china wholesale nfl jerseys Bangladesh government enables extremism
How’s this for a staunch defence of free speech in a secular state? Earlier this month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh denounced anyone who criticized religion or expressed their own lack of religious faith. “I don’t consider such writings as freethinking, but filthy words. . . . It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions.”
So, does she mean it’s all right to kill people who write such words? Hack them to death with machetes, usually? She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no either which is regrettable, because quite a few people are being hacked to death in Bangladesh these days.
Four high profile secular bloggers were hacked to death in separate attacks in Bangladesh last year. What was remarkable was the response of the government.
Hasina leads a country of 160 million people that is officially committed to defending the freedoms of speech and belief of its citizens. But while she publicly deplored the murders, she was careful to insinuate the bloggers were outrageous people who in some way deserved to die.
She also insisted these murders were the work of the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), or more precisely of its political ally, the Jamaat e Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party. She firmly denied foreign extremist forces such as Islamic State or al Qaida are active in the country.
This probably seems to Hasina to be sound practical politics in a country where 90 per cent of the population is Muslim. So, while not openly approving of murder, she publicly sympathizes with conservative Muslims.
It’s also good politics for her to blame the violence on the opposition parties, since admitting that foreign Islamists are involved would mean she was failing in her duty to defend the country. But the result of her pragmatism and passivity has been an expansion in the range of targets under attack by the extremists.
On April 23,
Prof. Rezaul Karim Siddique, who edited a literary magazine and founded a music school and never blogged about religion at all was murdered by machete wielding men as he left his home. He was an observant Muslim, but he was involved in cultural activities which many hardline groups condemn.
The following day, gay rights activist Xulhaz Mannan, editor of an LGBT magazine, and actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were hacked to death in the magazine’s offices in the capital, Dhaka. In other recent violence, religious minorities have been attacked: Shi’ite and Ahmadi mosques, Christian priests and Hindus.
So, is Bangladeshi drifting into the chronic terrorism against minorities that afflicts its former ruler, Pakistan? The answer is probably yes and the blame lies mainly with the two women who have polarised Bangladesh’s political life for so long.
In theory, at least, Hasina’s Awami League represents the ideal of a secular Bangladesh that embraces its minorities, and Zia’s BNP depends mainly on the support of conservative Sunni Muslims whose ideal society is explicitly Islamic. Such divisions exist in every Muslim society, but they are made far sharper by the mutual hatred of the two women who have dominated Bangladesh’s politics for the past 25 years.
The BNP’s alliance with Islamist parties pushes it ever closer to the religious extremists,
and Hasina’s pandering to conservative Islamic sentiment (in order not to lose devout Muslim voters to the BNP) is taking her party in the same direction. And Islamic State and al Qaida definitely are active in the country. Bangladesh is in deep trouble.