Dhaka, Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Govt sits idle as zealots carry on attacks against Ahmadiyyas
ABUL KALAM AZAD
The government is yet to take any action to restrain violent Islamic bigots from attacking the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
No order has been given so far to take action against the people behind the recent attacks on the Ahmadiyyas, said sources in the home ministry and the police department.
‘The government is well aware of the magnitude of the problem and is committed to providing security to all the religious communities,’ said a top home ministry official.
The government is aware of the threats to encircle Ahmadiyya mosques in various parts of the country, he added. ‘The government will not remain a silent spectator if any social disorder is caused.’
However, sources tell New Age that no action was taken to stop the attackers because of political reasons.
‘If the attacks continue the persecution of Ahmadiyyas will become an unavoidable issue for the government, but it has failed to solve the problem because the attackers are politically linked with it,’ said an official.
The authorities are in a complex situation and thus hesitating to take any decision on the issue, he added. ‘If the decision goes against the attackers it may anger one of its partners, which will supposedly have a negative impact on the BNP’s electoral prospects.’
A senior police officer said they were yet to receive any instruction from the home ministry to take action against the religious fanatics who are attacking Ahmadiyyas and their mosques. ‘So far as I know, there is an instruction to contain the bigots but not to take action against them even if they are attacking the Ahmadiyyas.’
Sources in the home ministry said the authorities remained silent despite the latest attacks on Ahmadiyyas and their mosques in Brahmanbaria on Friday. Zealots blasted two dozen bombs in an area inhabited by Ahmadiyyas and set fire to two mosques belonging to them.
Two Ahmadiyyas were injured while running for cover during the attack, which was part of a series of attacks that took place in the country to pressure the government to declare them non-Muslims.
On October 29, 2004 a mob of at least three hundred bigots launched an attack on an Ahmadiyya mosque in Brahmanbaria. The mob pelted Ahmadiyya worshippers with stones when they congregated to offer Friday prayers, leaving 11 injured.
One of the worst attacks on Ahmadiyyas took place on April 17 when a mob attacked members of the sect, wounding at least 25 people in a remote village in Satkhira.
Thousands of attackers brandishing sticks and machetes marched towards the Sundarban Bazar and sought to place a signboard on the Ahmadiyya mosque there, on which were inscribed the following words: ‘This is a place of worship for Kadianis; no Muslim should mistake it for a mosque.’
They threw stones at the Ahmadiyyas, injuring dozens including six women. The police, instead of preventing them, tried to bring the situation under control by taking the signboard and hanging it themselves on the Ahmadiyya mosque’s gate.
Immediately afterwards, the attackers went on a rampage, looting nearby Ahmadiyya homes and beating up many Ahmadiyyas with sticks. The attacks continued for three days afterwards.
Now the zealots are attacking the sect and their mosques across the country after prior announcements, and the police not only allow them but, in some cases, help them carry out anti-Ahmadiyya operations.
The Ahmadiyyas have been the target of deadly violence and organised and widespread intimidation by extremist Muslim groups who have staged mass political rallies calling for an official declaration that the Ahmadiyyas are not Muslims and demanding a ban on their publications and activities.
The bigots, under the banner of International Khatme Nabuwat Movement, have been waging a hate campaign against the minority Muslim sect. Besides intermittently attacking the Ahmadiyyas, they are holding regular rallies and demonstrations across the country in which the leaders of the Khatme Nabuwat instigate supporters and the people to attack the sect.
They do not only announce their intention of rooting out the sect but also slam the government for not banning the Ahamadiyyas. The leaders say that those who do not support their demand to declare Ahmadiyya non-Muslims are themselves not Muslims.
In January 2004, the government banned all publications of the Ahmadiyya Muslims, giving rise to condemnation and protest both at home and abroad. The High Court later stayed the government’s ban on Ahmadiyya publications.
The ban on publications was imposed in response to an upsurge in anti-Ahmadiyya protests and violence in late 2003, which was incited by Islamist groups which include at least one of the partners in the government’s coalition, the Islamic Oikya Jote.
Since the government ban on Ahmadiyya publications was imposed, anti-Ahmadiyya activities have continued and intensified across the country.
Some officials in the home ministry believe that the government is not intervening because it is weighing the political pros and cons. The major political parties, including the Awami League, are also silent on the issue as it is, from the political perspective, very sensitive.
According to the home ministry, the number of Ahmadiyyas in the country is only 31,500.
US to keep close watch on minority issues
The visiting deputy assistant secretary for South Asian affairs, John A Gastright Jr., on Tuesday said the US government would closely monitor the minority issue as Bangladesh government had given ‘strong assurances’ to protect the rights of the Ahmadiyya community.
After a 45-minute meeting with top Ahmadiyya leaders at its central office at Bakhshibazar in Dhaka, Gastright expressed concern over the frequent attacks on Ahmadiyya, a minority Muslim sect. ‘We are concerned that over last 21 months the Ahmadiyya people were attacked 19 times,’ he said.
On protection of the Ahmadiyya rights, the US official said it should be the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of minority people particularly those who have less strength. ‘If the government takes steps we’ll applaud and if it doesn’t we will be critical.’ After the meeting, the Ahmadiyya community’s central missionary and spokesperson Abdul Awwal Khan Chowdhury told reporters that the US diplomat had queried about media reports on Ahmadiyya repression and shared his sympathy.
He said they had informed the US diplomat about the ‘Pakistan-connection’ behind the present repression against the community.
‘Extremism has been imported from Pakistan. Religious leaders from Pakistan came here, ran anti Ahmadiyya propaganda and trained people to wage repression against us,’ claimed Awwal.
He urged the government to stop Pakistani extremists from operating in the country who wanted ‘anti-Ahmadiyya laws similar to those of Pakistan’.
Calling the anti-Ahmadiyya movement a concerted effort to distort the image of the country he said the government had been protecting them ‘physically’, ‘but our constitutional rights are being infringed,’ he said. ‘This is our government too and we want our fundamental rights to be protected,’ said the spokesperson.