going war crime trials. Recent pages of ‘The Economist’ reassure that. Would it seem strange to ask whose agenda is Mr. Hashmi trying to uphold?

I am also astonished to see the valuable spaces of countercurrents dumped with such “thoughtful” article. This kind of act puts the objectivity of this website in question. But, still I want to thank for allowing us the pleasure to be introduced to such statements of Mr. Hashmi and to help us unmask Mr. Hashmi’s intention.

* Ishtiaq Ansari is an activist.


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