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Marauding Mullahs

April 11, 2013

April 6 could have been a dark chapter in our history. Luckily, that did not happen. Yet, Bangladesh’s festive month has been stained by the show off of an upstart Islamist group, funded by Jamaat-BNP. Hefajet-e-Islam(HI) called a long march and held a rally demanding punishment of bloggers and organizers of Shabagh movement at capital’s commercial hub Motijheel, just few kilometers away from the gravity center of Shahbagh.

On the eve of the so-called long march, blogs and social media exposed the secret deal that took place between Hifajet-e- Islam and Jamaat-BNP.

To some extent Jamaat-BNP is successful to slow down the pace of Shahbagh movement and to divert public attention from the capital punishment of war criminals to a fight between atheism and Islam.

HI demanded that by April 30 government fulfill their 13 points, of which 2 got most attention: introduction of blasphemy law and banning the free-mingling of men and women.

HI even criticized PM for calling murdered blogger Rajib Haider the first martyr of Bangladesh’s second freedom struggle. It is important to note that Rajib’s murder, masterminded by a Shibir man and carried out by a new terror cell called Ansarullah Bengali Team, was hailed in international terror sites.

Jamaat-Shibir’s disinformation campaign projected Rajib as an atheist and accused him of defaming Islam, which Rajib’s family and close friends rejected.Jamaat-Shibir and a section of BNP’s propaganda machinery took full advantage of digital divide, incited IT-illiterate mullahs and sold their idea that Shahbagh movement is all about atheism and defamation of Islam.

HI’s rally was not a peaceful gathering. While heading towards Motijheel, A section of HI vandalized Shabagh sympathizer Sammilito Sanskritik Jot’s stage at Mohakhali. During the rally, they attacked several journalists, who were covering the rally, including Ekushey TV reporter Nadia Sharmin. They beat her in broad day light because of her gender. She sustained severe injuries and admitted at the hospital. They did not stop there.

In the afternoon when the rally ended, a section of HI broke off the fence of Ramna garden and marauded towards Gonojagaran Mancha. But their attempt went in vain as the crowd gathered around Gonojagoron Mancha thwarted their advance. Fortunately, widespread bloodletting, which Jamaat-Shibir were eagerly expecting, was avoided.

Participants of that long march mostly came from HI dominated madrassas. This group represents a teeny-weeny section of Bangladeshi society. So the gathering of April 6 should not be interpreted as the rise of a new Mullah force. These folks are always there. Some of them are operating under the auspices of Islami Oikyajot. The rest operate independently. They just took a new name. They are some sort of mercenary Mullahs. They saw an opportunity to become active again in the politics after a long deep nap and upped their ante before the next election. They are no third or any sort of alternate force. Jamaat-Shinir and HI are birds of a feather! Media should not publicize much their political programs.

However, what is worrying here is that their close links with global terror groups like al Qaeda. Some organizers of HI are former leaders of banned Islamist groups and are still dreaming of making this country another Afghanistan. One of the leading members of this group Mufti Izhar has a notorious record. His operated madrasas train and send Islamist militant to Myanmar. Some of them even died in skirmishes with Myanmar Army and in landmine explosion.

What annoyed everyone is government’s conciliatory approach ahead of HI’s much publicized long march. Three bloggers were flung into custody. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some senior army officers were behind this arrest and this much publicized long march. This once again brings up the issue of Mullah-military nexus, which is prevalent in Pakistan where Pak Army’s official motto is ‘Jihad fi Sabillah’. This means, in Bangladesh, there is still a vestige of wahabi section in the defense establishment.

The role of Qawmi madrasa has been criticized following HI incident. Orphans and the riff-raff, who do not have easy access to primary and secondary education, receive education from these madrasas, which lack a proper govt. approved curriculum. Politically ambitious Islamic clerics exploit them, use them in their political programs and endanger their future.

Shall we just continue the orphans and the destitute to fall into greedy mullahs’ hands? The well off section should take more responsibility in running the madrasas they patron. They have to decide what should be taught in madrasa and who will be the teachers. Everyone has to stay vigilant that the students must not be used in political programs at greedy mullahs’ will.

The HI incident also left some matters that need some serious thoughts. The rich and business community should come forward to set up more orphanages, instead of madrasas, across the country. To eradicate digital divide, the digital literate must take initiative to provide free IT lessons to those who cannot afford it.

Shahbagh movement is so far the biggest non-violent movement this country ever witnessed. Many try to call it euphoria. That is not true. Euphoria cannot continue for two long months. Even at the low ebb, Shahbagh can mobilize thousands of people without doling out cash. Because this movement reads the minds of millions of Bengalis scattered around the globe and it speaks for them. It should retain its non-violent nature. It must not have recourse to violence even at the slightest provocation from the enemy. A blood bath in the middle of a street is what Jamaat-Shibir and HI want at this stage. And that would be an invitation to the undemocratic actor(s) to step in. Why will Shahbagh let it happen?

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