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The Godless Party

April 18, 2017

Ruling party’s Bengali new year’s surprise left everyone flabbergasted. PM Hasina unexpectedly announced that govt would recognize the highest degree awarded by Deobandi madrasas as equivalent to Masters degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic. The announcement came at a program where the Qaomi madrasa leaders , now campaigning for removal of a Greek statue from the Supreme Court yard, were present. Moreover, PM also lent support to the demand of the “nouveau art critics” and echoed their concerns.

The announcement caused storm into tea-cups. It also caused deep schism within her alliance, which accommodates various splinter groups of the Lefts. Ruling party general secretary, however, in a damage minimizing measure assured the partners that the party did not make any alliance with the platform of the Deobandis.

Political pundits interpreted the govt move as a bid to get a part of the Qaomi madrasa votes. Earlier Ershad’s Jatiyo Party told that JP would form an alliance with Islamic parties ahead of next election. Hasina and Ershad are vying for Deobandi School’s trust.

But the decision could cost its secular vote banks. Disenchantment is growing inside the secular forces that always remain a strong support base for AL. Nowhere is it so apparent as in the new year’s celebration by Chhayanat,  vanguard of cultural and social change. The cultural organization’s head Sanjida Khatun in her new year’s speech stressed on starting another freedom struggle through cultural activism. Radical MPs among the Lefts made it clear that none could stay long in power by conceding something unconstitutional.

But how did the Hefajet react to Awami gift? Well, it did not drool over much  the gift. In a  TV interview , a bold madrasa student said it was not a gift from the govt; rather govt complied to their rightful claim. The recognition did not come from a female leadership, which is deemed against the Quran; rather it came from a head of govt. Some of their leaders maintained that they would maintain their independence and would not receive any govt fund.

The ensuing debate revolves around mostly on modernization of whole madrasa education system. Because the 14-year of schooling a University entrant gets prior to enrollment in such a program and the education he receives in University  are not similar to those a madrasa student gets in Deobandi schools. Unless this vital change takes place, this decision will not bear any significance.

How the minority groups made all to accept their demands is another thing to learn from this whole saga. Few examples could make the point clear. Establishing few smoking zones in public places and adding organic food marks on the packets of foods shelved in departmental stores to retain a small section of consumers are just examples.

To grab the vote banks of a tiny section in the society , bigger parties started a process that may end up in meeting all the needs of a smaller group. Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his“ The Most Intolerant Win: The Dictatorship of Small Minority” brilliantly explained this influence of the small minority.

Lowering the legal age for women, vice policing in fairs and anti-statue campaign manifest how govt is bowing to the demands of small minority. At the same time govt decisions and policies discriminate other vulnerable groups. So, bigger parties’ policy decisions are being influenced by a tiny section that may not believe in the freedom of others. For this reason, we need a comprehensive code or regulatory body  that will fend off any discrimination and protect the vulnerable groups. I extensively argued in favor of it in my piece titled“It’s Time To Have A Code” .

Roadside tea stalls are also buzzed with opinions in favor of and against govt decision. Many welcomed the move as a mean to mainstream the madrasa education. Some are doubtful about govt’s initiative: “Whatever she does to get their support , they will in the end screw her up! Believe me!”Some thought the deal could have been made with democratically elected leadership of Deobandi school of thought. Deobandi –madrasa students and teachers have little role to play in electing their leadership. Moreover, current Hefajet leadership is not free from corruption allegation.  Some think this will make the Deobandis  stakeholder of development process. Now they will double their effort in nation building.  The comment of one gentleman is worthy of mention:” If you see a person through gun sight , he will do the same. If you try to understand him and see him with compassion , the other will reciprocate.”

The govt faces up to the fact that its stance already antagonized the secular section that rallies behind it in good times and in ebbing period.Now it needs to calm down this section. Brewing anger of this section shows no sign to dissipate soon. Perhaps the govt may have its voting calculation wrong. One gentleman’s comment at a tea stall is still lingering in my mind : ” Well, the party went to the Deobandis to show its opponents that it has God’s blessings. But the God that had lived inside the party  all these years abandoned it!”

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