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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  2003  Anti-Ahamadia demonstrations
Anti-Ahamadia demonstrations

The Daily Star
Vol. 4 Num 190Sun. December 07, 2003


Anti-Ahamadia demonstrations
Religious tolerance precondition for democracy

Anti-Ahamadia zealots demonstrated against the sect again Friday and have given the government a one-week ultimatum to declare Ahamadias non-Muslims. This time several thousand were present at the hate-filled rally in Tejgaon in which the demonstrators threatened to either burn down or take over the Ahamadia mosque in Nakhalpara and vowed to bring the country to a standstill if their demands are not met.

This is utterly unacceptable. In the first place, who are these self-proclaimed arbiters of religious faith and what gives them the right to declare that another person is or is not a Muslim? In the second, what possible good can come of the government declaring the Ahamadia community non-Muslims. Nothing will thereby be accomplished, no one will benefit. To the contrary, the Ahamadia community will only be further marginalised and will have been denied their constitutional and human right to practice their religion freely without interference.

Finally, the government cannot sit idle as rabble-rousers threaten violence and destruction if they are not appeased. No group can be permitted to terrorise a community and intimidate the government with impunity.

The government must respond in the strongest possible manner to this kind of religious extremism. There can be no question of declaring any sect non-Muslim. This is not a question for the government in any event. Furthermore, the government cannot tolerate violent demonstrations that threaten the security and safety of any community and indeed all of us.

The government must crack down on this kind of incitement to sectarian violence with an iron hand. It is against the law in this country to foment religious hatred and violence. The ring-leaders are a matter of public record as are the group’s plans and agenda that amount to organised terror.

This is a test for the government. It cannot permit this kind of lawlessness that could lead to the further disintegration of our society. Do we wish to live in a country where religious bigots can terrorise communities they disapprove of and dictate terms with threats of violence?

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