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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  January, 2004  ‘Ban on Ahmadiyya books infringement of rights’
‘Ban on Ahmadiyya books infringement of rights’

The Daily Star
Vol. 4 Num 223Sat. January 10, 2004

Front Page

‘Ban on Ahmadiyya books infringement of rights’
Govt defends decision amid flak
Staff Correspondent

The government order banning all Ahmadiyya publications drew swift flak from people of all hues yesterday and prompted a demand for lifting the ban that the ruling coalition defended with a counterpoint of ensuring peace in society.

Supreme Court Bar Association President Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud described the ban as violative of fundamental rights of the minority Ahmadiyyas.

“It clearly violates freedom of religion (Article 41), non-discrimination on ground of religion (Sub-article 3 of Article 28) and freedom of speech, thought and conscience (Article 39) of the constitution,” he pointed out.

“The order also reneges on the right to equal protection of law and the right to be treated in accordance with the law and equality before law,” he added.

The ban was imposed on Thursday in view of what the government said was objectionable materials in Ahmadiyya publications that “hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority Muslims of Bangladesh”.

It came after religious bigots represented mainly by Islami Oikya Jote, a partner of the ruling coalition, launched a campaign with Hifazate Khatme Nabuwat Andolon at the forefront to force the government to declare the sect non-Muslim.

The move is viewed as the first step towards declaring about one lakh Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim.

Dr M Zahir, a constitution expert, advocated even-handed treatment of all religious sects by the government, adding: “Nobody has the right to translate the Quran wrongly or misinterpret it. But when all publications are banned, other publications not concerned with the holy book may also come under the ban,” he said.

“If that is so, it is a bar to the right to propagate one’s freedom of expression.”

Welcoming the ban, Khatme Nabuwat Andolon demanded immediate declaration of Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim and a ban on burial of the sect members in Muslim graveyards
Dr Zahir wondered why the Ahmadiyyas were not allowed to practise their religion the way Hindus, Buddhists and Christians practise theirs — provided the Quran was not misinterpreted or wrongly translated.

“Who are we to say whether a person is Muslim or not? Only Allah can judge it,” he said, accusing the government of contravening fundamental rights and non-discrimination principles.

By contrast, State Minister for Religious Affairs Mosharef Hossain Shajahan told BBC Radio the government took the decision to save the minority community, adding: “There was fear of bloodshed and we found no alternative to avoid it other than banning Ahmadiyya publications.”

“Although it restricts Ahmadiyyas’ rights, we thought it good for the time being,” he added.

Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law Khondoker Mahbubuddin Ahmed said, “From the point of law, the government may proscribe any publication or statement, which hurts religious beliefs of others and hampers the peaceful atmosphere of society.”

“The constitution allows freedom of expression and religious practice to all citizens simultaneously giving the government the power under the jurisdiction of law to proscribe publications if they hurt other beliefs,” the ruling BNP lawmaker said.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, amir of Jamaat-e-Islami, a coalition partner, and industries minister, told BBC his party was in favour of branding the Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim but was not with the ongoing agitation.

But Deputy Leader of the Opposition Abdul Hamid described the ban as a wrong decision and said: “No matter how small a religious community (Ahmadiyyas) may be, they have the right to religion -- a constitutionally guaranteed right.”

Such an action against Ahmadiyyas Hamid fears may create an excuse for similar infringements of religious rights of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians and other religious minorities.

“The ban alarmed us as the government caved in to communal fundamentalists and extremists,” said Mujahidul Islam Selim, general secretary of Communist Party of Bangladesh, adding: I“t will ignite communalism and lead to an extreme situation.”

Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon identified the move as a fatal mistake and said: “It is a threat not only to Ahmadiyyas but also to people of other sects of Islam and other religions.”

“We cannot accept such infringement of religious beliefs,” said Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haq Inu.

The South Asian People’s Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism condemned the ban as breaching UN charter on human rights and the country’s constitution in a statement signed by its President Professor Kabir Chowdhury and General Secretary Shahriar Kabir.

“They (government) did it in the name of Islam to satisfy fundamental terrorists involved in mass killing, rape and violence,” the statement said.

The statement added: “Those who opposed the freedom of Bangladesh are now in power and busy destroying the achievement of the Liberation War.”

The organisation asked all pro-liberation political parties, socio-cultural and rights organisations to unite against all fundamentalist, anti-liberation and anti-human rights activities.

Badruddin Omar, Faizul Hakim, Hasibur Rahman and other leaders of Gonotantrik Biplobi Jote (GBJ) said the ban was a clear patronisation of religious reactionary forces.

“The government action will tarnish the country’s image of communal harmony on the international front,” says Odhikar, a rights group, in a statement signed by its Director Masud Alam Ragib.

Salma Sobhan Nagorik Smaransabha Committee and Jatiya Mukti Council also condemned the decision and demanded its withdrawal.

Welcoming the ban, Khatme Nabuwat Andolon demanded immediate declaration of Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim and a ban on burial of the sect members in Muslim graveyards.

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