Friday, April 19, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Kudos to the PM

Update : 07 Apr 2013, 06:00 PM

Thank you madam prime minister for your unequivocal rejection of Hefazat-e-Islam’s demand for retrograde blasphemy laws. It comes as an enormous relief for every free-thinking individual in Bangladesh and sets a perfect tone for our nation’s reckoning with the Islamist agenda.

Hefazat-e-Islam’s demands didn’t come as a complete surprise to us. For a number of years ultra-conservative Islamic forces, almost entirely linked to a global “Islamic awakening,” have been trying to roll back the strides made by Bangladeshi society towards a secular, inclusive and free country, where muzzling opinions is something we simply don’t endorse.

Just as all those values came under intense attack and an existentialist threat loomed large, the government, which looked like it was wavering slightly, has come back strong and certain.

There will be no blasphemy laws in Bangladesh. “Existing laws are enough,” said the prime minister, “this country is a secular democracy.”

Truth is, blasphemy laws have no scriptural currency. There are no clear mentions of them in the Quran or the Hadith and result from judicial rulings that became Sharia law. But even if there were, we are, as the prime minister says, a secular country and our government is not in the business of moral policing.

The law that does exist about offending religious sentiments (Section 295[A] of the Penal Code) falls squarely within the realm of maintaining public order and is exactly the extent of any secular government’s writ into issues of sentiment and faith. Anything beyond that is an intrusion into personal territory.

But Hefazat-e-Islam has gone deep into this territory with their flippant use of labels like “atheist”, “anti-Islamic”, “immoral” and many others that seem to assume we, as a nation, have to measure up to their standards of what is acceptable.

We most certainly do not.  

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