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A Bengladeshi Hindu's "few comments"

Reader comment on item: Militant Islam's New Strongholds

Submitted by Bibek Das (Canada), Oct 23, 2002 at 17:01

First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Daniel Pipes and Mr. Jonathan Schanzer for their brief but very execllelent article. I am a Bangladeshi national and Hindu by religion.

From this article one can get a rough idea about what is going on in Bangladesh. But the real senario is far more dengerous. The atrocity of Islamists on minorities is a routine work in Bangladesh now which took its newest extreme form just after the general election of last year (Oct. 01). In that election, the four party alliance won by a very big margin (which itself bears the sign of rising Islamic fundamentalism in the country) and came to power. All these four parties (Bangladesh nationalist party - BNP), Jamate Islami Bangladesh, Islami Oika Jote, and Jatio party) are right wing Islamic fundamentalists.

If one reads the Bangladeshi newspapers of Oct. 2001-Feb 2002, one will get a horrible picture of atrocities on minorities. Every day the front pages of newspapers contain reports of numerous brutal attacks on minority people: gang-rapes of minority women and children (ages 8-65) in front of their family members; arson attacks on minorities; evictions of minorities from their homes; stealing/looting of minority properties; kidnapping of girls; demolition of statues of Hindu goddess; forced conversions; barring minorities from practicing their religious activities.

In one occasion, thousands of victims had been gathered in one Hindu majority union named "Ramsil"in Gopalgonj district from that and neighboring districts uner severe attcks. Thousands of these people lived for few weeks under the open sky on a school's grounds.

Newspapers reported this news with photographs and interviews of the victims. But the Home Minister plainly rejected all the allegations of those atrocities and displacement of people. Actually he arranged through the district administration that those victims had to leave the grounds as soon as possible.

With the silent support from the government, these atrocities have been increased day by day. In many rape cases, the police have denied to investigate or prosecute. Even more shocking is the fact that in many of these attacks, victims rarely go to the police station fearing the ultimate price, e.g. the case of one girl "Purnima" in Sirajgonj district.

So during that period minorities had nowhere to go.

At that time a large number of minority people (most of whom have relatives in India) left the country fearing futher attacks and crossed the border of india. One noted writer/journelist, Shariar Kabir, went to India to interview the victims and cover the story.

But when he returned, the police arrested him at the airport, confiscated all his belongings and tortured him for the next few months.

But due to international pressures (mostly from human right groups) he was eventually freed from the jail.

What is going on just now? Everything i noted earlier except the scale of atrocity is lower than the peak period of Oct-Feb. Now a new culture of gang raping minority women has developed: Islamic terrorists go to minority homes at night in the guise of "dacoit"(looter) and gang rape the women of the family (please see the Daily Bengali newspaper "Janakantho" of Oct 12-13 2002 for ref.).

Are there any Taliban elements within the government of Bangladesh? Well, one party of the four party alliance--Jamate Islami Bangladesh-- was a direct supporter of the Taliban. After September 11, they organised big rallies through out the country supporting Osama bin Laden and burning effigies of President Bush. This party has two cabinet ministers in the government. Last year on the Eid at the largest congregation of the country, Baitul Mukarrom National Mosque, the Imam of the mosque (who is appointed by the government) urged all the Muslims to be united behind Osama and declared President Bush as an enemy of Islam. The president of the country and a few other influential ministers were also present at this congregation.

Actually the rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh began just after the killing of Sheik Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Now in Bangladesh there are more than 65,000 madrassas (religious schools). In many areas of Bangladesh most of the children go to madrassas instead of taking formal education. A common features of these madrassa students is that they are more fanatic then any normal students. And these millions of madrassa students are the basic strength of these fundamentalist parties.

In many areas of Bangladesh, fundamentalists (including madrassa students and teachers) do not allow NGOs to perform their social activities, as NGOs inspire females to go out of the home and start income earning activities. They provide them micro credits and involve them in social awareness programs.

In many madrassas in our country, there are training camps for young 'jihadies'. Many members of Bangladeshi fundamentalist parties fought for the Taliban. Even the government has started to stop cultural activities in the public universities. (Please see the article of Prof. Zafar Iqbal in Daily Bengli newpaper- "Prothomalo" of September 26, 2002). Is this not the first step of talibanaization of Bangladesh?

Finally, one general comment should be made about the Muslims. They claim that Islam is a religion of peace. But in my view they do not believe in peace. They do not believe in international brotherhood. They are conservative by religion. Let me give a specific example. When Muslims pray together they only pray for the Muslim "Umah"(muslim world). They never pray or wish for good things for nonmuslims.

Actually they do not have respect for non-Muslims (non-Muslims are called infidels, a derogatory word, in Islam).

But look at on other religions. When they pray, they pray for all (and in a few religions, not only for all people but also for all living beings). So, for a non Muslim when he becomes more involved in religious activities he becomes a human lover. But what about a fanatic muslim clergy? He hates everyone other than Muslims.

For that religious structure demonstrates that they do not love to live together with peace.

I think the time has come for a new world order. Moderate Muslims and others should be aware about the dangerous turn of Islamic terrorism, and should unite to do something for peace.

Thank the writers again for a good article.

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