Source: News Bharati English03 May 2016 14:52:37

Dhaka, May 3: Is India’s eastern neighbour Bangladesh falling in a strong grip of Islamism? Is the ultra-religious section of Islam getting an upper hand in Bangladesh?  According to the latest opinion expressed by Dr A R Rahman, a retired nuclear scientist and columnist, the answer is, unfortunately, yes.

In his latest blog published on www.clarionproject.org, Rahman writes that though Bangladesh is not a big country geographically, strategically it enjoys a significant position in Southeast Asia as far as Islamic religiosity is concerned. It is significant because it sits more or less in the moderate section of the Islamic religiosity, maintaining its own culture, language and tradition, away from the Arab culture and tradition.

If it verges into the ultra-religious section of Islamism, then the hope of salvaging the country from the depth of Wahhabism will be very difficult indeed, Dr Rahman writes. However, as things stand at the moment, Bangladesh is gradually and irretrievably sliding toward Islamic fundamentalism.

The spate of killing in Bangladesh in the name of religion has been accelerating for some time now. Whereas in the whole of 2015, there were four high-profile religious murders – Avijit Roy, Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy, Ananta Bijoy and Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, in April 2016 alone there were four murders - Nazim, Siddique, Xulhaz and Tonoy. There were more than 32 murders over the past three years, all in the name of Islamic fundamentalism.

Why were these people killed? Because they were bloggers, freethinkers, secularists and even music loving academics!

Bangladesh came into being as a country -- free from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan -- upholding four fundamental principles as embedded in the constitution: nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism. So, why is supporting secularism and writing in favour of it now a crime?

After Dr Avijit Roy, an American of Bangladeshi descent, was hacked to death and his wife was grievously injured by the barbaric Islamists on the street of Dhaka in 2015, the top hierarchy of the present political machine (the son of the all-powerful prime minister of Bangladesh) declared, “We (the government) cannot be seen to side with the secularists.”

That comment effectively gave carte blanche licence to the murderous gang of the Islamic fundamentalists. By saying that the government cannot side with the victims, it effectively sided with the perpetrators.

No murderer was been apprehended as murder after the murder of secularists have been committed all over the country. In fact, when a murderer was captured red-handed by the public as he was running away his crime and handed over to the police, the police could not even keep him in custody. He ran away from the police station! This was the efficiency of the police force!

The inspector general of the police (IGP), the topmost man of the police service, recently said that the police cannot ensure safety and security of the bloggers and free-thinkers and that they need to ensure their own security.

This is the country that Bangladesh has become now: The IGP is advising people to ensure their own security – as if the police are maintained by the country to have picnic party for them!

And what is the implication of his advice? Is it not that the vigilante groups are encouraged? In any civilised country, a police officer advocating the formation of vigilante groups would lose his job immediately, but not in Bangladesh!

The root of the present problem, particularly with regard to Islamism, comes from brazen political corruption and moral degeneracy of the political hierarchy of the country. Let me deal with these issues separately in a sequential way.

Political corruption: A few years ago, in fact in 2007, a caretaker government (CTG) took over the rein of the country after the unprecedented turmoil and breakdown of law and order in the country. This breakdown was due a most uncivilised spat between the two leaders of the two main political parties, Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh's current prime minister) and Khaleda Zia (the former prime minister). The CTG encouraged the formation of a third party to turn the country away from the corruption and in-fighting of these two parties.

When the green shoot of the third party came into being with moderate, highly literate and politically savvy people, these two leaders ganged up to denigrate the potential leaders of this third party. These two leaders may be semi-literate and illiterate respectively, they are shrewd enough to realise that, at any moment, one of them can yo-yo into power, but the existence of a third party would blunt their chances for ever.

The third party in the hostile and dirty atmosphere of these two vicious leaders did not come to fruition. Since then, these leaders have been resorting to unfathomable political cataclysm to gain power and remain in power.

Moral degeneracy: Moral degeneracy comes from the fact that power and money are the two most desirable commodities for these leaders, and anything else -- like human lives, national interests, the country’s constitution and even egregious claim of religiosity -- is dispensable.

The country’s constitution had been used by these two leaders and their mentors as a mere ping-pong ball – inserting and eliminating “Islam as the State religion” and “secularism” as it suits them.

The present Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, is playing the dirtiest political game with the lives of human beings and the sentimentality of the public toward religion. She has branded, to some extent rightly, the other leader, Khaleda Zia, as Jamaat-e-Islam’s puppet and the agent of Pakistan. At the same time, she has projected herself as a progressive, non-sectarian, enlightened leader upholding the constitution of the country (with secularism embedded in it).

When vicious Islamists started murdering free-thinking, moderate, non-sectarian people, Hasina blamed Khaleda for encouraging the murders. To the educated, moderate people of the country, Khaleda became the byword of Islamic fundamentalism and hence, she had been cast aside.

Then the sting in the tail came out. Hasina’s son, Joy, proclaimed the government could not side with the secularists, giving the Islamists de facto permission to carry out murders of the secularists. The more murders that are committed, the more blame falls on Khaleda and more political advantage Hasina enjoys!

Hasina then positioned herself as a moderate leader upholding Islamic views and principles. Meanwhile, secularism has been relegated to obscurity for the time being. It’s a win-win situation for Hasina.

But in the politics, there is no one-way street. As Islamists become encouraged by Hasina’s gang, they became emboldened and extended their range of activities. Now they are killing not only the secularists but also those who merely show interests in secular subjects such as education, music etc.

What Pakistan could not do during the war of independence (eliminating the intellectuals of then East Pakistan), the political leaders of present-day Bangladesh are accomplishing.