It cannot be said that the activists dedicated to turning countries like Bangladesh into Islamic theocracies kept their intent a secret. In the latest incarnation of the Wahhabi-inspired mission, not too long ago ISL (Islamic State of the Levant) announced appointment of their leadership for the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh. What is a bit surprising how fast they have progressed and how expertly they have manipulated even the top leaders of the country and seduced the civil society in facilitating implementation of key stages in their goal to make it a part of the caliphate. The agents of extremism have become adroit in exploiting existing vulnerabilities and creating pressures; they are prepared to strike whenever an opportunity presents itself. The insistence by the Prime Minister that there is no ISL in her zamindary was truly pathetic: about the same time an US agency, tracking extremists around the world was downloading from an ISL outlet on the net pictures of the jihadists they were proudly displaying, announcing their arrived at the gate of heaven from that restaurant in Dhaka after butchering their victims like animals to be butchered at the festival after Ramadan. Prime Minister’s bragging must have drawn a big laugh at the ISL’s head-tent: what could be a better target than one that does not seem to have any connection with reality, and also one of the sickest to boot?
ISL agents in the country have established themselves inside public and private institutions, agencies, financial systems, etc. This they have done by their sheer numbers. One of the tricks they have used is to take advantage of the vacuum that has existed for long in rural education system, by rapidly building an extraordinary number of madrasas and mosques and have forced the acceptance of madrasa education as legitimate and equivalent substitute for secular education, and adequate for entry into the workforce. It seems the strategy for this was well thought-out, well organized and well financed. How can a religious Muslim find fault with madrasa, especially where government and the pseudo-secular civil society have failed to provide regular education to the poor children?
Religious education can be part of secular curriculum. But, if the goal is ideological indoctrination, then madrasas are ideal: who would question the madrasa trained instructors what they say in the class room? Surely no good Muslim will denounce these political operatives if they are teaching the children to believe that the sure way to have a better life is to try for one in the afterlife, which is guaranteed if they can kill infidels and idol worshipers. Many western educated scholars are ok with it, including absence of state control over segment of these institutions of indoctrination in fundamentalism, for training what form of brutal killing earns how many points to be cashed in at the gate of heaven, and other pious acts. ISL propaganda agents in the country are very successful in influencing significant public opinion for madrasa education, many of whom are also trying to earn points to be used at that most important gate. The excellent strategic thinking in this program is indicated in setting up similar but up-scale training facilities for middle and upper income families. I even met a Marxist who vigorously defended madrasa education, because ‘people want it’! Yes, we should support people consuming poison because they want it! Tells you something about the intelligentsia in the country. Islamist fundamentalists have established a version of Bokoharam system their brethren are trying out in sub-Saharan Africa.
ISL recognizes Bangladesh, like other Islamic states devoid of any DNA of democracy, as a fertile ground for integration to the caliphate of Dr. Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi, Ph. D, in Islamic History and Jurisprudence. For one thing, we did not – even after almost quarter century of experience that statehood based on religion does not work, does not mean you will not be screwed royally – comprehend the necessity of refusing to allow religion to be grafted to the new country again. Rational thinking would have recognized that the creation of Bangladesh was a refutation of the idea of religious state because it is inherently anti-democratic, and discriminatory. What should have been done was something close to what was supposed to have happened in 1947 – something close to it if not exactly. This would not have required forcing people to become atheist; rather, as required in a secular democracy, religion would have been divorced from civic life; religion would have been privatized, and freedom of religion guaranteed as long as civic rights of citizens are not violated. Either the leaders of the liberation movement were never themselves really secular, or they were incapable of learning from the realities around them how corrosive religion is when it is allowed to invade civic affairs, especially in a multi religious polity. Leaders of the Indian National Congress understood the complexity of our history and recognized how other societies dealt with it: by adopting democracy. While the Congress made a commitment to liberal democracy (which even Lenin recognized as the right step for the time and tried to convince hot-headed M. N. Roy), supporters of Muslim League, some of whom created Awami League when they felt neglected having been left out of its leadership, had no such commitment: they wanted a Muslim country. They got it in Pakistan, they made Bangladesh into one, and they will get more of it when ISL/Al Qaeda or the next reincarnation of viciously ambitious political operatives masquerading as protectors of religious purity are done with it.
Our leaders showed their true nature by the urgency with which they prostrated themselves at the feet of the primitive potentates of the Organization of Islamic Countries, even though they, led by the Saudis, refused to support Bangladesh’s liberation movements. Bhutto, who engineered the atrocities against the people of Bangladesh, came to visit soon after to a very friendly reception. These were steps of shameful ungratefulness, as these were measures for distancing from India as well, which to our dominant political thinkers has always been a Hindu country, not an emerging democracy, one of the largest in the world that has a majority Hindu population as well as world’s second largest Muslim population. No one was surprised that recently the Prime Minister was summoned by the Saudi King so that he can read her the riot-act and she obediently announced even before landing in Dhaka that she has no intention of breaking diplomatic relations with Pakistan in spite of its efforts to interfere in the decisions of the country’s judiciary.
Globally, Islam is in crisis. In the ongoing civil war, fundamentalists have decided to interpret Islam in a way that makes living in this world virtually impossible. The irrationals, the unreasonable, the absurdist, the murderous are so convinced of their inhumane views, you would think the creator has sent a new prophet in Al Baghdadi, which is anathema to Islam. Traditionalist Islam seem to have no answer to psycho- sociopaths. Indeed, who does?