Bangladesh was not born on the basis of Islam like Pakistan. ‘Islam’ was not the primary or secondary driving force for the creation of Bangladesh. After more than two decades of linguistic, cultural, socio-economic and political repression by fellow Muslims of West Pakistan, the East Pakistanis understood the futility of Islam as basis for Pakistani nationhood. Bangladesh was born as a secular democratic country.
Historically Islam was propagated in present day Bangladesh in peaceful manner over the centuries. It did not experience the repeated brutal onslaughts of Muslim aggressors from outside India like the ancestors of present day Pakistani Muslims. People of Bangladesh have nothing to hide or distort in their history (except BAL & BNP versions of freedom struggle) as we see in case of Pakistan.
In pre-partition days of Indian sub-continent, Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan, KP (NWFP) and East Bengal were already Muslim majority without any danger for Islam or Muslims. It was in perceived danger in present day India, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where Muslims were in minority. This was the reason as to why most of the Muslim League leaders and supporters were from the Indian part. It was but natural that most of those Muslim League leaders and many supporters of Muslim League happily migrated from Indian part to Pakistan at the end of British rule in the sub-continent.
This migration had a definite pattern. Muslim migration from India to Pakistan was expected as a realization of dream of many Indian Muslims to be in a country specifically curved out for them on the basis of Islam. But the communal riots made the situation different and migration of Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India was mainly due to safety and security consideration. There also we saw that migration of Hindus from East Pakistan was comparatively less than West Pakistan. Even after repeated riots against Hindus of East Pakistan/Bangladesh, still the proportion of Hindu population in Bangladesh is about 8 per cent against 1.5 per cent in Pakistan. East Pakistan/Bangladesh has been lesser evil for Hindus in comparison with West Pakistan/Pakistan.
The Bengali language and its different dialects were the main vehicles of Islam in Bengal. Thus Islam was perceived, though not practiced, little differently in Bengal than Northern and Western parts of Indian sub-continent. Bengali Muslims of the then Bengal never truly constituted ruling class or became leaders in Muslim ruled India. The Bengali Muslims were never considered as a martial class unlike non-Bengali Muslims. The contempt of West Pakistani Muslims toward Muslims of East Pakistan was nakedly expressed by Maodudi (“East Pakistani Muslims are like Hindus”) and culminated by Yahya Khan (“Bengalis are short and dark, kill them”).
In Middle East, the economic and materialistic developments that we see have occurred in past decades due to ‘petro-dollar’ and intellectual and physical supports from millions of ‘expatriates’. Islam has nothing to do with this effluence. In other words Islam does not have any strength to improve the lot of common uneducated and poor Muslims. Pakistan and Bangladesh are classical examples of Islam’s failure to do justice to the common people’s need. In these countries, socio-economic disparity is as notorious as any non-Muslim developing country.
Allah’s General Zia ul-Haq was a devout Muslim. He was in power in Pakistan for 11 years and successfully Islamized Pakistan, as well as, practiced and propagated Jihad. But at the time of his death in a plane crash, common Pakistanis were as poor and as under-developed as they were earlier. Zia ul-Haq used Islam as a tool to remain in power. He took the Ulema for ride and remained in power by periodically throwing the pieces of bread of Islamization to Pakistanis. That helped to inflate the ego of Pakistani Ulema who in turn convinced the average Pakistanis for sure berth in heaven.
The Islamic bigot in Zia ul-Haq convinced him that he was leading Pakistan to Islamic prosperity and leadership of Muslim world. In actual Zia ul-Haq made Pakistan unstable, divided it with internal rifts, Islamized Pakistani Army, degraded women’s status and made the country a stooge of USA. Pakistan compromised its territorial integrity when USA Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Such was the price of Islamization of Pakistan.
Coming to East Pakistan, it has all along its share of fifth columnists and reactionaries in the form of Jamaat-e-Islam. There was a big group of brain dead Jamaati to impose Islam in all spheres of East Pakistan in connivance with their leaders in West Pakistan. The general Muslims of East Pakistan were comparatively tolerant to Hindus than West Pakistani Muslims. Language movement gave a separate identity and solidarity to East Pakistani Muslims in particular. Secularist Muslim intellectuals of East Pakistan supported a Bengali nationalism against the perpetual exploitation of East Pakistan by its Western big brother. Mujib led the East Pakistani to secular and democratic independent Bangladesh in spite of bloody repression of Bangladeshis by the Army of Yahya Khan. During the freedom struggle of Bangladesh, the Jamaat and other Islamist groups unlashed ethnic cleansing. They also did not spare Muslims of East Pakistan with secular and nationalist ideology.
The preamble of the Constitution of Bangladesh contained ‘secularism’, ‘democracy’, ‘socialism’ and ‘Bengali nationalism’ as its main principles. But Mujib, by attending summit of Organization of Islamic Countries in Lahore during 1974, took the first step toward Islamization of Bangladesh. After his assassination Ziaur Rahman speeded up Islamization and removed the word ‘secularism’ from preamble of the Constitution and inserted an invocation: Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim. Subsequently, President Ershad called for building of mosque based society in the country and encouraged foreign grants and funding. Finally through 8th Amendment of Constitution during 1988, Ershad established ‘Islam’ as state religion of Bangladesh. Shiekh Hasina and Khalida Zia have also been following the steps of their predecessors. This has been the sad story of Bangladesh.
Many Muslim apologists try to justify that act of Ershad as fulfillment of aspiration of majority people (Muslims) of Bangladesh. From mid 1980s, aspiration of Bangladeshi Muslims had changed. The corresponding change in the behaviours and mores of Bangladeshi Muslims, in favour of Islam, was aptly reflected in the experience of Kalyani (the central character of Taslima Nasreen’s book “Phera”).
Bangladesh had no other way but to fall in the perpetual trap of ‘Islam’. Without ‘Islam’, thousands of Ulema, Jamaati, Hefazati and Tibligi Jamaat leaders will be jobless and their millions of followers will be clueless about the meaning of ‘life’. Islam is the largest employer and space giver for politico-socio-economic power game in the country. Many Bangladeshi Muslim leaders, even during liberation struggle, were against ‘secularism’. The idea of ‘secularism’ was a bitter pill to them. But to get moral, financial, material and physical support from India they outwardly and temporarily accepted ‘secularism’ and returned to ‘Islam’ after freedom was achieved (Taqiyya).
Today, Bangladesh is as poor and as under-developed as it was during the time of Ershad. The thousands of power-hungry and narcissist Islamists and their millions of dumb followers are the blind pole bearers of Islam. The country has lately taken a few tentative steps towards democracy and there is presence of a reasonably big pool of Bangladeshi Muslims who can see, think and talk beyond Islam. Moreover, Shahbag has given some hope for a rational and forward looking future Bangladesh. But the fact remains that in future Bangladesh is destined to be as Islamist as the tribal area of Pakistan. Lack of political and administrative commitments and absence of popular support against Islamist parties will lead to such fate. Unlashing of terror by the Islamist parties will prevent any rational Bangladeshi Muslim to oppose the all-engulfing and Bahist-promoting Islam for the fear of becoming a Kafir or ‘spy of Hindu India’ or committer of blasphemy.
The peculiarity of Islam is that it can be justifiably used for political power game including murder of disgruntled and opponents. Islam propagates a self proclaimed highest level of morality in it and consciously downgrades other religions as immoral to boost its own worthiness. This self professed morality of Islam is purely based on regular reiterations through propaganda without objectivity. Islam is as moral or as immoral as any other religions.