By Mohshin Habib
Bangladesh has been suffering a deadly conflict between the progressive forces led by iconless youngsters, and the fundamentalists led by Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest religious political party.
There is currently an uprising of progressive youths of Dhaka, especially university students, bloggers, and artists demanding capital punishment for some leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami: those on trial before an international criminal court for their actions during the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971, when they collaborated with Pakistan in massacring a large number of civilians.
The conflict has disclosed the strength of radical Islamist power in the country. On February 5, 2013, a movement triggered in downtown Dhaka by bloggers, students and youths in a non-violent protest was immediately supported by large number of Dhaka residents, intellectuals, journalists and the allied parties of the ruling government, who — by singing, dancing, and depicting different works of art — demanded banning the religious parties from the state politics. But tens of thousands of Islamists, led by Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, were prepared to counter the movement violently and protest holding the trials.
Since the start of the uprising by the progressive front, two meritorious bloggers were hacked to death and three have been seriously injured. Eyewitnesses stated that the killers were bearded, and wore religious attire.
On 22 February 2013, after Friday religious services in over 250,000 mosques across the country, tens of thousands of radical Muslims came out, protesting. “The bloggers are atheists, and they insulted our Prophet.” In course of the demonstrations, they vandalized more than a dozen Hindu temples and dozens of houses of the minority Hindus, and they attacked policemen and law enforcement officials. They used women and children as human shields to fight against the law enforcement agencies; there were more than 19 killed . On 28 February, to protest against the death penalty for one of the top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamists called a countywide strike. In a wave of violence that erupted across the country, 33 people, including four policemen, were killed, and scores were injured.
On 3 March 2013, Jamaat-e-Islami’s followers used a photoshopped image of the leader’s face on the moon, and assembled locals through repeated announcements on loudspeakers from many mosques of a rumor that the Jamaat leader’s face was seen on the moon and that it is holy duty of Muslims to save him from the tribunal court’s verdict.
More than 20 people, including two policemen, were killed. In other violence and attacks by the Islamists in last 30 days, more than 100 people, including members of Jamaat, and 16 policemen, have died. Currently, banned Islamist groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Harkautl Jihad, and Hizb-ut-Tawhid are operating alongside Jamaat-e-Islami.
Jamaat-e-Islami was formally established from the thoughts of Maulana Abu Ala Moududi, a strong advocate of the Wahhabi movement in British India. The party’s objective has been to establish an Islamic state, governed by Sharia Law. The party was banned after the victory of Bangladesh over Pakistan in 1971. In 1975, however, in a coup, some military officers assassinated the founding father of the country, enabling the chief of the army at that time to seize power, and Jamaat-e-Islami to resume political activities again in Bangladesh.
The party’s support is rapidly increasing. In the parliamentary election in 2008, it garnered only 5 out of 300 parliamentary seats. But in an apparent backlash, after the secularist forces won the majority to govern, Jamaat gained momentum. Now almost all the Madrassas [Islamic religious schools] are controlled by Jamaat-e-Islami and other ultra-Islamist groups — and they are gaining vast support across the country. The Jamaat party also now has immense die-hard support in UK — numbering in the thousands — where the party chief, Golam Azam, now held in custody, has been exiled for years. According to Chris Blackburn, a UK based political intelligence analyst, the Jamaat-e-Islami controls influential religious organizations in UK, so the trend of fanaticism within these communities will probably rise at a greater rate than in Bangladesh.
Blackburn also stated that the Jamaat of Bangladesh has been repeatedly linked to terrorist organizations: the majority of the leaders Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh(JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata (JMJB) have histories of involvement with Jamaat and its student wing, Islamic Chatra Shibir.
Blackburn continues in the report that in 2004, Russian security agents from the Federal Security Bureau assassinated Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev, the former vice president of Chechnya, in a car bomb attack in Doha, Qatar. They believed he was meeting with wealthy Middle Eastern figures to collect funds for jihad, and that he was recipient of Jamaati funds to wage war on Russia. Jamaat-e-Islami is listed by Russia’s Supreme Court as a leading financier and supporter of terrorism.
Not only Britain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some of the gulf countries have impenetrable relations with the Jamaat leaders: John L. Esposito, a professor of International affairs at Georgetown University, disclosed in his book, The Future of Islam, how Saudi Arabia developed close ties with major Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami. Many pro-Saudi media outlets, such as Al Jazeera, Saudi Gazette, Ikhwan, and Muslim Observer also blindly support Jamaat-e-Islami.
( Courtesy: Gatestone Institute)