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Dhaka Tribune

The challenges to our secularism

People have no jurisdiction to judge others on their religious views

Update : 26 Nov 2019, 12:00 AM

A series of low-intensity violence on the issue of blasphemy was recently raised by radicalized Muslims against Hindus, Buddhists, and others, which is nothing new in Bangladesh.

If the violent behaviour by the “lords of hate” is analyzed, it could be determined that these occurrences have an identical pattern of violence, as if those are woven in one string of hate against humanity.

In the fairly recent incident in Bhola in the coastal district, the acts of violence were instigated by rumourmongers citing fake Facebook exchanges, which were deemed blasphemous only by the Islamic zealots.

Despite the distances from one occurrence to another, the typical pattern of violence has been observed in Barisal, Brahmanbaria, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Gaibandha, Gopalganj, Ramu, Rangpur, Santhia (Pabna), Satkhira, Sunamganj -- and the list appears to keep growing.

All the incidents falsely accused person(s) insulting Islam, the Qur’an, or Prophet Muhammad -- soon after, Hindu and Buddhist households were looted, vandalized, and set ablaze, while temples were desecrated.

Hate speech by zealots is widely available on YouTube and Facebook, with tens of thousands of views on social media. The videos do not hesitate to despise the defenders of human rights and advocates of secularism, especially the mainstream media.

The hate speech by the clergies indoctrinate madrasa students, and millions of disciples of Islamic evangelists paradoxically have a similar message of hate against secular Muslims and Muslim sects.

Of late, their demands to the authorities are coincidentally the same, as if the storyboard is prepared under one roof, by one person, and written with one pen.

Closely analyzing their statements, the Islamists are no more a religious group -- they have a clear political agenda. The bigots with a political agenda, means they are bidding for the return of political Islam. This will severely dent our almost five-decade-long traditional culture of tolerance, democracy, and secularism.

The zealots demand that the government should enact a blasphemy law, with a provision of a maximum penalty for criticising the Prophet and the Qur’an.

In fact, the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami in 1993 had proposed in the parliament a draft blasphemy law, which was strikingly very similar to what Pakistan enacted in 1986. The draft was shredded by both the ruling and opposition lawmakers of that time.

Islamic scholars passionately debate that the Holy Qur’an has not sanctioned blasphemy. Nor is there any mentionable edict in the Hadith to punish a blasphemer in this living world.

The non-believers and blasphemers will be condemned to hell on the Day of Judgment.

They also do not hesitate to demand that the Qur’an and Sunnah replace the state constitution, which was earned from the Liberation War by millions of martyrs.

Unfortunately, the zealots were never accused of sedition or provoking a law and order situation.

Their interpretation of Wahhabi Islam has gradually penetrated into the minds of majoritarian Muslims in the country. The Wahhabi doctrine advocates strict Sharia laws that have been implemented in many conservative Muslim countries.

The bigots also harbour inner contradictions regarding the war crimes trial. The Islamists tacitly agree that henchmen of the marauding Pakistan army were responsible for crimes against humanity and should be brought to justice. Equally, they hate to see Islamists being punished for crimes perpetrated in 1971.

In a naive statement, the mullahs believe that the International Crimes Tribunal deliberately targeted Islamists because of pro-India secularists, the country which has immensely contributed to the birth of Bangladesh.

Intimidation by the Islamists is pushing a pluralistic society into a tight corner. Understanding that the state religion Islam will never be deleted from the constitution, their hate speech has multiplied.

The Islamists have dared to destabilize a secular fabric of the society and challenge the spirit of the Liberation War.

Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, also the recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award.

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