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Respecting diversity, and not division

  • Published at 07:57 pm April 15th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:56 am April 16th, 2018
Respecting diversity, and not division

Lest we forget, Bangladesh is a secular nation, built on secular principles set forth by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

One shining example of this are the Pohela Boishakh celebrations, which highlight the multi-ethnic and diverse culture of our country.

Nowhere is this secular spirit more evident than in the iconic Mongol Shobhajatra, which -- though relatively recent in its origin -- truly epitomizes the unity that exists within the Bangladeshi people, as the procession boasts people from a wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

But it seems that Hefazat-e-Islam has forgotten our nation’s history, or wishes to rewrite it.

Bangladesh has always prided itself on its diversity and inclusion, and for Hefazat to tarnish this legacy by proclaiming that the Mongol Shobhajatra is “haram” and “not Muslim culture” is utterly unacceptable.

Even more dangerous and divisive is their tendentious description of the event as “adult men and women wearing indecent clothing” and “dancing together” and their dubbing it a “Hindu ritual forced upon Muslims by the state.”

In the first place: Who has given Hefazat the authority to dictate what is and what is not Muslim culture? How dare they try to impose their narrow, parochial interpretation of Islam on the rest of us?

Second, and more important, their statements are bigoted and objectionable hate speech.

Statements such as theirs have no place in a nation such as ours, statements which serve not only to create religious disharmony among the peace-loving citizens of Bangladesh, but go so far as to threaten violence.

When threats, incitement to violence, and hate directed at a religious community are a crime -- and these are all crimes under the penal code -- statements such as these cannot be permitted to stand. Those who sow the seeds of discord through this kind of intolerant hate-mongering must be brought to book.

Bangladesh can have zero tolerance for such ugliness.

Pohela Boishakh and even the Mongol Shobhajatra are emblematic of Bangladesh’s rich culture and heritage and to spew such vitriol in their direction cannot be permitted.

Hefazat does not have to like either. But it cannot impose its views on the rest of us, and, most importantly, it cannot be allowed to threaten violence in order to get its way.