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ISLAMIC EXTREMISM AND BANGLADESH ELECTION

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Submitted by Moderate Muslim (India), Dec 30, 2008 at 10:38

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leaders' involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity have been recorded in many books, journals and periodicals since the liberation of Bangladesh. The present head of the Islamist party in 1971 as head of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chatra Sangha vowed to protect "every inch of Pakistan's land". Jamaat's present Secretary General was heading the Al-Badr Bahini, built to resist freedom fighters, allegedly led those who were involved in the killing of the intellectuals days before the victory of Bangladesh on 16th December 1971. Crimes committed by Jamaat-e-Islami aptly fits the Nuremberg Principles as violators of laws or customs of war which include but are not limited to murder, ill treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in an occupied territory. They can also be accused of crime against humanity defined as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or other inhumane acts done against any civilian population or persecution on political, racist or religious grounds.

Rome statute of the International Criminal Court significantly broadened the definition of crimes against humanity. Jamaat-e-Islami's crimes would fit those described by Leila Nadia Sadat of Washington University while interrogating the concept of extra-ordinary rendition as implicating in multiple human rights abuses including torture and death. Additionally Genocide Convention of 1948 and the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 regarding capture, detention, treatment and trial of prisoners of war and civilian internees provided rules the breach of which would be considered as war crimes.

International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law forbid torture as illegal and extra ordinary rendition combined with aggressive interrogation technique are described war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Unfortunately for us the Genocide Convention had not then come into effect nor was the concept of responsibility to protect developed. Derek Chollet (In defense of values-Stanley Foundation) considers that responsibility to protect is a transformational concept in international relations. The concept was given global approval by the 2005 UN Summit of world leaders that held that with sovereign rights came sovereign responsibility to the people of ones own country and to ensure that they were not subjected to genocide or mass killing or ethnic cleansing. Should a country is unable or unwilling to do so then the international community is obligated to step in to correct the situation. The world does not want to see a repetition of the massacre of Rwanda or Srebrenica. The venality seen by the world after the holocaust of Nazi Germany further helped evolve international law in the form of transitional justice.

The concept of transitional justice refers to a field of activity and inquiry focused on how societies address legacies of past human rights abuses, mass atrocities or other forms of severe social trauma including genocide or civil war in order to build a more democratic and peaceful future. The creation of tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda enhanced transitional jurisprudence and visible accountability of the perpetrators. Today the greatest worry of the international community on both side of the digital divide is the terrorism spread in the name of a twisted interpretation of Islam that is refused by the Muslims throughout the world. Yet suspicion about Muslims lingers on among those not lettered in the verses and the spirit of Islam. Samuel Huntington believes that the contribution of Western culture is in the separation of the church and the state. It is thought that religious institutions should not have the power to tell the democratically elected people how the country should be run. Contemporary English philosopher John Rawls urged to take the truths of religion off the political agenda. Besides for democracy to flourish twin toleration --minimal boundaries of freedom of action that must be crafted for political institutions vis-a-vis religious authorities and for religious groups vis-a-vis political institutions has been ensured.

Though Jamaat-e-Islami was banned in the initial days after the liberation of Bangladesh the leaders of the party were rehabilitated after the assassination of the Father of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Yet one wonders whether a political party that bases its loyalty to a particular religion and has alleged transnational links with terrorist organizations should not be banned. In 2002 the Spanish Parliament banned the Batasauna Party for being the political arm of the militant Basque nationalist. France dissolved Unite Radicale when a member of the party tried to kill President Chirac. A 1936 law empowers the government to dissolve any movement "that resembles in its form and military organization a combat group of private militia whose aim is to undermine the national integrity".

Way back in 1951 German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) at the request of then Chancellor Conrad Adenauer declared the Socialist Reich Party as unconstitutional on the ground that German Basic Law( Constitution) held that "political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people" and that political parties' main internal structure "shall conform to democratic principles". FCC also banned the Communist Part of Germany (West Germany) on the ground that the party advocated the overthrow of constitutional order. FCC upheld administrative limitations put on National Democratic Party in the Holocaust Denial Case (German Law Journal-vol-1. November 2000) In the US where the First amendment ensured practice of all religions the Supreme Court had struck down as unconstitutional the nondenominational prayer in New York public schools. In 2004 Belgium's highest court ruled the xenophobic Vlaams Volk was guilty of "permanent incitement and segregation". The ruling was based on based on 1981 Anti-Racism Act that had made punishable under the law an act of incitement to discrimination, segregation, hatred or violence against a person. In 1998 Dutch Court ruled in favor of banning Nationale Volkspartije for inciting hatred, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

In general Muslims were critical of Western attitude towards Hamas who had won the elections in Gaza. The Western argument rested upon the Oslo Accord that prohibited advocacy of "racism or pursue the implementation of their (political parties) aims by unlawful or non-democratic means". Hammas' Charter, interalia, declares: "We must spread the spirit of jihad among the Ummah (Muslim nation), clash with the enemies and join ranks of the jihad fighters". Given Israeli occupation of territories since 1967 and untold miseries inflicted upon the Palestinians the Oslo Declaration may appear to be knit picking. Because this brings up the question of the right of self-determination, failing which armed conflict as had happened in the case of Bangladesh where international jurists resolved the fight for independence as the freely expressed desire of the people of then East Pakistan being the will of the "people" because only the people, and not ethnic communities, can express such will to be free. The people of Bangladesh shall have the opportunity to register their preference for secular or religion based political parties in the forthcoming elections to be held on 29th December termed by some as "transformational". One hopes that the international community, and particularly South Asia, assailed by Islamic extremism would get the signal from the people of Bangladesh that Muslim countries can be moderate denying political and territorial space to terrorists to create havoc to innocent lives.

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