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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  2003  Ahmadias under attack
Ahmadias under attack

The Daily Star
Vol. 4 Num 179Sun. November 23, 2003


Ahmadias under attack
A blatant violation of people’s religious rights

The attacks on police by around 500 people, who were planning to evict the members of Ahmadia sect from their own mosque at East Nakhalpara in the city on Friday, are but an example of religious intolerance finding expression in most unsavoury acts of violence.

The news is disquieting, not least because the attacks follow the Kushtia incidents that forced some Ahmadia families to flee their homes.

The plan to oust some people from their mosque was a blatant violation of citizens’ right to have freedom in religious matters. It is also very likely to taint the country’s image and send wrong signals to the outside world. Religious tolerance and attack on places of worship cannot simply go together.

If such acts are not nipped in the bud, religious obscurantism will continue to divide society and obstruct the emergence of a culture based on respect for the faiths of people, regardless of whoever they might be. The lesson to be learned from Friday’s violence is quite clear: the fanatic elements are trying to disrupt social and religious harmony. We must not forget what happened in Pakistan after it failed to thwart the anti- Ahmadia campaign in the late forties, which saw the fanatics pouncing on the members of this small sect. We must also remember what Shia-Sunni sectarian violence has done, and is still doing, to Pakistan.

Bangladesh has traditionally been a moderate country with no record of such intimidating outburst of religious bigotry.

It has transpired that a section of religious leaders are trying to arouse people to frenzied action in the name of service to religion, instead of preaching peace and tolerance-- the real message of Islam. What they have conveniently forgotten is that divisiveness in any form will only add to social tension.

Friday’s incidents also indicate that fanatic groups are working in an organised manner. Now, it is the duty of all sane elements in society to resist the disruptive forces. The government, for its part, should take a firm stand on the question of religious tolerance. It must not allow the bigots to decide who is a Muslim and who is not. The role of the Khatib of Rahim Metal Mosque in Tejgaon needs to be investigated by the authorities, as there is ample evidence that he instigated the mob.

Bangladesh is, and must remain, a country of religious tolerance and harmony.

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