Dhaka, Monday, May 3, 2004
Combating sectarian menace
A mosque that members of the Ahmadiya community use to say their prayer and some villages where the adherents of that particular faith reside have come under attack from religious zealots in Rangpur. Those zealots, who are mainly from a local madrassah, led by two maulanas, reportedly members of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a coalition partner of the ruling four-party alliance made an abortive attempt to storm and capture the Shyampur Ahmadiya mosque in Badarganj upazila of Rangpur district on Friday last. The assault on the Ahmaidiyas place of worship, however, failed as local people intervened. What is more disconcerting than Fridays bid to capture a mosque frequented by the Amadiyas is the fact that a state of total insecurity is prevailing in the villages where members of that community live. For, it is not only their place of worship that is the target of those attacks, the villages where the Ahmadiyas reside are already under a state of virtual siege. Before the mosque episode, the religious extremists had attacked houses owned by the members of that sect, inflicted physical injuries on the householders and even abducted some of them.
At the moment, the fate of some 500 people of the Ahmadiya community, their villages and their place of worship, are hanging in balance as the fanatics are out to destroy their very right to exist.
Why are some citizens of the country being subjected to such injustice? Or are they not citizens? Why are those people, who have no record of ever having threatened their fellow citizens, are being terrorised by some of their fellow people, who may not see eye to eye with the way the former interpret their faith and say their prayer? But it is also not only in Rangpur that members of the mentioned community and their place of worship have come under attack. It has happened in other parts of the country including the capital city itself. In each and every case it is the common people who have foiled such attempts at committing any outrage against the Ahmadiya community. In fact, the common people of this country, who are no less religious and god-fearing than those fanatics, are a very tolerant lot and have nothing to do with the sectarian cause the zealots are pursuing. So far, the peace-loving masses have been trying their best to fend off the dark forces of obscurantism that are out to start a full scale communal war against this beleaguered community. But what is the government doing to hold the fanatics in check?
In point of fact, the government has not done enough to protect its citizens from the fury of the fanatics. So far, the action of the government has been limited to just sending some members of the law-enforcers after the zealots have carried out their attack. It is more important that the zealots are reined in before they are able to commit their outrage.
Ours is not a theocratic state. The fanatics are attacking the most basic values that this society stands for. The government must deal with this new threat to our very existence as a tolerant and democratic society effectively and with determination.