No religion or its true believers should be held responsible for communal violence committed in its name said religious scholars, academicians and women rights leaders on Saturday.
They said fanatics who misinterpret religion are to blame for the acts of violence.
The teachings of any religion does not promote violence, but peace, tolerance and non-violence while the horrific atrocities inflicted upon religious minorities are the results of misunderstanding of religion, they observed.
The observation came at a roundtable titled “Religious harmony and present reality” organised by the Bangla daily Prothom Alo, at its office.
The discussants called upon the government to separate religion from politics, which they said, would not only preserve the sanctity of religion but also prevent misuse of religion and keep communalism at bay.
Mingling religion with politics tends to contradict with the spirit of the liberation war and secularism, which was at the heart of Bangladesh when it gained independence, they said.
The principal of Notre Dame College, Benjamin Costa, participating in the discussion, talked about the severe torture and persecution on the religious minorities in some parts of the country over the past few years.
The temples and houses vandalised can be rebuilt, but the psychological wounds caused to the children who witnessed the violence can never be healed, he said.
Women rights leader Salma Khan blamed the shabby state of our political culture as the root cause for the misuse of religion.
“The deplorable conditions and biased attitude in national politics, which are evident in the parliament speeches, have made religion an easy tool for the fanatics to use,” she said.
She criticised the civil society members for keeping quiet when politics is done in the name of the liberation war.
DU Prof Kazi Nurul Islam argued that people were becoming more violent against followers of other religions due to their ignorance about their own religion and that of others.
However, Executive President of Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee Shahriar Kabir ran counter to Prof Nurul Islam’s statement. He said knowing one’s religion fully well doesn’t make one virtuous.
“Who is the greatest pious person in Bangladesh? It’s none other than Allama Ahmed Shafi. Both the government and the opposition call him ‘Huzur’ and that, I think would serve to justify my claim. This guy was an associate of the Pakistani invading army during our liberation war,” he said.
Pointing at the ruling Awami League, Shahriar said: “If you concede defeat in Gazipur City Corporation polls without negotiating with the fundamentalist forces, this would be something of immense pride, but if you win with their help, it would be an insult.”
Shariar Kabir stressed that justice for past crimes against religious minorities would help stop the recurrence of violence as the existing culture of impunity only encourages bigots to indulge in criminal activities more.