• Thursday, May 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 06:53 pm

Jamaat remains beyond the pale

  • Published at 12:00 am February 17th, 2019

Jamaat’s role in 1971 makes its continued presence hard to justify

The resignation of party stalwart Barrister Abdur Razzaq from the Jamaat-e-Islami brings to the forefront a number of pertinent issues regarding Jamaat’s place in Bangladesh’s political sphere.

Razzaq said his reason for leaving the party was its failure to apologize and account to the people of Bangladesh for taking a stance against independence during the Liberation War of 1971.

Of course, Barrister Razzaq’s belated side-switching is not fully convincing -- Jamaat’s role in perpetrating atrocities during the Liberation War is well-known and well-documented, and so his sudden realization of such an obvious fact may be more self-serving than anything else.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the point made by Razzaq is correct: Unless and until Jamaat apologizes for its crimes in 1971, not just in terms of opposing Bangladesh’s independence but also committing unspeakable atrocities on the population, there can be no legitimate seat at the table for Jamaat in Bangladeshi politics.

In this context, we must also stress the moral poverty of the BNP as the party which rehabilitated the Jamaat in Bangladeshi politics, including sitting alongside them in government. This has long been a serious failing of the BNP and the sooner it recognizes this and severs all ties to Jamaat, the better. Otherwise, it too can credibly be accused of condoning Jamaat’s atrocities and crimes against Bangladesh.

Many have already made argued that Jamaat should be banned for its role in 1971 -- and there is certainly a strong case that can be made to that effect. In the end, that question is for the courts to decide. 

The resigning Jamaat leader’s call for an apology seems driven more by tactical considerations than by genuine contrition. That kind of insincere apology cannot be remotely enough to absolve the party of its heinous crimes in 1971. Nor nearly sufficient to let it off the hook for effectively turning the founding principles to a matter of perpetual debate long after they were settled with the blood of millions.

As long as they operate within the rules of the constitution, Islam-based parties have the right to exist, but Jamaat’s role in 1971 makes it a unique case in Bangladesh and makes its continued presence within the public sphere very hard to defend.

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