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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  August, 2004  Rein In Religious Intolerance, Please!
Rein In Religious Intolerance, Please!

The Bangladesh Observer
Tuesday, August 17, 2004Internet Edition  

Rein In Religious Intolerance, Please!

Khatme Nabuat, a self-proclaimed guardian of Islam, is once again on the offensive against the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat—a minority sect. It has declared that it will pull down the signboard of the sect’s central mosque at Bakshi Bazaar, Dhaka by August 27 next. The declaration comes immediately after the religious zealots’ forcible replacement of the signboard of the Ahmadiya mosque in Khulna by another one, on which is inscribed ‘upasanalya’ (place of worship). This could be done despite the fact that a police cordon was there around the mosque. A similar thing was done with the signboard of a mosque in Chittagong recently.

It is not Khatme Nabuat alone but there are other religious extremist groups like Islami Oikya Jote, a partner of the government, who have waged a hideous campaign against this minority Muslim sect. They are all demanding an official declaration for branding the Ahmadiyas non-Muslims. The mosque of the sect at Nakhalpara, Dhaka, its members, religious institutions and property in Pabna and elsewhere have come under repeated attacks one after another. The administration has hardly done enough to discourage the perpetrators from carrying out such attacks. Rather it buckled in under the pressure of the zealots and banned the Ahmadiya publications. By doing so it send a wrong signal to the zealots.

Clearly, the government has failed to prove that it is a great defender of the religious minorities. Had the UN Human Rights Commission not come heavily upon the record of protecting the rights of the minorities by the government and the US been not critical of the same, the administration possibly would have given in to the wish of the zealots. The rights as guaranteed by the country’s Constitution are none of the government’s concern. In any civilized country, no religious sect is left at the mercy of bigots’ systematic attacks—physical and otherwise. Does Islam approve of such aggression on others’ faiths? What if the Ahmadiyas are less than Muslims? Who has given the Khatme Nabuat or the Islami Oikya Jote the sole agency to make the members of the sect perfect Muslims? The members of the sect will be accountable to Allah alone for their deeds and misdeeds on the day of the final judgement.

The government has allowed the zealots too much liberty to play with religious sentiment. Now is the time it demonstrated a sense of purpose to rein in the religious aggressors. If people of different faiths cannot live side by side in peace, the flame of intolerance will ultimately consume the members of the same faith. In Bangladesh today, the proportion, manner and dimension of killing have surpassed all previous records in peace time. It is a frightful sight and criminologists and sociologists have a tough job at hand to suggest ways for taking the nation out of this dangerous plight. The culture of political intolerance is now a state-sponsored policy and zealots are taking it to another extreme. The government’s inaction in matters of religious intolerance is almost self-explanatory. Unless it changes its position in favour of the freedom of thought, religion etc., the country’s dangerous drift will continue and no one knows where and how it will end up.

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