Bangladesh is still recognised by the world community as a moderate Muslim country and rightly so. Muslims, Hindus and other communities have lived harmoniously in this part of the sub-continent for centuries.
However, it appears that the tag “moderate Muslim country” has started to wane fast, thanks to Islamist radicals and fundamentalists flexing their muscles all over the country.
Extremist religious elements never got more than 5% votes in the previous national elections, that too as parts of electoral alliances, but things may not be the same again, and one would not be surprised if the said figure were to grow.
In recent times, both BNP and JP have blatantly sided with the radical Islamists and are using their clout to get to power at any cost. On the other hand, to the utter dismay of the millions of pro-liberation people, Awami League has visibly resorted to a policy of appeasement toward Islamist groups – probably as an election strategy even though this proved utterly ineffective in the recent civic elections.
This signifies that secular pro-liberation nationalist forces are losing ground to those intent on turning the country into a haven for fundamentalist ideals, or even the terrorist outfits of Pakistan or Afghanistan.
According to a recent report commissioned by the European Parliament’s directorate general for external policies in June, it’s not merely faith and oil that flows out of the Middle East. Key oil-rich Arab states are busy financing Wahabi and Salafi militants all across the globe.
The report claims that “no country in the Muslim world is safe from their operations, as they always aim to terrorise their opponents and arouse the admiration of their supporters.”
The nexus between Arab charities promoting Wahabi and Salafi traditions and extremist Islamic movements has emerged as one of the major threats to people and governments across the globe.
From Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to Bangladesh, and Indonesia, a network of charities is funding militancy and mayhem to coerce Muslims of diverse traditions to conform to Salafi and Wahabi rules.
The said report notes, although these Arab states never allow militancy to turn violent on their own soil, they liberally export the same to other countries. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the worst victims in South Asia.
Despite the overt threats emerging from the oil-rich Arab states, many governments continue to ignore the security imperative and are unwilling to do much to challenge fundamentalist ideologies. The Muslim world has to suffer the consequences as a result.
The European Parliament’s report estimates that over $10bn has been spent to promote Wahabism through charitable foundations and this has included support for violent militant franchises from Libya to Syria.
It may be recalled that the linkage between Middle East-based charitable organisations and militants began in late 70s Pakistan. This network grew to provide the front for channeling billions of dollars to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Since then, the militant networks have spread globally, emerging as a major threat to international security.
Ordinary citizens in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries have suffered the deadly consequences of militancy supported by Wahabi and Salafi charitable organisations. In fact, as per the European Parliament’s report, evidence suggests that the aforesaid charities have been actively financing militants in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Mali, and Indonesia.
In this context, the Bangladesh government needs to wake up and try finding the roots of the militancy in Bangladesh, before it’s too late.
The country has already witnessed the militancy of Jaamat in hartals which jeopardise not only our economy, but also our education and social set-up. And the Hefazatis have already vehemently opposed women’s empowerment and declared their 13-point charter to turn the country into a regressive state. Their leader even sarcastically compared women with tamarinds.
In the backdrop of such developments, the nation must rise to the occasion, and protect religious minorities from the atrocities of the terrorists. The country is now at a critical juncture, politically and otherwise. It needs effective leadership.
The people are now desperately hoping that both the government and the opposition refrain from committing any further blunder that may plunge the country into darkness.
Let Bangladesh never be a Pakistan or an Afghanistan. Let Bangladesh continue to remain a moderate Muslim country with the blessings of the Sufi-saints who preached Islam in this part of the world, with love and affection, and whose holy shrines at Sylhet, Chittagong and elsewhere in the country and in other parts of South Asia still inspire the people at large in their spiritual lives.