Photo: Saiful Islam

Photo: Saiful Islam

The whole country is still in a standstill after the Long March and Dhaka rally of Hefazate Islam. Hefazate Islam, a conglomerate of several thousands Madrassahs across the country, announced this long march program to press their 13 point demand. Their 13 point demands are the following,

1. Reinstate the phrase ” Complete trust and faith in Allah” in the constitution and abolish all laws contradicting the dictates of Quran and Sunnah.
2. National Parliament must pass new law with provision of highest capital punishment for blasphemy.
3. The Murtad atheist bloggers who are leading Shahbag movement and speaking ill of prophet Muhammad ( SM) and Islam must be punished and all the anti Islam campaign must be stopped. (more…)

Source: bdnews24

Let me start by asking you all a question. You may have a very strong religious affiliation; your faith may be impeccable. Or you may be deeply indoctrinated with a political ideology. Passion runs deep in your vain in favor of your faith or ideology. But does this passion permit you to break the basic law of humanity, i.e. kill innocent people? And if you do any such act out of this strong political of religious conviction, can you get away saying that it’s not my fault, some religious or political leader used my passion to make me commit such crime?


Ramu Upazilla of Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh usually comes to news when mad wild elephants attack localities and trample people to death. But this time, news of a different madness sent a chill through the spine of the whole nation. Through a night long mob attack and violence, dozens of Budhdhist temples, religious structures, monasteries, households were destroyed and burnt to ashes.

This is apparently the first communal attack on Buddhist minorities in Bangladesh. As Hindu and Pahari minorities used to be at the receiving end of almost all communal atrocities in Bangladesh, Buddhists coexisted peacefully with mainstream Muslims for centuries.

Dear Editor Mahmudur Rahman

You lost me today.

Since early days of 2007, I have been a very attentive follower of your writings and at the same time a great admirer of your courage and honesty. During those days of post 1/11 early euphoria; as a blogger I tried my best to tell the truth and expose the facade of the rulers. We had little support from mainstream media. You were one glorious exception.

I am following your Jail diary with great interest. This is the first thing I read daily. But in todays episode, your exeggerate ভক্তি to Maolana Delwar Hossain Saidee raised many eyebrows. Neither does it help you, nor the cause you are fighting for. Even if you contest allegations of Saidee’s 71 role, even if we presume he is innocent until proven guilty– there is no contesting of the fact that he is a religion trader ( ধর্ম ব্যবসায়ী) . If you ever listened to his Quran Tafsirs, will would have noticed that 70% of what he says are pure divisive politics and bigotry. He would use raw bad taste jokes demeaning women and minorities etc. Few years ago, I was listening to one of his speeches being played by Microphone in a public place. Until I stopped counting, he pronounced the word, ধর্ষণ (rape) at least 75 times. He would use the words with a sexually explicit tone to arouse some raw passion among his listeners.

Please don’t dismiss me as another susil/ AL supporter. I am with you in all your struggle.

But I did not like the way you hated to even ride the same van with Businessman Giasuddin Al Mamun or how you refused to take food from him. Mamun defiitely did some corruption. Who does not do that in Bangladesh except a few rare exceptions like you? Don’t you feel you have not been fair with Mamun? You know how much torture this Mamun has suffered since 1/11? Your ordeal is nothing compared to Mamun’s.

Or simiarly I wish you showed at least a part of the respect to your assessment of Mirza Abbas as you showed to Maolana Saidee.

Mamun is a businessman who fought way up from the ditches and Abbas is a street raised politician. They may have many lapses, but none of those are comparable to those of Maola Saidee.

In 2008 Jamaat connection pulled BNP down to the bottom of the ocean. BNP desperately needs to dossociate itself from Jamaat to build a popular coalition and attract educated middle class back to it’s rank and file. Your excssively soft corner for Maolana Saidee would only make the educated middle class suspicious of BNP and push the coalition effort backwards.

Indeed, a very bad precedent you are creating Dear prime Minister Hasina.

It started with the arrest of an elected Dhaka City Ward Commissioner ( Councilor) Mr Chowdhury Alam.

Removal of Chowdhury Alam was very important to ruling Awami League Government’s political strategy. Mr Chowdhury Alam, as elected representative from Dhaka’s city center area, was the key field level organizer of all the city center rallies/ programs of opposition of BNP. Awami League takes opposition activities very seriously. They simply don’t want opposition to exist or act in any form. Departure of Mr. Alam came as a big debacle for opposition BNP as Mr. Alam was their key figure in it’s efforts to organize street agitation in Dhaka.

It has been nearly a year Mr. Alam went missing. Nobody accounted for his whereabouts.

In this list of missing under the current regime, Chowdhury Alam definitely was not the only name. The list became long quickly within first two years of this regime.

Last name in this list is the son of an opposition political figure. A rightwing orthodox islamic political leader and a Madrassa principle, Mr Fazlul Haque Amini had been protesting, peacefully, against the new fuggy inheritance policy of the government. A nationwide strike was organized last week and rallies are taking place on regular interval. Government’s top leadership reflected the whole issue personally on Amini. Statements made by the the prime Minister as well as other senior ministers were clear indication of the level of discomfort this government is experiencing in Handling this Amini trouble.

So not sure how to handle Amini, as any direct crackdown on Amini led madrassa based politics may be perceived as attack on political Islam by rural Bangladeshis, this prime Minister seemed to have taken the Chowdhury Alam route. Like Chowdhury Alam, the news broke as an arrest of Fazlul Haque Amini’s son Abul Hasanat by plain clothed policemen. Multiple news outlets carried this news.

And exactly like Chowdhury Alam case, since his abduction, Mr Abul Hasnath remained unaccounted for. Except for denying that he was arrested, there has not been any statement from any corner of the government regarding this incident. There has not been any visible action by law enforcement agencies to solve the problem by rescuing the abducted person. Mr. Amini, the father of the victim, has been complaining that he is regularly been threatened from the mobile phone belonging to his son. Bangladesh law enforcement agencies has the capabilities to track the phone records and locate from where the calls are made. Using this system, they solve most of the crimes these days. The silence from government quarters about the abduction, Prime Minister Hasina’s continued verbal attack on Amini ( Her last statement about Amini was that Khaleda Zia let Amini loose on the government), absolute absence of any action by law enforcement men to rescue or at least trace the abducted — should be enough evidence to suspect government’s hand behind the abduction of Amini’s son.

The government must understand that denying the abduction does not let them off the hook. It is the responsibility of the government to protect the safety of it’s citizen. A man suddenly can be whisked away in broad daylight from mains street Dhaka and Government will not have any say in it — this cannot happen in a civilized society.

Abducted and missing opposition activists and their families have been the historical hallmark of all the fascist governments in history. We don’t want to believe that our country is heading the fascist way. But the series of events, starting from Dr Yunus saga to the abduction of the son of Fazlul Haque Amini force us to fear about impending fascism.

BNP observes November 7 as a national day and a rally is held in Dhaka annually by BNP to commemorate the event.  As usual, BNP has been planning on the event for quite a long time. Today it was revealed that BNP was not allowed hold the rally in the two main public meeting places in Dhaka. After not getting permission for Paltan and Muktangan, BNP decided to hold it’s rally in  the limited space in front of it’s office.

However in the same newspapers that published this news, also published were reports and photos of  a grand rally  that took place in Muktangan today.  Here is a photo of the grand rally…

While the government talks about secularism and banning of religion based politics, in practicality it prefers the religion based Taliban themed political outfits over the main opposition party.  Refusing main opposition permission to hold rally in Muktangan, the site of the above rally of today, is an evidence of the double standard of this government.

PM declares war on terror . This is how The daily Star highlights the opening remarks of the newly elected Prime minister of Bangladesh. This is definitely a move to please/ payback the benefactors of PM’s government that include neighborhood powerhouse India and global powerhouse USA. However in USA, per an AFP report, the newly elected President Obama ‘declared end’ to war on terror.

As a consequence of the Jamaat e Islami’s active support of Pakistan army during the 1971 liberation war, and in forming death squads (al badr and al shams), all Islamic parties are banned. The first Bangladesh constitution lists “secularism” as one of four founding principles.

Daud Haider publishes poem in ‘Sangbad’ literary section where he allegedly insults Prophet Mohammed, Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha. A college teacher files a case in Dhaka court. Protests ignite, and Dhaka sees first Islamist procession since 1971 liberation war. Haider is taken into protective custody and moves to India in 1975. He later migrates to Germany.

Social worker Engineer Enamul Haq publishes a leaflet which contains reference to the Prophet’s wives, although Haq says it was not meant in a negative way. Death threats and processions are brought out, but the protests diminish as the government of Awami League dismisses the protests as “politics of anti-liberation forces”. Haq spends time in protective custody but is later released.

After a military coup, General Zia ur Rahman removes secularism from constitution. Article 25(2) also provides that “the state shall endeavor to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity.”

After a military coup, General Ershad passes a constitutional amendment declaring Islam as state religion. National protests are quickly suppressed by the military regime.

Based on the new constitutional amendment, legislation is drafted to declare Ahmadiyas as non-Muslims.

In Md. Jamir Sheikh v Fakir Md. A. Wahab, Magistrate’s Court issues arrest warrants under sections 295A, 298 and 109.

There were protest rally of the bigots in the streets after Jumma prayer today. The rally, mostly composed of madrassa students, was allowed to march from Baitul Mukarram to Shahbag circle, where the rally was stopped using minimum force ( light clubbing).

It is worth mention that this rally was tolerated when the nation is under a state of emergency. Previous such hostile attempts were crushed with the use of horrific force. Exactly one month ago, when Dhaka University students as well as street hawkers took the streets in protest against military and police atrocities, after intial conciliatory efforts, the protests were crushed heavy handedly. Curfew was imposed, convoys of military units cordoned of students residences and they beat the hell out of them before picking up dozens for undisclosed locations. Senior teachers and student leaders were arrested and questioned for weeks, many teachers have been sacked.

We may have longed for years for an independent and free judiciary, an autonommous election commission and a proactive and free anti-corruption commission. Althought current ‘short cut to success’ government is promising all of the above, a parctically independenht judiciary, election commission and anti corruption commission is still a a far cry.

Why do I say that?

Recent moves by EC to patronize breakaway splinte groups of major parties ( cordial long meeting with Mannan Bhuiyan’s delegation and refusal to meet BNP mainstream delegation) has forced people to start thinking twice about EC activities. Similarly recent remarks by Anti corruption commission chairman about the impossibility of his asking for wealth report of government advisors or ACC activities to selectively spare pro government politicians from anti-corruption investigation have already tainted the ACC as a partisan body, serving the rulers. And it was in the news just today on how this CTG has superseeded one judge to promote Justice Matin ( possibly their man of choice) as a judge in Supreme court appeallate division.

Then what government office we are left with? This is the office of the khatib of baitul Mukarram national Mosque. The Khatib, Moulana Obaidul haq is a very powerful character and he enjoys quite an powerful and independent status despite the fact that he is a government employee. In 2001, AL government, after watching his 5 years of activities, sent Khatib Obaidul into retirement. But Khatib promptly returned after winning a legal battle with the government that dragged upto Supreme Court. Even during the last 4 party alliance government, this Khatib has worked totaly at his own will and ferociously independently. Going totally against the governments foreign policy, as early as in 2003, this Khatib Obaidul Haq openly urged the protesters in an antiwar rally to start a war against US. Then he led a protest rally to condemn a reported derogatory remarks on Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SM) that was made by visiting German scholar Prof Hans G Kippenberg at a seminar organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS). This Khatib denounced the government’s “meddling” when govt wanted to review and reform the madrassa curriculum on the face of International pressure after 9/11.

After nationwide bomblast on August 2005, in an interview, this Khatib stubbornly refused to agree that the bombing could be done by Islamic zealots. He also reiterated his demand for establishiong Islamic rule (Sharia) in Bnagladesh.

ET: Every Islamic leader wants to establish the rule of Islam. Why is there a need for establishing such a rule?
MOH: We are Muslims living in a country where the Muslims are the majority. Why wouldn’t there be a need to establish the rule of Islam? Definitely there is such a need

However very soon this same Khatib changed his stand about the bombing and led a national rally of ‘half Million Mosque’ to protest terrorist bombing in Bangladesh.

And finally as the country president of International Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatme Nabuwat Bangladesh (IMTKNB), an international outfit of anti-Ahmadiyya diehards, this Khatib Obaidul Haq has been a leading figure of Anti ahamadiya movement in Bangladesh.

And this same Khatib is now leading the  campaign against daily Prothom Alo, utilizing the cartoon issue.

So much for freedom of the religion (of the majority) in Bangladesh! And so much for independent institutions in Bangladesh!

Marhaba our Dear khatib!

[Cross posted at Unheard Voices] 

Are we seeing a Bangladesh version of Dutch cartoon fiasco? Recently a cartoon at weekly Alpin magazine of Daily Prothom-Alo raised protests among the bigots and Muslim fundamentalists of Bangladesh.

Daily prothom Alo swiftly withdrew the issue and apologized for the cartoon. I am not sure whether that was needed, but this should have been enough for those who may have been offended.

However an alarming news just came . Bangladesh Government has arrested the cartoonist Mr Arifur Rahman.

This arrest raises serious concern about continued patronization of the religious zealots, fundamentalists and bigots by the successive governments in Bangladesh.

A cartoonist should be sensitive about sensitive religious issues and should try not to hurt peoples’ feelings. However, if a mistake is made, a promt withdrawl and apology should suffice.

The arrest of the cartoonist tantamounts to very easy giving in to the demands of bigots. And if the bigots can lodge such an easy victory, why they would not  be more aggressive tomorrow in their demands. e.g. What if the same group start demanding closing of all the restaurant during ramadan daytime and then asking all women to wear hizab in public? Isn’t the government opening a floodgate, a very dangerous floodgate?

We have seen this government as very heavy handed in dealing with centrist politicians. Very powerful personalities have been jailed for months without charge. Senior politicians getting 30 something years jail term with silly allegations.

Where is this uncompromising, headstrong attitude towards Islamic bigots?

We are seeing a systematic destruction of center right. Can’t we see that anihilation of center right will push all towards far right?

And with the arrest of cartoonist Arifur rahman, meet our Mr. Far Right.  

[I wrote this piece for different yahoogroups on the day Ivy Rahman died, several days after 21st august attack on Sheikh Hasina. Although this reflects my immediate rage and shock and may be faulted to contain premature conclusions, most of the concerns still remained valid today. The leader of madrassa movement, Mr Azizul Haq, whom I blamed, later became friend of Awami League. So was Mufti shahidul Haq, who has recently been incriminated as a co-planner by a main suspect, Mufti Hannan, another Madrassa product.]


Ivy Rahman

I grew up hearing of Ivy Rahman as a political leader. She had quite an unusual name for a politician of her generation. Ivy Rahman died early this morning. She was grievously injured on the bomb attack on Awami league meeting this week. That’s what always happen. The better ones always go early. In our nasty/corrupted political culture, and unlike many of her political colleague, Ivy Rahman or her husband or any member of their family have never been implicated in any sort of corruption or terrorism allegation. She spent her life in one ideological politics, and just ended it with the same idealogy.

Not this Time

With the injury and later death of Ivy Rahman, at least one stereotype could not repeat itself this time. BNP couldn’t blame the bombing on AL; no one would believe AL will kill a senior leader like Ivy Rahman for political gains.

Why BNP is to Blame

There would be a lot of finger pointing now of who did it. I, like Sheikh Hasina, don’t want to say that BNP did it, but I believe all responsibility goes to BNP. If BNP can spend highest national resources to pave smooth fun by Tareq Zia and gong in haowa vaban, I believe Sheikh Hasina deserves at least part of the security. It is quite plausible that if a portion of security measures was taken for the meeting as it is usually taken for Tareq Zia and his friends, this incident could have been prevented.

There are more. BNP is creating examples for others to follow. Only several months ago, whole nation watched how BNP openly harassed it political opponent Dr B Chowdhury and Mr Abdul Mannan. Wasn’t it a green signal for the groups who carry a little more extreme opinions?

Madrassa grown extremist groups of Moulana Amini kind has been issuing death threats to many intellectuals, journalists. Moulana Amini is a partner of this government and he became an MP with BNPs election symbol, sheaf of paddy (Dhaner sheesh). As BNP bears responsibility for the activities of any of it’s party members and MPs, BNP also bears responsibility for any activity/speech by Moulana Amini.

And again. What BNP did in the history to restrain these zealots? The BNP government went against calls from UN, USA, EU, Amnesty international etc. to comply with the demand of Amini and madrassa movements to ban Ahamadiya books. Will it be grossly wrong if I connect the dots in the following way. We all know these madrassa movements don’t like mazaar–they bombed Shah Jalal mazaar, they don’t like pohela boiushakh — they bombed Romna botomool, they don’t like Bengali culture– they bombed Udichi, they don’t like Communist party– they bombed CP meeting. I know I should not blame someone without proof, but I am allowed to suspect, isn’t it?
What BNP did? They arrested NGO workers(Proshika), Journalists( Selim Samad), Opposition Political leaders, intellectuals. In the meantime they keep on patronizing these Madrassa movement led by Amini, Azizul Huq etc.

So why BNP will not be held responsible?

Nature of Protest

We can rally, protest, blockade to express our anger. Why do we have to burn innocent peoples cars, or public buses or public property? Why can’t we leave behind the culture of sixties when protest used to mean anarchy? Can’t AL or Sheikh Hasina come up with a statement urging people to protest without burning property? How many more years we have to wait to become civilized?

The dead and the injured

As you will noticed, there has been a fundamental difference in Bangladesh media and international media on the media coverage of the events . BBC, CNN etc. website gave very high priority to this news. But none of these media outlets showed any picture of any dead or injured. Instead, e.g. BBC showed a much powerful picture of a wailing man in a barren Dhaka street. See what Dhaka media are doing. They are showing picture women-men lying on the streets and mingled bodies in the morgue. Even they are publishing the picture of some leader and asking in the caption is she alive or dead. Bangladesh newspapers are independent and maintain a high standard of journalistic excellence. But when they will understand that privacy is a part of journalistic etiquette also?

Ambulance and the the rickshaw van

A big part of international coverage mentioned that injured or the dead were being carried to the hospital with tricycle carts. It was a big niche in the story to show how savage we still are. After such an incident in the heart of Dhaka, police car or ambulance don’t show up. In this 21st century we still carry the injured with a manual cart, untrained passers by pull and hold badly injured bodies. And journalists take pictures of them.

Pizza Hut

We now have pizza huts in Bangladesh, people are proud to show that off. “Fast Food” courts are mushrooming everywhere, people are spending a fortune in those places playing pools and bowlings. We, the chattering Bengali, are talking relentlessly with our fancy camera cell phones. And those mingles bodies head towards the emergency room on a rickshaw cart.

Egyptian Islamist zealot turned Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri is apparently the poster boy of violent terrorism and his face in the media evokes a violent image of Islam. During the early school days of Zawahiri, the then Egyptian government decided to exterminate Islamic militancy by hanging every possible person with the slightest connection with Islamic militancy. The bloody and heavy handed violent methods of Egyptian government in controlling the influence of some relative less violent groups like Muslim brotherhood evoked sympathy and ideological allegiance to these groups among many young people. At that time Zawahiri was recruited to Muslim Brotherhood and later he assumed a leadership role in Egyptian Islamic Jihad. If we take lesson from history we would see that violently exterminating the leadership of Egyptian Islamic groups did no have any long term effect in curbing Islamic terrorism. Rather we now have this Ayman al-Zawahiri threatening the world with new fear every now and then.


1. The newspaper publishing the cartoons apologized on Jan 31, about 10 days ago.
2. Danish ambassador in Bagladesh, has apologized on behalf of his governmnet.

Now what else we can demand?
Shut the newspaper?
Hang the editors and the cartoonist?
The cultural editor has already been sent to indefinite leave.
The cartoonist is reportedly hiding in fear of life.

How we want to punish those reponsible for publishing the cartoons?Does Denmark have any law to do so?

We are liberal and progressive , always campaign for abolishing draconian anti freedome of speech laws. We demand that all the laws, those can be used to punish a journalist, cartoonist or artist should cease to exist.
Eaxctly that is probably the case of Denmak. They probably don’t have any law to punish a someone for opinions published in a newspaper.

Now more demands are coming to punish Denmark as a whole. Danish embassies are being arsoned, torched. Danish products are being boycotted.
The newspaper that publised the cartoons is apparently a right wing newspaper. Why punish all of Denmark for for the crimes committed by a handful? Isn’t it confusing? We, in one hand, blame the west for punishing the whole Muslim community for crimes committed by one Osama Bin Laden, and at the same time are doing the same mistake. Boycotting all danish products, punishing all of Denmark for crimes committed by a handful. It isn’t right. Should all of Bangladesh be punished for all what is written in Inqilab or Shangram or even janakantha?

Sevral years ago, Indian artist MF Hussein fell in the wrath of Hindu zealots for drawing a nude painting of an Hindu Goddess. Did India Hang M F Hussein? How would the rest of the world feel if India gave in to the street demands of right wing Hindus and did punish M F Hussein?

Before we burn Danish Flags, call for boycott of danish products, lets remember a friend of need.,DANIDA, the Danish International developement Agency. Bangladesh has been one of the main recipients of Danish assistance since its independence in 1971. Disbursements in Bangladesh increased from 144 million DKK in 1995 to 202 million DKK in 2004. Even in terms of foreign investment in Bangladesh, Denmark ranks 14th in 2002, way ahead of our ummah friends like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Malaysia etc.

It is true, what the Danish newspaper did is nothing but a blatant display of arrogance and hypocrisy recently being observed in a group of western population.

And it is harmful in more than one way. This event has given the cornered, transientltly contained violent Islamist groups in Bangladesh and rest of Muslim world a chance to come out of the hiding hole again. ” Khatme Nobuot”, the violence loving Islamist party held a huge rally in Dhaka today and their leaders delivered fiery sermons which were visible all over the electronic media in Bangladesh.

We have to remember, it is the time to remain calm. Lets not protest arrogance, ignorance and stupidity with greater display of arrogance, ignorance and stupidity. Lets cease this opportunity and educate the west about the teachings of Islam, the religion of peace. Lets educate them how Islam strictly rules against images of God or prophet. Lets teach west the rationale behind forbidding the idolization of Muhammad.

And at the same time while we protest the pencil caricature in a Danish newspaper, lets also show the guts to protest the caruicature using human bodies and blood in the streets of muslim countries. What is more henious? A cartoon or the suicide bombing of school bus, killing innocent children in Iraq? Or the bombing in wedding reception in Jordan? Or kidnapping of journalist Jill Carroll and force her into wearing Hijab and threat her of slaughtering?What justifies killing fellow Muslims because they are Shi’ite or Ahmadiya or Sunni of a different sect? Why collective muslim conscience is so quite in protesting those crimes?