Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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Islamism spreading like virus in secular Bangladesh, pushing youth to hate, kill non-Muslims

A country that had been built upon the promise of secularism has now closely and fatally embraced religion.

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I heard someone say that a river of blood flowed in Sri Lanka last Sunday. But why this carnage? Why so much hate?

In the middle ages there used to be religious wars, like the Crusades, where people of one religion would slaughter those of another. We like to believe that we have now become more civilised and that in our civilised societies all faiths and creeds coexist in excellent harmony. But we are denying the truth if we deny the fact that religious wars are still going on around us.

Muslims are killing Christians, Christians are killing Muslims and Jews, Buddhists are slaughtering Muslims, Muslims are killing Hindus, who in turn are killing Muslims. No matter how much we would like to believe that we have risen above religion, that our identity as human beings is all that matters, the reality is different.

One’s religious identity is still paramount.

Also read: Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings have Indian links & pose a serious security threat

Even now one’s racial, caste and gender identities take precedence over everything else. In New Zealand, the white supremacist Christian terrorist was fully aware that he was killing Muslims. In turn, Muslim terrorists have deliberately targeted Christians in Sri Lanka by bombing the churches and the hotels where Easter celebration was taking place.

Now, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks. It is not easy for a small minority organisation of a small country to train several people as suicide bombers and carry out a series of coordinated bombings to kill hundreds of people. Although there have been previous instances where the ISIS has issued false claims this time it might not be so.

The Indian government had sent three warnings to Sri Lanka informing them about the imminent attack on the churches. But despite the warnings, the Sri Lankan government had not taken adequate measures. Had they taken heed they would have perhaps not let Easter celebrations take place in any of those churches and the hotels too would have been put under strict surveillance. The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, said that he had not been aware of the intelligence inputs and that he would have taken the necessary steps if he knew. Perhaps India should have made more of an effort to explain to Sri Lanka the severity of the matter and ensured that they take adequate and urgent precautions to safeguard the security of their citizens.

If the bomb blasts in Sri Lanka were in retaliation to the mass shooting in the New Zealand mosque, then some Christian terrorist somewhere will avenge Sri Lanka by murdering more Muslims – this cycle of violence and murder has no end, it can go on for eternity.

Also read: Sri Lanka attacks give Modi campaign opportunity to exploit high-octane nationalism

The radicalisation of Bangladesh

But I fear the most for Bangladesh. The way people have been brainwashed in the past few decades is incredible. Once there had been space for differences of opinion in the country. People could, very naturally and without any fear, perhaps even with a bit of pride, claim that they did not believe in religion. Today if one says they are atheist, they will have to apologise and recant or risk being killed.

A country that had been built upon the promise of secularism has now closely and fatally embraced religion. Religion is spreading like a virus and the practice of waz –Islamic lectures and teachings – can be heard echoing from every locality. In the name of religion, the youth are being brainwashed and inexorably trained into hating women and non-Muslims.

Those who do not believe in religion are being incarcerated by the government and extremists while the ones who are spreading hate, envy, misogyny and terrorism in the name of religion are revered. They cannot be touched, their actions cannot be critiqued. There was talk sometime back to control the waz of certain leaders but who has the grit and determination to interfere in such matters? With their silent encouragement, the government and the common people, both blinded by religion, have made these local huzurs or religious teachers so very powerful that they now do whatever they want with impunity. They know full well that the government will bow down to them as it has done before. Thanks to them a large number of the youth are now religious, some doggedly so, and are the future Nibras IslamRohan Imtiaz or Mir Sami Mubashir (the Dhaka cafe terrorists) in the making. Any day now explosions will perhaps rock Bangladesh.

The factory producing terrorists no longer need the cover of night to operate. In broad daylight, scores of people, all blinded by religion, are being incited to hate and murder non-Muslims because it will bring them good fortune and pave the way for their ascent to paradise.

What if one day these people, like the terrorists of Sri Lanka, decided to attack churches, temples or the places of worship of the Shias, Bahais and Ahmadiyas? What if these people one day cause another heinous incident like the one at Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Café in 2016? What if they bomb the hotels? I’m sure they will; the way terrorist activities are on the rise it will be surprising if they don’t. Numerous ISIS agents have been killed, but their ideology lives on and it’s making the rounds of the entire globe.

Also read: What’s different about the Sri Lanka attacks? The rise of third party terrorism

Which country has managed to progress by simply building temples and mosques or by remaining immersed in religious dogma? There is not a single example. Rather, whatever we recognise as the ideals of a civilised and developed nation, the kind of places where people of all religions wish to move to and settle, all such countries have managed to separate religion from state, education and society, perhaps almost even from life. Despite not being blinded by religion, how are they so kind and generous? Truth be told religion has very little, if anything at all, to do with love and respect. If there is anything it has any business with then that is politics.

‘I will kill even if I have to die in the process’ – many Muslims don’t turn back from becoming suicide bombers. There is no dearth of such Muslims in Bangladesh. Several Bangladeshis have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, knowing full well that they will perhaps get killed by enemies. They consider such a death glorious and the fault lies in their beliefs. How these beliefs have come to be, what has helped in nurturing them, I doubt anyone has concerned themselves with finding the answers to these questions.

Is the government doing anything to address the issue? Only killing terrorists in so-called encounters does not solve anything. It is the responsibility of the government to keep potential threats under surveillance. This too is a sort of a warning. The way Sri Lanka had ignored the warnings it had received, if Bangladesh too makes the same mistake then the outcome of it will perhaps be as tragic as the former. Not once, but time and time again.

The author is a celebrated writer and commentator. Views are personal.

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  1. Much as I respect Ms Taslima Nasreen, her characterisation of Bangladesh as “secular”is completely incorrect. At the time of partition in 1947, the minority population of erstwhile East Pakistan was 22%. Now it is 9%. Is this a sign of secularism, where all religions can flourish? No where in the world, where Muslims are in majority, have the minority population grown faster. After all the truest sense of comfort in a land, is in raising a family.

  2. What is Islamism? Islam is an ‘ism’. ‘Islamism’ is a misnomer in an attempt to irrationally avoid criticizing Islam. It would not work for putting rational and respectable thoughts into the heads of people who follow Islam.

  3. Bangladesh already had an attack on Eid day. Did what was necessary to avoid further attacks. Hope Sri Lanka understands why it was targeted and avoids future attacks. Very big players involved in the attacks

  4. For more than 100 years this hatred has been sprading silently. Only recently this has come to light due to internet access.

  5. While Jihad has been practised for thousands of years, the modern means of destruction and communication technology makes it deadly in terms of impact. At the same time, it is counter intuitive that educated person too could become so violent at the cost of own life, in the belief of performing religious obligations and hoping for a better life in heaven. It is also counter intuitive that Muslims are killing more Muslims than others, all in the name of religion. Religion should remain in personal domain and at the least, there should be inter faith tolerance. Otherwise, basis of a modern, globalised society which necessarily is multi racial, multi ethnic, multi religious etc., will be shaken badly. Taslima has rightly raised some fears if this behaviour continues unchecked.

  6. This is not fair and not acceptable for any religion. Killing not a solution but love should be a better solution.

  7. Monotheism i.e. believing in only one god could be a reason for all intolerance. Buddhists and Hindus never attacked other religion, but has always embraced them. Based on 2001, Gujarat riots post Godhra, how can one blame Hindus for massacre of Muslims. I am sure that religions like Islam and Christianity propagated in the subcontinent through conversion of Hindus.

  8. The fact that the Sri Lankan suicide bombers were educated, affluent upends some stereotypes. Including a woman, wife to one of them, perhaps pregnant. A perversion of all one would expect religion to be. No reason for India to feel sanguine, either.

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