By: Shabbir Ahmed.

The whole world is watching the rise of many Islamic terrorist forces in different countries. Many people have been horrified by the violence and the manifestation of the terror caused by the ferocity and brutality associated with this rise. It was believed that in some countries they were downsized in numbers and strength. However, they did regroup and gain strength within a relatively short span of time to carry on the brutalities in the name of Islam. It shows that these types of organizations are adept in exploiting any chaotic environment to implement the rules according to their extreme views and interpretations. In fact, they are adept in exploiting any chaotic environment effectively in their favor. In such an environment, they can continue unleashing terror acts according to their perceived doctrine. The chaos and lawlessness allow them to increase their recruit in the name of Islam and as a result, they flourish both in numbers and strength. The odd in favor of their success is about infinity to one in a country with lawlessness and anarchy. These forces know it very well. So, they leave no stone unturned to create chaos and lawlessness to gradually weaken the government. This paves the way for them to capture power.

The more news I read about the rise of Islamic extremism and associated brutalities, the more I go back to the days of 1971 when similar forces committed similar acts with full vigor and zeal to suppress the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan. In 1971, the Pakistani military propagated the message to the Islamic political parties that Islam would be in danger if the Bengalis would succeed in getting independence through the breakup of Pakistan. It was a convincing message for all the fundamentalist forces to unite against the majority freedom seeking Bengalis of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). They welcomed the crackdown of the Pakistani military on the unarmed Bengalis during the dark midnight on March 25, 1971. Through this killing operation, Pakistani military started their nine-month long genocidal crimes on the Bengalis of Bangladesh with proactive support from the Islamic political parties. In the dark midnight of March 25, 1971, they attacked everywhere in Dhaka City in general and minority worship places, university dormitories and university residential areas in particular. They killed students and faculties without showing any signs of humanity. To make the torture worse and perpetuate the acts of brutalities in a prolonged fashion, the Pakistani military brought all the Islamic parties under their fold. In particular, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) joined hands with full support with the Pakistani military. JI provided leadership in organizing different armed Islamic cadres and forces to protect Islam and Pakistan by terrorizing and killing the Bengalis.

Going back to those days of 1970-1971, we would see that there was an election held in 1970 and Awami League (AL) got overwhelming mandate to form the government of Pakistan. On this backdrop, all the political parties were supposed to stand united against the Pakistani fascist military, which became hell-bent on overturning the mandate and suppress the desires of the aspiring Bengalis to establish rule of law in Pakistan. In particular, the Islamic parties in Bangladesh were supposed to support Awami League (AL) to get to the power for establishing the legitimate rights of the Bengalis to rule Pakistan. Without a minimum regard to the aspirations of their fellow Bengalis to rule and change their lot in Pakistan, the political Islamic parties went against and shook hands with the murderous Pakistani military, which was ready to wipe out an entire population by remaining illegally on the catbird seat. To increase the hostilities, JI took the lead and organized the all other Islamic factions to form different paramilitary forces. One of the paramilitary forces was singularly consisted of the members of the student wing of JI. These forces were given arms to kill the independence seeking people of Bangladesh and the academically qualified individuals possessing a highly developed intellect. That being the strategy, therefore, the responsibility lies with JI and the Pakistani military for the genocidal crimes against the Bengalis in 1971.

Let us analyze the options that JI could have had at that time. Since AL won the election, then JI could have supported them while Pakistani rulers were conspiring to suppress the mandate of the people of Bangladesh. After all, the Islamic thinkers (in Bengali they are widely known as “Chintabids”) always say, with a big mouth, that Islam is all about democracy. This could have been proven by the JI as the most influential Islamic party at that time. The second option could have been that they would remain inert throughout the nine-month long period and pray to Allah for peace because it is claimed by the Islamic thinkers that Islam is all about this item called “peace”. The third option could have been that they would have supported a killer Pakistani force under Gen. Yahya Khan, who overturned the mandate of a free and fair election with a killing spree to wipe out an entire population of Bangladesh. Undoubtedly, there were many Islamic thinkers with JI. In fact, the founder of JI named Maulana Moududi was a great Islamic thinker, who was sentenced to death for the killings of many Quadiani Muslims because of his fatwa that called them non-Muslims. He was pardoned by the government of Pakistan under the pressure from the Middle Eastern countries. I believe that this thinker comprehended carefully but decided to collaborate with the murderous regime of Pakistan to save Islam in 1971. As a consequence, all the JI leaders, workers, and supporters collaborated with the fascist Pakistani regime and took part actively as their cohorts in the killing of unarmed Bengalis. It was an alliance of the two fascist forces – military of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the fascist Islamic parties under the leadership of JI. The former forces needed additional support to kill the Bengalis and the latter forces needed to create a chaotic environment so that they could eventually takeover power just like the other similar forces are doing at the present in the world.

It is salient to examine the types of forces JI created under the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1971. The three known forces were: (i) Razakars, (ii) Al-Badr, and (iii) Al-Shams. The word Razakar means volunteer and it is relevant to mention that there was a battle of Badr fought by the Muslims at the onset of Islam. The Razakar force was composed of the pro-Pakistani elements of Bangladesh. This supposedly volunteer force was trained and equipped with arms to suppress the uprising of the Bengalis. Razakar is a derogatory term in Bangladesh because of many savagery acts committed by the members of this paramilitary force. The second organization Al-Badr was formed by recruiting mainly the members of the student wing of JI and by enlisting the students of Madrasahs. The latter group of Al-Badrs are nothing but Talibans (the Madrasah students are called Talibans). The third organization Al-Shams was formed under the leadership of JI with members consisting of other Islamic factions (Nezam-e-Islam and Muslim League). Al-Shams is an Arabic word meaning “the sun” with its probable root in the naming from a chapter in Quran called Ash-Shams. The members of Al-Shams acted more like Al-Badrs not only in helping the Pakistani military as their local guides but also taking part in killing unarmed Bengali civilians, especially minorities and members of political parties, who were critical to the theocratic and military rule of Pakistan. Specifically, Al-Badrs carried out a planned massacre of the leading intellectuals consisting of university professors, physicians, musicians, litterateurs, journalists, and many other professionals.

JI and the Pakistani military Islamized the whole political deadlock that was not supposed to happen at all in the first place because of the clear mandate given by the people of Bangladesh to AL. The Islamization was done even in the naming of their armed paramilitary organizations. As one can see, many such types of armed organizations are now acting in unison in the troubled and chaotic areas in the world. They are carrying out countless numbers of brutal savagery, and sadistic acts against humanity on a daily basis. Given the experience of JI brutalities in 1971 in the name of Islam, we do not get surprised by the horror acts of similar organizations that are taking place in different parts of the world. These organizations are not different from the JI of Bangladesh. One can infer about the indistinguishable acts of JI in 1971 and the acts of other present-day organizations. After the independence, Bangladesh banned the communal Islamic political organizations in 1972 but they were revived in the name of democracy and multi-party politics. Now, there is a strong opinion of the people of Bangladesh to ban JI again from doing politics in the name of Islam. It is needed to save the democracy, communal harmony, and progress in Bangladesh. With these forces in politics, Bangladesh will be held back at every step. Will Bangladesh get advice from different powerful quarters in the world not to ban JI but have dialogue with them? Will the same quarters call JI as a moderate Islamic political party? Hopefully, there is a light-bulb moment now for the world to resist these types of Islamic political organizations.