Secularism in Bangladesh Threatened by Islamists: BNP and ICT Judgments. By Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker


The country of Bangladesh is facing a new Islamist threat which seeks to usurp the secular nature of this nation. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) opposed the creation of Bangladesh during the independence struggle of this nation in 1971 against the tyranny of Pakistan. During this period massacres on a scale rarely witnessed in history engulfed the new nation in the making and clearly the treachery of Islamist forces is abundantly clear. Therefore, massacres on a huge scale occurred based on unimaginable brutality and today the reverberations of the role of Islamist elements is still traumatizing Bangladesh.
Over forty years ago the Al Badr militia, and others like Al-Shams, were fighting on the wrong side of history because they turned against their own people in order to ply the mantra of Pakistan. Of course, for Islamist militant forces throughout the world, then clearly “their own people is vague” because in their twisted worldview religious minorities like Hindus are viewed to be subhuman. Also, the intelligentsia and freethinkers are a threat based on the Islamist militant mantra of supporting a monoculture based on Sharia and “year zero.” Not surprisingly, while vast numbers of Bangladeshi people were being systematically butchered during the War of Independence (Bangladesh Liberation War) in 1971, it is clear that Hindus and the intelligentsia were singled out by the forces of darkness. This singling out meant atrocious massacres on a huge scale became a systematic reality but unbelievably the main culprits escaped justice – this applies to the criminality of elites in Pakistan and Islamist militant organizations in Bangladesh.
This reality means that the “cancer within Bangladesh” remains and the same applies to Pakistan and its involvement in spreading religious fanaticism to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir and further afield. The double-edge sword which is engulfing Pakistan is still being utilized despite blowback. Likewise, this double-edge sword continues to hold a dagger at the people of Bangladesh because of the intrigues of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and various militant Islamist organizations.
Deutsche Welle (DW), media group in Germany, reports that “Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971 on the basis of nationality and has maintained a secular identity since then. But after four decades, the rise of Islamist extremism haunts the country.”
DW also reports that in 2013 “More than 100 people have been killed in violent protests since January, when the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), began delivering verdicts against people accused of committing crimes during the 1971 war of independence…. The ICT has so far convicted seven people, the first six were members of the JI. Recently, the tribunal sentenced the BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury to death after convictions on “nine charges of war crimes including genocide.”
JI like usual is turning to violence in order to intimidate Bangladesh therefore Hindus once more are residing in fear in strongholds of this Islamist movement. The role of Pakistan also haunts Bangladesh since the creation of this nation because the murky role of Pakistan is destructive for many regional nations. At the same time, Gulf petrodollars are propping-up radical Salafi organizations in many nations which seek to indoctrinate the younger generation and to crush all moderate forces. Also, nations like America and the United Kingdom have enabled war criminals to escape justice and for Islamist movements to spread their propaganda within Bangladeshi communities in these two nations – and to fund openly whereby they can cause mayhem back-home. Therefore, it is essential that Bangladesh cuts off all these ratlines which seek to crush secularism in this nation because any weakness will be met by more treachery and religious hatred.
The judge in the BNP Chowdhury case, Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, stated “We are of the unanimous view that the accused deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that tremble the collective conscience of mankind.”
Menacingly, the BNP is threatening the justice system of Bangladesh and the political apparatus by threatening “everyone connected” with the ICT once this political movement takes over power in a future election. Khandker Mahabub Hossain, a senior official within the BNP, stated that “Everyone related with the trial will be tried some day on this soil.”
The above comment by a senior official within the BNP is bordering on threatening the integrity of the democratic principles of this political party – even if certain elements within this movement were involved in the barbaric crimes of 1971. After all, by threatening law makers, politicians and any individual involved in the ICT is tantamount to inciting political disorder. Clearly, individuals in the BNP like Khandker Mahabub Hossain must be monitored because his words only speak of vengeance and threatening the due process of law.
The BBC reports about the Chowdhury case by stating that “Prosecutors accused him of genocide, abduction, committing atrocities against Hindus and forcefully converting a number of Hindus to Islam.”
Modern Tokyo Times commented about the ongoing ICT in a past article by stating that “… For too long powerful forces prevented justice from being served in this country. However, times are now changing in Bangladesh. Indeed, it is essential to clamp down on past evil deeds. After all, the older Islamists within the Jamaat-e-Islami seek to indoctrinate the younger generation. Therefore, the past and today are interconnected in Bangladesh and the fifth column of yesterday is still a ticking time bomb against the unity of this nation state.”
The Independent, United Kingdom media group, reported earlier in 2013 that “The genocide is still too little known about in the West. It is, moreover, the subject of shocking degrees of denial among partisan polemicists and manipulative historians. Before 1971, Bangladesh was East Pakistan, detached from the main body of the country. The founders had believed that the unity of religion would bind it together. Over time, however, the incompatibility of secular cultures had grown overwhelming. Parts of the Pakistani rulers regarded the Bengalis with open racist contempt.”
Further down in the same article titled ‘The war Bangladesh can never forget’ it is stated that “In the first phase of the war, young men and Hindus, Awami League members, intellectuals, students and academics were targeted for murder. In the second phase of the war, women were singled out. It is thought that at least 200,000 women were raped by the Pakistani forces and their collaborators – 25,000 victims found themselves pregnant, so that is not implausible.”
Yet over 40 years later and still the JI is threatening individuals with violence. This reality means that activists supporting secularism and the minority Hindu community are in the forefront of their brutal methodology based on ruling by fear. Targeting Hindus in Bangladesh is part and parcel of the JI modus operandi during times of difficulties and clearly this cancer needs to be eradicated in order for Bangladesh to move forward without the threat of sinister forces. At the same time, certain voices within the BNP are clearly treasonable and a threat to the rule of law.
In the meantime, Hindu communities in 2013 are being attacked by JI militants therefore fresh fear is a modern day reality in Bangladesh. Likewise, prominent individuals in the Shahbag movement face death threats and being murdered by the same tyrannical forces which existed in 1971.

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