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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  January, 2004  Capitulation to extremists
Capitulation to extremists

The Daily Star
Vol. 4 Num 224Sun. January 11, 2004


Capitulation to extremists
Clear case of using religion for political purpose

The government decision to ban Ahmadiyya books and publications has, for understandable reasons, drawn the attention of the people not ready to be carried away by the recent wave of fanatic upsurge. The ban is a meek capitulation to the religious extremists.

The government should not be in the business of banning any religious books or any religious sect. The government, having a majority in parliament, had no reason to succumb to the pressure. This acquiescence might open floodgates of religious fanaticism. Today it is the Ahmadiyyas, and tomorrow, who knows, it may be another sect or a religious minority that will be targeted by the fanatic elements.

The dangers associated with allowing the bigots to have too much leeway are self-evident. The smaller religious sects or communities will get wrong signals and so will the international community. Neither proposition is in keeping with the spirit of our constitution which guarantees full religious freedom to all citizens. Similarly, Islam is a religion of tolerance which has no place for coercion and intimidation. Finally, we cannot let any sect develop a persecution psychosis and still talk of democracy and liberalism.

Even if it is assumed that the Ahmadiyya publications contained certain things which could hurt others, the best approach to the problem was to engage them in a discussion and resolve it. What really defies comprehension is why the problem is being raised now. Ahmadiyyas have been living in peace — barring the occasional troubles fomented by the zealots — with other citizens for decades. There were pious and tolerant people who did not find it difficult to accept their presence. Why have a group of fanatics now set themselves the task of wiping out a small sect ?

The Ahmadiyya issue has clearly been blown out of proportions. The extremist outburst is repugnant to all democratic sensibilities; violative of citizens’ constitutional rights; and tantamount to projecting ourselves as having little concern for smaller sects and religious minorities. In our view a certain extremist group is using religion for its political end. Using the deep regard for religion among peace loving Muslims, this group is fanning hatred by misinforming the public. Regrettably, instead of clearing the air and putting the extremists in their place, the government has emboldened them by its ill considered action.

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