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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  2003  Ahmadias in trouble
Ahmadias in trouble

The Daily Star
Vol. 4 Num 198Mon. December 15, 2003

Letters to Editor

Ahmadias in trouble
Mahfuzur Rahman, On e-mail

Ahmadis in troubleCongratulations on your bold editorial (December 7) condemning anti-Ahmadia zealots who threatened a minority Islamic community in Dhaka with dire consequences for pursuing their particular brand of religious belief. Elsewhere in the country, a leader of the community was killed in the recent past; a whole village of Ahmadias has been given ultimatum to renounce their belief; Ahmadia mosques have been attacked; and members of the community have been subjected to abuse.

You are also right to demand that government take stern action aimed at those who initiated the demonstrations against the community and threatened it. Such action is an essential first step to put the genie of intolerance back into the bottle where it belongs. And that goes for all kinds of intolerance, be it towards a subset of belief or a different set of belief altogether.

Yet, the long-term answer to religious intolerance must come from the forces of liberalism and democracy in the country. In that context, one needs to ask: where are the leaders of ‘mainstream’ Islam who emphasise tolerance, referring, for example, to the well-known Koranic verse (II: 256), La ikraha fil- deen — “Let there be no compulsion in religion”? Some of these leaders are already in positions of power to make a difference. They have a duty to speak up — and be counted, in this case and in all instances of intolerance.


The fate of the Ahmadias hangs in mid-air right now. The fresh wave of anti-Ahmadia movement, that sparked after the attack on the Ahmadia mosque in Nakhalpara on November 21st, has asked the government to declare the Ahmadias as non-Muslims. Imam Hassan Mamtaji has said, “The anti-Ahmadia group would not be responsible for the fate of Ahamdias.” But he is responsible for fuelling the rage.

In the past, Ahmadias had to face such extremism in 1999 when Ahmadias were killed. No substantial action has ever been taken against the culprits.

Now, the Ahmadias are at the mercy of the government. It is up to the government to take firm steps against the disrupting mullahs and not give in to their demands. “There is no compulsion in religion”, as Allah says in the Holy Koran and so it should be.

The Ahmadias must not be forbidden from calling themselves Muslims. They must not be afraid of offering their prayers in their mosques. They must not be snatched of their right to live like a normal Bangladeshi Muslim. The Ahmadias in Pakistan were declared as non-Muslims in 1974,thanks to the local mullahs. As a result, they are now treated as second-class citizens and prefer to leave their homeland.

I hope that the Ahmadias in Bangladesh won’t have to go through such a tragedy, but it all depends on the verdict of the government.

Maham Bilal Khan, USA

Rein in the bigots

I am following the news of the anti-Ahmadia movement in the country, especially in Dhaka, with great alarm. The religious bigots are pushing the country to the brink. We are a tolerant lot. A few extremists must not be allowed to dicta te terms .

The government must come down hard on all those fomenting religious intolerance. The ringleaders, including those supporting the ruling alliance, must be punished severely. This is an acid test for the government.

A N Motaher, On e-mail

Don’t overlook the danger!

Don’t politicians in Dhaka know what a huge impact the current wave of anti-Ahmadia attacks is going to have on the country’s image? All of Bangladesh’s efforts to be seen as a nation of moderate, tolerant Muslims are about to be thrown away, unless the leaders of these radical Islamic groups are dealt with.

After that it will be useless to protest against demonisation of Bangladesh as the next ‘Talibanesque’ state in the foreign media (which is going to happen as a result of all this, make no mistake about it).

Talking about secularism and religious tolerance only when we want foreigners to come and invest in the country is hypocritical and will not work. Real tolerance means standing up for religious minorities and protecting their rights as Bangladeshi citizens.

Zeeshan Hasan, London School of Economics, London, UK

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