Jamat-e Islami & Islamic Militancy in Bangladesh
Year 2005 marks the emergence of Islamic militancy in Bangladesh for the first time in the nation's history since its independence. Communalism and religious fundamentalism have always existed in Bangladesh in one form or another, but never before have we witnessed the suicide bombing that has of late rocked the nation.
Islamic fundamentalism had been imported to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia by the followers of Wahabism around two hundred years ago. During the British colonial period, the Wahabis led by one Syed Ahmed declared India 'Darul Harb' and locked themselves in a war against the Shikhs in Punjab and against the British everywhere else in a bid to establish the 'Darul Harb' brand of Islam. Theologically speaking, their views about Islam were utterly timeworn and conservative.
The brand of Islam that had been preached by the Sufis in this part of the globe was by and large liberal. The Sufis were very tolerant towards other faiths and adopted certain elements from Hinduism, Buddhism and the local culture, which helped spread Islam all over India. The Wahabis' object was to mingle Islam with politics and state activities on the pretext of Islam being 'the complete code of life'. In radically rectifying Islam, the Wahabis set themselves apart from the mainstream Muslims. The Sufis always put greater emphasis on the philosophy and spirit of Islam than on its regulations. There were numerous Sufis who would not even pray five times a day but would totally submit themselves to God in prolonged sessions of meditation. They never used religion for worldly gains. The Wahabis' stance is exactly the opposite. With a view to grabbing state power, they have always used Islam as a tool for fighting, killing and torturing.
The brand of Islam that has been preached by the founder of Jamat-e-Islami, Maulana Moududi, following the model of the architect of the so-called 'Islamic Brotherhood', Hasan Banna of Egypt, has nothing to do with the true spirit of Islam. Moududi's Islam is literally same as the Wahabis' political Islam. Rejecting the values of democracy, Moududi embraced fascism as his core ideology.
Wahabi Islam has evolved through Moududi's brand of Islam, otherwise known as Moududism, for the last seven decades in India. Moududi has made Islam a bit flexible for the sake of politics. Growing beards is not mandatory for his followers who include among others Jamat-e-Islami men. Despite regarding female leadership as illegitimate, Moududi was never ashamed of seeking votes for Fatema Jinnah during the presidential election of Pakistan in the mid 60's. Likewise, his followers in Bangladesh - Golam Azam, Nizami et al - have used Khaleda Zia and accepted her leadership to accomplish their mission of turning Bangladesh into an Islamic theocracy.
In the parliamentary election of 1 October 2001, Jamat-e-Islami and Islamic Oikkyo Jote (IOJ) bagged 17 and 2 seats respectively with support from BNP and other members of the alliance. In the '96 general election, Jamat-e-Islami got 3 seats only. Though Jamat-e-Islami and communist parties are poles apart with regard to their ideologies, they have a lot in common too. The party structure of Jamat-e-Islami is akin to that of communist parties during Stalin's period. Communist parties back in those days might have had different names in different countries, but they all had a Commintern or Comminform (central body) and so does Jamat-e-Islami. Communist party is basically a cadre-based party; one has to pass tests to become a member of the party. Jamat-e-Islami also follows a similar procedure. Anyone can walk into or out of BNP and Awami League but Jamat-e-Islami does not provide such easy access. It is pretty difficult to join Jamat-e-Islami and even more difficult to quit it. Like communist parties, Jamat-e-Islami has a two-tier organizational structure - open and clandestine. During the post-liberation period, Jamat-e-Islami could not openly carry out any organizational activities due to a constitutional bar, but their clandestine activities went on. After the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with his family members in 1975, General Ziaur Rahman came to power and lifted the ban on religion based politics thereby paving the way for Jamat-e-Islami to indulge in open politics in this land.
Despite its open politics, Jamat-e-Islami never stopped its underground activities. The sister concerns of Jamat-e-Islami that are openly operated include a students' forum called Shibir, Farmers' Welfare Association, Dhaka Cultural Centre, Uccharon Artistes Association, Islamic Welfare Society and Simoom Artistes Association. The clandestine but parallel outfits that are part of Jamat-e-Islami's organizational structure include Harkatul Jihad, Jamatul Mujahideen, Jagroto Muslim Janata and so on. They are operating in the same manner as they did during the liberation war in 1971 under different nomenclatures e.g. Rajakar, Al Badr, Al Shams and so on.
In 2001, before Jamat-e-Islami and IOJ joined the ruling alliance, we knew of only three terrorist Islamic organizations whose activities were largely surreptitious. Among them Harkatul Jihad or HUJI is worth noting. HUJI's roots are spread outside Bangladesh - in India, Pakistan and many other Middle Eastern countries. HUJI was founded in Pakistan in 1980; it was created mainly to fight Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. Two of the Pakistani Wahabi groups, namely Jamiatul Olamaye Islam and Tabligue Jamat, crafted this organization. When General Ziaul Haque of Pakistan took CIA's help and recruited Taliban, HUJI came into limelight. Initially, HUJI would recruit Mujaheeds (holy warriors) for Afghanistan's Hijbe Islami (Younus Khalid). Later they were recognized by al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. With financial assistance from bin Laden, they created an underground organization in Bangladesh in 1992. Young followers of Jamat-Shibir joined the terrorist outfit with overwhelming zeal and enthusiasm. In the same year, eminent writer Jahanara Imam, mother of a martyr of the liberation war initiated a movement for banning Jamat-e-Islami's communal politics and for trying the war criminals of 1971. In countering the movement, Jamat-e-Islami had to seek help from the underground organization.
With blessings from Jamat-e-Islami and other communalist political parties, HUJI started its activities in Bangladesh. Of all the militant outfits in the country, HUJI is the strongest and most organized. HUJI's founders in Bangladesh were Amir Shawkat Osman, A K A Sheikh Farid and General Secretary Imtiaz Quddus. HUJI received financial support from Pakistani intelligence agency ISI apart from bin Laden.
HUJI made its first appearance through a plot to kill renowned poet Shamsur Rahman. On 18 January 1999, a group of terrorists from this outfit entered the poet's house and made an attempt on his life with Chinese axes. The poet's family members bravely thwarted the attempt and the poet was saved though his wife and daughter were severely injured. With the help of neighbors, three of the terrorists were caught and handed over to the police. Based on their testimony, the police arrested a few more people, two of whom were foreigners - one from Pakistan and the other from South Africa.
Subsequently, HUJI activists bombed the Udichee (a cultural organization) conference in Jessore, planted bombs at the meeting venue of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Kotalipara, and attacked with bombs a church at Baniyarchar, CPB's public meeting at Paltan and Chayanot's (a cultural organization) program during Bengali New Year celebration. In these incidents, HUJI's name repeatedly came in the news. Those HUJI members who have so far been arrested have never really hidden their identities despite the fact that leaders of Jamat-e-Islami have always denied the involvement of HUJI in all those incidents. Jamat chief Nizami has mockingly said that HUJI was born at the residence of poet Shamsur Rahman.
A lot of research reports and articles regarding HUJI's clandestine network have appeared in newspapers since the third year of the alliance government's sail to power. According to testimonies provided by the two foreign HUJI members, a sum of TK 20 million was provided by bin Laden. The money was distributed among 427 madrasas (religious seminaries) for the recruitment of Taliban from Bangladesh.
Ahmed Sadik - the South African arrestee - told the police that he had been a close aide to al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden. The HUJI members who were caught from poet Shamsur Rahman's residence divulged to the police terrifying information regarding their group's network and international connections. Their testimonies led to the arrest of as many as 48 militants in 1999.
The Indian Daily Telegraph has published an investigative report stating that HUJI was recruiting Bangladeshi young men to send for jihad to Kashmir and Afghanistan. Once recruited, they were sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training. The report puts the number of Mujahideens at more than 100,000 in Afghanistan alone.
In mid 1999, a clandestine meeting of HUJI was intercepted by the local police in Cox's Bazar. The meeting resolved that HUJI would recruit 5,000 members from Bangladeshi madrasas and 10,000 from the Rohingya (Burmese refugee) community. The meeting was attended by among others Imtiaz Quddus and Maulana Abdul Qader Mollah, Chairman of the Muslim Liberation Front of Myanmar.
The meeting also resolved that every Muslim individual in Kashmir should join jihad for the sake of independence of the state. The members invited all the Muslims of the world to take part in jihad. According to the government's intelligence agencies, members recruited from madrasas and from the Rohingya community were sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan for training purposes within one month of the said meeting. (The Telegraph Kolkata, 7 July 1999)
According to the then government's estimates, HUJI recruited around 25,000 members. Later, during the alliance government's tenure dozens of Islamic extremist organizations sprouted across the country with the direct support of Jamat-e-Islami and IOJ.
Notwithstanding the fact that Jamat has categorically denied its connection with any terrorist outfits or for that matter with notorious extremist Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, scores of investigative reports and articles appearing in the press have linked Jamat with such organizations and individuals. Different newspapers published photographic interviews of Bangla Bhai. Newspapers also published his pictures with Jamat leaders and the government declared a reward of five million takas for any assistance leading to the arrest of Bangla Bhai. Even so, Jamat kept on denying the existence of Bangla Bhai. The party has rather invented a conspiracy of Awami League and India behind all this. One of the main characteristic features of the fundamentalist party is that it shamelessly lies all the time.
During the Khaleda-Nizami regime, we collected names of about 100 militant organizations from different newspapers until 10 August 2006. Of them, some are only paper-based organizations. On the other hand, names of some other organizations do not appear in newspapers anymore. Although Jamat-e-Islami has no direct link with all these 100 militant organizations, they have a lot in common when it comes to their ideologies.
Remarkably, Hizbut Tahrir - another extremist group - has differences with Jamat. Hizbut Tahrir has a much bigger international network than Harkatul Jihad. The party is working for the establishment of Islamic Sharia Law in particular Muslim-majority states. Jamat-e-Islami never talks about Khilafat states but the kind of theocratic states the party talks about is ideologically akin to Khilafat states. Stalwarts of all these parties are unanimous in demanding exemplary punishment for such celebrated humanists as Dr. Ahmed Sharif, Professor Kabir Chowdhury, poet Shamsur Rahman, Professor Humayun Azad and writer Taslima Nasreen after branding them as 'Murtad'(a person eligible to be killed). They also agitate in support of the demand that the Ahmadiya Muslim community be declared 'non-Muslim'. Nor do they have any conflict in establishing Sharia Law. Conflict arises only when it comes to their sail to power. There are differences between Jamat-e-Islami and IOJ as far as explanations of the Quran and Hadith are concerned, but there is little or no disagreement at all when it comes to using Islam as a tool to abuse people's religious sentiment to grab power.
Ever since coming to power, Jamat-e-Islami has categorically denied the existence of al-Qaeda network in Bangladesh and for that matter the existence of any other militant groups. Al-Qaeda is a political party led by Mollah Omar in Afghanistan. Apart from Mollah Omar's al-Qaeda, there were other Islamic extremist groups that took part in jihad against the Soviet-backed Najibullah's government. Notable among them are Jamat-e-Islami, Hizb-e-Islami (two groups - one led by Gulbuddin Hekmatiar and the other by Younus Khalis), Harkat-Inqilabi-Islami, Mohaj-Milli-Islami and Ittehad-e-Islami.
After the fall of Najibullah's government, conflicts of interest arose among the parties over the ownership of drugs and arms smuggling and yet they were unanimous in establishing a Sharia-based state. Most of the militant groups that have been discovered so far are operating underground and we have a list of 87 groups. If Jamat-e-Islami and other like-minded organizations are added to the list, the number will be no fewer than 100. No other Muslim country can boast of such a large number of militant groups; not even Pakistan or Afghanistan - the well-known breeding grounds for Islamic fanaticism. What explains this is the fact that Jamat-e-Islami has become a partner of the ruling party only in Bangladesh. Even in Afghanistan, Jamat-e-Islami's partner organization could go to power but could not hold on to it for long. Although Jamat-e-Islami is part of the coalition government in the North West in Pakistan, the party comprises opposition in the center.
In order to topple the pro-Soviet Najibullah government United States created demon of Frankenstein in the name of Taliban. The US administration could never imagine that their policy in Afghanistan would backfire in a matter of hardly a decade's time. Like an expert gambler, the United States put in place puppet fights. Sometimes it got Gulbuddin Hekmatiar to fight against Borhanuddin Rabbani; sometimes, Mollah Omar against Hekmatiar and then it ditched all of them and picked Hamid Karzai and put him in power. Our alliance government was playing 'Tom and Jerry' game with Bangla Bhai in the same manner as the United States is playing with Mollah Omar and bin Laden. Leaders of the Khaleda-Nizami alliance government once said it was a matter of time to arrest notorious extremists Bangla Bhai and Shayekh Rahman. We always believed that they would be nabbed anytime the government wanted to, as their whereabouts were very much known to the government.
It is very unfortunate that Khaleda Zia has no idea about how her alliance with Jamat-e-Islami would eventually boomerang and would put her into trouble. The Daily Bhorer Kagoj of 17 January 2006 carried a front-page report under the banner headline 'Grenades recovered from Satkhira meant to be blasted at PM's meeting, says arrested JMB militant Quddus'. The prime minister's scheduled meeting in Satkhira had to be cancelled due to bombs discovered at the place of local Jamat-e-Islami leader Younus Mollah. Secret agents had prior information of likely attacks on prime minister's meeting. The police arrested Abdullah, son of local Jamat leader Younus Mollah, and Ruhul Quddus in connection with the plot.
Quddus admitted that he had been given two grenades to attack the prime minister's meeting. As usual, local Jamat-e-Islami leaders have denied involvement of any of their members in the plot despite the fact that Younus Mollah is still a fugitive and the police could not nab him as of today.
True, the government has banned four extremist organizations* mainly because of pressures from the West. Even banning all the 100 militant organizations would not make a difference as long as Jamat-e-Islami and IOJ are in power and/or in control of administration. Since coming to power, Jamat-e-Islami has made all-out efforts to destroy everything that has anything to do with the liberation war in order to avenge their humiliating defeat in 1971. The party has already established its influence at every tier of the administration. In the last five years, it has marginalized BNP in both civil and military administrations. The student wing of Jamat-e-Islami has reduced that of BNP to a mere puppet organization on the campuses of the University of Rajshahi and the University of Chittagong. The University of Dhaka too is all set to be invaded by the student wing of Jamat.
With the BNP-led alliance government being humiliated on the issue of militancy, killings and terrorism, Jamat-e-Islami is thriving on many counts. The party has categorically denied its connection with militant groups. Therefore, it remains for BNP to be blamed for all these things.
The 26 October 2005 issue of the Daily 'Sangbad' published a photographic report depicting Jamat-e-Islami's connection with Afghan militancy. The report titled 'Jamat's Afghan connection' carried a photograph of Jamat leader and parliamentarian Maolana Sobhan along with Hekmatiar. Maolana Sobhan had had a meeting with Hekmatiar somewhere in Peshawar, Pakistan.
To any Islamic extremist groups in Bangladesh, the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan comprises an example of an ideal state. The 7 November 2005 issue of the Daily Star published an investigative report by Julfikar Manik establishing IOJ's connection with al-Qaeda with ample evidence. Inspired by the Islamic Revolution of Mollah Omar, the Bangladeshi Talibans published a bulletin under the same nomenclature in August 1998. The bulletin published an interview of extremist leader Maolana Habibur Rahman from Sylhet who gave an overview of his visit to Afghanistan along with other IOJ stalwarts, his meeting with bin Laden and participation in the war against the erstwhile Soviet Union. In March 1998 a nine-member delegation led by IOJ leader Shaikhul Hadith Azizul Haq visited Afghanistan at the invitation of Harkatul Jihad. The delegation also included former Member of Parliament and BNP leader Maolana Ataur Rahman.
Both Jamat-e-Islami and IOJ have repeatedly affirmed that they do not approve of fundamentalism and militancy and nor do they have links with any militant organizations. However, that they had met with extremists like Gulbuddin Hekmatiar is an established fact. It appears that they have mastered the art of lying and no one - not even the 'Satan' (Koranic devil) - can beat them when it comes to lying.
After their arrest on 13 December 2005, two leaders of the outlawed extremist organization JMB - namely Javed Iqbal and Naimuzzaman, divisional commander for Chittagong and district commander for Cox's Bazar - told journalists in presence of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel that reading books authored by alliance leader Maolana Delwar Hussain Sayeedee was mandatory for every JMB member. (The Daily Bhorer Kagoj, 19 January 2003) Accordingly, lots of Jamati literature and audio speeches by Sayeedee were seized from their den.
In 2003, a huge stack of books and documents of Jamat-e-Islami was seized from the house of a JMB member at Khetlal, Joypurhat. In the wake of the countrywide bomb blasts on 17 August 2005, the police nabbed a large number of JMB men who had claimed the responsibility of the attack. The police searched their dens and recovered piles of provocative write-ups by Jamat-e-Islami leaders motivating people to join jihad. In almost all his speeches, Maolana Sayeedee spreads hatred and vendetta against the West and those who subscribe to dissimilar ideologies and prompts his followers to annihilate those who contradict Jamat's philosophy. And it is mandatory on the part of JMB extremists to read books written by this fanatic politico-religious leader.
For obvious reasons, the police made no mention of any Jamat-e-Islami-related books or documents in their list of recovered materials. The 19 January 2006 issue of the Daily Bhorer Kagoj carried a color picture showing a pile of Jamat-e-Islami-related materials recovered from the dens of the arrested militants. The police are well aware of the influence of Jamat-e-Islami and of the fact that no militants can be arrested without a green signal coming from this party. More than 1,000 militants were arrested across the country in the wake of the 17 August bomb blasts. Whoever of them had any overt or covert links with Jamat-e-Islami or its student wing Shibir was released from the police custody without any delay.
As long as Jamat-e-Islami continues to be in power, militancy can no way be eradicated from the soil of Bangladesh. It should not come as a surprise even if the likes of Bangla Bhai and Shayekh Rahman are put to the so-called 'crossfire' (i.e. deliberately killed in RAB/police firing). Their godfathers - the Nizami-Aminee-Sayeedee gang - shall remain behind the scene, untouched, unscathed. Therefore, no amount of arrest or trial is going to end militancy so long as the real godfathers manage to go scot-free.
We usually tend to attribute the alarming rise in militant fundamentalism in Bangladesh to ignorance and abject poverty among the general populace. There is no denying the fact that fundamentalism feeds on ignorance and poverty. Ignorance begets fear, lack of judgment, intolerance, cowardice and faith-based, unscientific beliefs. Ignorant people can be misled quite easily, and people who live in a perpetual state of poverty understandably turn to faith. Marxism gives a scientific explanation for the cause of poverty. After the fall of the socialist camp in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union, it became extremely difficult for the socialist and communist powers in impoverished countries to fight extreme poverty. The ideal weapon to fight the discriminatory capitalist society was effectively trimmed down and the failure to elucidate the justification of Marxism for that particular era left a tremendous vacuum in the intellectual world, that has been fully exploited by the American imperialists through nourishing Islamic fundamentalism. Furthermore, the decline and division of the leftist groups has paved the way for fundamentalism to spread at unthinkable rates.
The socialist government in Afghanistan led by Najibullah, a Soviet supporter, was ousted by the Americans who used the Wahabis for this purpose. In madrasas in Pakistan, the Taliban were ingrained with the idea of politicizing Islam and were also provided with necessary arms and ammunitions with hard cash to go for jihad against Najibullah's forces and his Soviet allies. The way America created such veritable demon of Frankenstein has been documented in great detail both in America and in Pakistan. After the eventual withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the fall of Najibullah's government, Saudi Arabia, one of the followers of the Americans, stepped up efforts to promote the growth of the Wahabis in Bangladesh as well as in other countries worldwide. In Muslim-majority countries, their followers were provided with funds and arms. In this respect, the Saudis received considerable support from the Americans.
Political parties with a Wahabi-leaning have long operated in Asia and Africa with the backing of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, they operate as 'Jamat-e-Islami', in Africa as 'Islamic Brotherhood', in Malaysia and Indonesia as 'Jamaa-al-Islam' and in Central Asia as 'Islamic Movement'. In Bangladesh many militant fundamentalist groups and factions function under the umbrella of Jamat-e-Islami. Similarly, 'Islamic Brotherhood' and 'Islamic Movement' in several countries in Africa and Asia also have spread their network through such groups. When one faction is attacked, it either retreats or reveals itself in the guise of different organizations, or sometimes a new leader emerges. For instance, Shayekh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai had been active in Bangladesh for quite a long time. But only in 2004 did they surface as 'Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh'. Prior to this, they were linked with 'Jamatul Mujahideen', 'Ahle Hadith' ,'Harkatul Jihad' and Jamat-e-Islami, and their activities were covert in nature.
Many socialist revolutions in different countries have failed in the past due to internal disputes. At the same time, the role of super powers such as the United States also cannot be ignored. After being ditched in Vietnam, the Americans have renewed their campaign to suppress socialist revolutions in economically backward countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They duly realized that if the poor become poorer in those countries, these poor people would eventually be driven towards a revolution. In order to prevent such political uprisings, the Americans introduced the new concept of NGOs in these countries with different economic programs. Such NGOs recruited workers from among people who were wronged by the socialists and communists. In Bangladesh, over 10 thousand NGOs were set up in rural areas. While this succeeded in suppressing socialist movements, it also created opportunities for women to become economically active, though on a limited scale. Such empowerment of women, which enabled them to defy the norms of a patriarchal society, began to offend the fundamentalists.
Taking cue from these NGOs, Jamat-e-Islami, after coming to power, started founding numerous Islamic NGOs all over the country with the objective of spreading their ideals. These NGOs get their funds mainly from the Middle East.* However, many of the Islamic NGOs also get funding from the West. Despite sprouting all over the country, the Jamat NGOs remained opposed to the social and economic empowerment of women as a result of the Wahabi influence. Jamat-e-Islami and its allies have frequently attacked those NGOs that support the cause of women. Besides, they have issued fatwas (religious edicts) regarding women empowerment. Unable to bear the humiliation, quite a few of the victimized women have taken their own lives. In January 2001, a High Court bench passed a historical motion declaring fatwas illegal. The very next day, IOJ and alliance leader Mufti Amini openly censured the two judges who passed the motion and said the use of fatwa would continue in Bangladesh regardless of the verdict.
The Americans had used both the Taliban and NGOs to counter the communists in different countries, and had mostly succeeded. This is why there was hardly any opposition from the BNP-led alliance when the Americans attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. True, there were some protests from the fundamentalists who did not belong to the alliance. However, none of them went to participate in jihad against the Americans, neither in Iraq nor in Afghanistan.
Jamat-e-Islami and its allies, with financial assistance from different Middle Eastern Islamic NGOs, have spread their roots far and wide. The main activities of these Islamic NGOs include setting up of mosques, madrasas and other Islamic institutions, all of which preach Wahabism. With the promise of monetary benefits, many poor students from Bangladeshi madrasas have been recruited by Jamat and its allies for jihad in places such as Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine, Bosnia and Chechnya. These youths, blinded by their cause and enticed with the promise of wealth in this life and in heaven in the afterlife, have fought and died in far corners of the world, which their parents may never find out. Several militants who were arrested in the wake of the 17 August countrywide bomb blasts narrated their personal experiences of jihad in other countries.
After the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, there were almost four hundred thousand Taliban militants without any work. In Pakistan, the state of law and order became a threat to them, so they were sent away to Kashmir to fight and to Bangladesh to train Bangladeshi militants. After the Americans invaded Afghanistan, it became exceedingly difficult for the Taliban to continue training in Pakistan due largely to the American military presence over there. While it is true that the Pakistani president General Musharraf was pressurized by the Americans to crack down on militants, Pakistan still has not refrained from exporting these extremists for jihad to India and Bangladesh. After the 17 August bomb blasts, our intelligence agencies questioned some of the arrested militants and learnt how many of the Taliban, who originated from several countries including Pakistan and who had fought in Afghanistan, have conducted training sessions in Bangladeshi madrasas.
By virtue of their presence in the government, Jamat people have engaged themselves in transparent as well as clandestine activities that are rapidly taking Bangladesh back to the middle ages. Darkness, ignorance, unscientific beliefs, intolerance, cruelty, superstition and terrorism are only a few words that can be used to describe these fundamentalists. The growth of fundamentalism and the decline of civility are plagues that destroy the collective conscience and transform people into mindless beasts. The fundamentalists in Bangladesh are advancing towards their ultimate goal with frightful ease.
It is imperative to resist fundamentalism from all fronts, most importantly from the political front. Without a secular democracy it is virtually impossible to thwart fundamentalism. All the political parties in Bangladesh that claim to be secular and democratic have hardly demonstrated these qualities. The very Awami League that led the liberation war and created such an extraordinary Constitution of '72 now has leaders who feel distinctly uncomfortable when it comes to uttering anything that sounds neutral from a religious standpoint. Top leaders of some leftist parties, even after singling out the anti-social elements of Islamic fundamentalism, have termed jihad as merely a class struggle.
We know that the people of Bangladesh are not fundamentalists, nor do they approve of the politicization of religion. However, they can never take a collective stand against fundamentalism until and unless the political leaders rise to the occasion. The 23-point action plan adopted by the 14-party alliance in order to oust the partisan Khaleda-Nizami alliance fails to address the reinstatement of the Constitution of '72.
The growth of fundamentalism in Bangladesh played an active part in the creation of the Constitution of '72, which championed religious neutrality and banned the floating of political parties on religious grounds. After the assassination of Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh and his four colleagues who led the liberation war, General Ziaur Rahman and General Ershad amended the Constitution. In the amended Constitution, secularism and progressive Bengali nationalism was wiped out, 'Bismillah ' was added at the beginning and Islam was declared the 'state religion'. Furthermore, it adopted, 'absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah' as the fundamental principle of the state policy. This tainted Constitution has played a definitive role in the rise of political Islam and Islamic militancy in Bangladesh.
The secular democratic forces of Bangladesh first need to be united with regard to the Constitution of '72. Since Jamate Islami has already setup a global 'Jehadi' network there should a network of secular democratic forces of Muslim majority countries in order to fight back fundamentalism.
* Four party alliance government first banned 'Shahadat-Al Hiqma', based in northern part of Bangladesh on 9 February 2002. 'Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh' (JMJB) and 'Jamatul Mujahidin Bangldesh' (JMB) was banned on 9 February 2005. 'Harkat-ul Jihad of Bangladesh' (HUJI B) was banned 16 October 2005.
One of the top leader of JMB Azizul Bari Mintu, who was arrested in connection of 500 bomb blast of 17 August 2005 said, 'Harkatul Jihad' was transformed into 'Jamatul Mujahidin' in 2003. But Jamat-e Islami always propagated that there is no existence of JMB or HUJI. On 11 September 2005 Jamat lawmaker Riasat Ali Biswas said in the parliament, in order to identify Bangladesh as an Islamic country a vested political group and India are always blaming Bangladesh for providing military training to JMB and HUJI. These are all false and baseless propaganda. (Daily Star, 18 October 2005)
* Recently the Asia times Online has disclosed that at least 10 Islamic NGOs are channeling funds to various Islamist extremist outfits in Bangladesh. Quoting the Intelligence agencies, the Asia Times said, 'while the bombs of August 17 did not signal any great technical expertise they were crude, homemade bombs the geographic spread of the operation signaled that a well-established terror network was behind the violence.
The investigative report said "The serial blasts forced the Bangladesh government, which has for years been denying that Islamist extremists are present and active in the country, to admit the involvement of Islamists in the violence.
Quoting "a report prepared by Bangladeshi intelligence agencies", the Asia Times said, it has "confirmed long-suspected links between Islamic NGOs and the mounting extremist violence in the country."
"The report, which was prepared after a six-month investigation into the working of Islamic NGOs, named 10 NGOs with links to extremist activity. The NGOs are the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Al-Muntada Al-Islami, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organization, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee and the Muslim Aid Bangladesh", said the Asia Times. (Quoted in SAN-Feature Service, October 2, 2005)