A group of Qawmi scholars led by Hefazat-e-Islam chief Allama Ahmad Shafi met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after she returned from India.
The prime minister announced that she agreed with their demand of recognising the Dawra-e-Hadith certificate issued by Qawmi education board as a post-graduate degree. Qawmi madrasa authorities should be congratulated for having come to their senses, though late.
In the 1960s, the government sent Dr Muhammad Shahidullah to Hathazari Madrasa to have a discussion about official recognition for Qawmi education. The Qawmi leaders rejected the move. They even turned down Dr Shahidullah’s proposal to convert Hathazari into an Islamic university. They cared neither about certificates nor any financial aid from the government. The Qawmi ulama (scholars) built a massive Islamic education system across the subcontinent with alms collected by students.
The ulama were an anti-colonial force. They never accepted the British as legal rulers of India. Over 50,000 Qawmi ulama were hanged by British government.
The reason I go through all this history is that, there are some so called progressives who think the ulama are a lot of ne’er-do-wells.
The prime minister has made a wise decision in recognising them, drawing them closer and bringing them into the mainstream. She recognised their certificate without interfering with the Qawmi curriculum. But the ulama need to understand the necessity of modern science and education.
Mawlana Hossain Ahammad Madani realised the necessity of changing the curriculum in his last age. Hefazat chief Ahmad Shafi may know this as he is Madani’s disciple.
Qawmi madrasas are not controlled by any education board. Two or more madrasas group together and form a board. But there is a clear disunity among them. So Shafi could form a widely acceptable education board to bring order to Qawmi madrasas around Bangladesh. All Qawmi madrasas need to be gradually brought under one umbrella. The government can be approached for formulating a law on this.
There are about 1,400,000 students in the 13,902 Qawmi madrasas across the country. No society can move forward while keeping this vast populace out of the mainstream.
Hafejji Hujur was the chief of the Qawmi community during the Liberation War. He had called the war a fight of oppressed against the oppressor.
The Qawmi community are concerned with Islamic faith and creed, politics is not a priority to them – Hefazat itself says it is not a political party. But the rampage they carried out on May 5, 2013 during Dhaka blockade was not an apolitical move. Rather they acted as puppets of the anti-liberation forces. The instigators were people like Mahmudur Rahman. They then pushed for a violent and bizarre 13-point demand.
It is difficult to understand why the left is infuriated about the certificate recognition. They had a strong presence in the subcontinent once, now on the wane. While the key reason is the fall of the left as a global power, in the subcontinent the leftists have always fared poorly because of their adversity towards the religious.
Tablig is a part of the Qawmi community. Their annual congregation is attended by Muslim pilgrims from around the world. It is the second largest Muslim congregation after Hajj. It is unwise to make such a group our enemy. Ignoring this truth is tantamount to denying the reality, and will bring no good.
Hefazat has demanded to the prime minister that the sculpture in front of the Supreme Court be removed. The prime minister has also said that she does not support putting the sculpture there. She told the Chief Justice to relocate the sculpture so that it will not be visible from the Eidgah grounds.
Who initiated the debate by setting up the sculpture here? Did they forget that the public in Bangladesh do not understand the difference between an idol and a sculpture? But again, there are people among them who can sacrifice their lives to save the sculptures connected with the history of Bangladesh.
The progressives are divided over the sculpture. Some took it as an issue of sculpture versus Hefazat. No one is thinking whether it is necessary to divide the whole nation over an unproductive issue of a sculpture that was not even there before.
Charmonai Pir Syed Rezaul Karim’s followers held a mass rally yesterday demanding the removal of the sculpture. But those who support the sculpture will not hold any rally or procession. They want the government to do their work. I do not know why the government would be bothered to protect this sculpture. This is not a Kali temple that there will be police to protect it. The authorities who set it up should remove it before anything unwanted happens.
The Supreme Court Bar Association can play a vital role here. The new leaders of the association are pro-BNP. I have heard that Bar Secretary BNP leader barrister Mahabub Uddin Khokan supported the sculpture. Whether that is true or not, the bar association should take an initiative to resolve this problem.
There are many ways to show progressiveness. It is good to shun the path which conflicts the norms of mass people. Some among these people may have vandalised Hindu idols, but none of them have demanded the removal of idols in the Dhakeshwari Temple. That sort of insolence will not be tolerated by the people or the state.
We have always celebrated the Bangla New Year. Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is celebrated in Iran with extraordinary fanfare. They did not stop doing it because of Islam. The Arabs ululate in celebrations, like childbirth. Islam did not stop that. The ulamas should stop their overindulgence in cultural matters. This is not an idol, there is no worship, and no one is preventing or forcing you to do it.
After the Unesco recognition, the government ordered Mongol Shobhajatra in all educational institutions. But no religious educational institution should be forced to do so. But hoisting the National Flag and singing the National Anthem should be made mandatory for all institutions. There should not be any compromise on this. Any institution against it must be expelled from the country. They should be punished. They are not only fundamentalists, they have Pakistan in their hearts.
I will say that Pohela Boishakh and Mongol Sobhajatra have the transparency and power to transcend time and boundaries. A handful of fundamentalists and extremists have no power to stop it, except for exploding bombs. Even that will not work. The Chhayanaut programme at Ramna on Pohela Boishakh has been going on for 50 years. It will continue forever, and bombers like Mufti Hannan will accomplish nothing but their own death sentences.