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    Posted January 27, 2014 by
    Dhaka, Bangladesh
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    A concern regarding the Recent Communal Problems in Bangladesh


    I am writing this article as a quick response to the recent atrocity and barbarism driven upon the Hindu and other minor communities in Bangladesh. In this article I tried to relate how the recent stories of communal conflicts differs from those of the past events and how the recent trends of communal problems have mere connections with politics instead of religion. This article covers the different phases of history regarding the communal problems in Indian Subcontinent, the literal concept of Islam towards securing peace and justice for all human being and mandate under international and national legal instruments for ensuring equality before law. Important references are given to facilitate the inquisitive readers. I think this article will help everyone for sensing the whole events with different aspects of the problems.



    Background of the communal Problems in Indian Subcontinent as well as Bangladesh:



    Historically the people of this Indian sub-continent have been living with maintaining an overwhelming religious harmony and solidarity. In Ancient India there has no history of large scale religious violence (see Keay, J. India a History, Harper Collins Publishers London, p. 209). In Medieval India there were hardly seen any communal problems in this region except some trivial incidents. During the regime of Muslim empire there was a quite exquisite balance of power in the administration of empire with a notable number of participations from most of the religious communities of then. Many of us we might have heard the Mughal Emperor “Akbar”, in history who is well-known as the most Hindu friendly Emperor and for the same reason numerous references are made to him and his eulogies are sung in songs and religious hymns as well. Even his son Jahangir and grandson Shahjahan maintained many of Akbar's concessions, such as the ban on cow slaughter, drink only Ganges water and having only vegetarian dishes on certain days of the week (see P. 31 Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors By Lizzie Collingham). It is evident from the history that Hindu Rajputs integrated with the Mughal armies and fought for Mughal dynasty for years. During the era of British rule In 1813 the government started sponsoring missionary activity across the British India for promoting Christianity and denigrating Hinduism and Islam. This later resulted the soldier rebellion of 1857 with numerous killings. Later on the British rulers followed the policy "divide-and-rule" to prevent similar revolts from taking place for securing their rule in this region. They divided the major religious communities of here namely Hindus, Muslim and Sikh by exploiting differences between communities and convinced them that you are not same; you belong to different religions, philosophies, social customs and literature, so you cannot be friend of each other. At the beginning of British rule in India the British rulers favored Hindus and deprived Muslims in several cases of state affairs. They were in fear of Muslims as Muslims were arrogant to restore their immediately lost empire. The game of this deprivation of and preference over of then highly abetted the communal conflicts. In that respect, Indian Muslims were encouraged to create a cultural and political identity separate from the Hindus (see Hartmann & Boyce, A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village, 1983, p. 15). But when the nationalism was rising in the mind of Hindu middle classes in the late 19th Century, the British tried to win the support of well-to-do Muslims by offering them more government jobs and educational opportunities. As a part of this strategy the situation culminated in the 1905 Partition of Bengal, creating the new predominantly Muslim province of East Bengal with Dhaka as its Capital. The partition exacerbated Hindu - Muslim tension, and, although revoked six years later, it foreshadowed several succeeding events (see Hartmann & Boyce, 1983, p. 15). Thus the seed of communal conflicts in this region was sowed under the direct and indirect influence of British. Aftermath, we have witnessed several communal conflicts notably in 1857, 1921, 1947, 1971 and 1992, and the separation of India and Pakistan which was also the end result of communal conflicts. In 1947 there was a mass communal conflict in Bengal as well as different parts of India between Hindus and Muslims demanding a separate state for Muslims following a speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru on media in Delhi (see details at: Azad, Maulana Abul Kalam, India Wins Freedom ,1988, pp.176-190). In 1971 during our liberation war of Bangladesh some sects among Muslims, from the exaggerated sentiment of anti-Indian and anti-Pakistani concept, inflicted some riots upon Hindus. In 1992 the communal conflicts in different parts of Bangladesh were taken place immediately following the Gujarat riot in India.



    Recent Cases of Communal Problems Blending with Nasty Politics:



    In all previous incidents of communal conflicts there had some least reasons connected with religious misunderstandings but in recent years communal problems are taking place following any vast political unrest in Bangladesh. In 2001 after the national election was held there were some separate incidents of communal attacks on Hindus as a part of post election violence. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 we have witnessed some frequent incidents of barbaric insanity by the name of politics. The Ramu incident of 2012, in February 2013 attacks on Hindu inhabitants in different places following the death sentence judgment of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (BJI) Leader Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi pronounced by The International Crimes Tribulal-1 and in 2014 and during the violence taken place aftermath the tenth national election in 2014. The government itself and some other pro-government organizations are solely accusing opposition and Isalamists for the recent attacks committed on Hindu communities. It is evident to us, after scrutinizing the recent developments from government’s part, that they are taking political benefit of this chaotic situation instead of prosecuting the actual culprits. In all previous incidents of communal conflicts the real perpetrators are still behind the scene. In 2002 a commission was formed by the government of then for investigating the post election communal violence of 2001 but the report of the commission is yet to see the light. Though in 2001 the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Government of then did not make the opposition liable for the committed communal violence in a large scale but the present Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) Government is making the opposition solely responsible for recent events. The attitude of BAL and its allies reveal that they are more eager to grasp the benefits of these communal attacks for recovering their quite lost political image rather than to initiate any fair investigation upon the matters. Accusing solely the opposition and Islamists are not the proper remedy for the happened incidents. As in some cases some pr-government and BAL supporters were seen near to the spot of the events before and after the commission of such attacks and in some other cases, as shown in social medias, activists of BJI were seen to guard the Hindu temples for preventing attacks. So both the Government and opposition cannot claim themselves inculpable for not to have hands in such communal attacks. Moreover, some evidence shows that in some places attacks driven on Hindu families were for gaining personal interest rather political and in many places some people were affected as revenge of personal conflicts. This dubious situation demands a fair judicial investigation promptly for justice not to be shaken any more.





    Guideline of Islam regarding the Relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims:



    Islam is the religion of peace, in fact literally the root word of Islam is ‘silm’ which itself means peace. So the spirit of Islam is the spirit of peace. Islam has a definite guideline for Muslims to be followed for maintaining the relationship with non-Muslims. In Quran Allah says in several places how Muslims should treat with non-Muslims during peace and wartime. Keeping peace and non-violence in the society except at the time of warfare is the central of all. . Al Quran states: "There shall be no compulsion in religion" (2:256); "Say to the disbelievers [that is, atheists, or polytheists, namely those who reject God] "To you, your beliefs, to me, mine" (109:1-6)". The Messenger of Allah said, “Leave them to what they worship". Allah further says in Holy Quran: "If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge [Al Quran 9 (Surat Tawbah):6]".These verses and Hadith seem to say clearly enough that Islam is a peace-loving religion and it teaches co-existence with all other religions and a peaceful response to those who oppose Islam and even to give shelter if anyone of them seeks shelter. Muslims are not allowed to force people to convert to Islam. Muslims should only seek to make the truth clear to others, and talk to them about Islam, then let them decide for themselves.



    Even Islam allows to compromise in some cases with the people who belong the pure Divine religion i.e. Christianity or Judaism, unless it contradicts with Islamic beliefs. Allah says in Holy Quran: "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).[ Sura al-`Ankabut 29:46]



    In Islam War is made lawful in self-defense only. Al Quran states: "To those against whom war is made, permission is given to fight because they were wronged and verily Allah is Most Powerful for their aid. They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, for no cause except that they say Our Lord is Allah. [Al Quran 22 (Surat Al Hajj):39-40]. Al Quran further states: And fight them on until there is no more persecution …. But if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression [Al Quran 2 (Surat Al Baqarah):193]". Al Quran further states: "But if the enemy inclines towards peace, you also incline towards peace and trust in Allah. Verily He is All-Hearer, the All-Knower [Al Quran 8 (Surat Al Anfal):61]". Al Quran further states:" Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily Allah loves those who deal with equity. It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion and have driven you out of your homes and helped to drive you out that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the wrong-doers [Al Quran 60 (Surat Al Mumtahinah):8-9]". Al Quran further states : "And if ye do punish them, punish them no worse than they punished you: but if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient." (Surah 16, Verse 126). Muslims are instructed to fight those in self-defense who fight them. Muslims are also instructed to stop fighting those who wish to cease fighting them, and to accept peace with the enemy who becomes inclined towards peace. In Islam peace is the rule and war is only an exception and even Muslims are guided to avoid a defensive war when war is not certain to achieve a positive result.



    Elsewhere Allah declares punishments for transgressor by the name of Islam. Al Quran state: “fight in God's cause against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits [in aggression]; God does not love transgressors" (2:190)". This is a clear mandate for Muslims not to commit aggression first, as God does not like transgressors.



    So from the above discussion it is now obvious to us that no true Muslim, if he believes the Holy Quran and Hadith literally, can take part in any communal violence, or take the life of others or destroy the property of others or even cause any harm to others without any reason strictly justified by Islam. Any violence upon the non-Muslims done in the name of Islam, without strictly justified cause, is clearly identified as transgression in Islam and will be subjected to the God's punishments. The recently happened unscrupulous communal conflicts have no connection with the true sense of Islam. These are merely political and personal and hence cannot be blended with Islamic sense of Holy “Jihad”.





    Doctrine of Equality before Law and Equal Protection for All under Different International and National Legal Instruments:



    It is an established principle of universal natural justice that every human being, irrespective of his religion, gender, colour, political identity or any other opinion, shall be equal before law and shall be entitled for equal protection under law. Hence Article 7 of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” states to mean all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. Article 1(1) of the ILO 111 provides that discrimination includes: ‘Any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin….. The principle of equality and non-discrimination guarantees that those in equal circumstances are dealt with equally in law and practice. Thus other different human rights instruments of United Nations, such as Articles 2, 18 and 26 ICCPR, Article 2(2) ICESCR, Article 2 CRC, Article 7 CMW and Article 5 CRPD explicitly prohibit discriminations on ground of religion along with other opinions. Article 1 of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, 1981 upholds freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Article 27 of ICCPR and UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities both impose obligations upon the state for protecting the equal rights of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities and promoting national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities.


    The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh incorporated this very principle of “equality before law” in several in several places. In the third part of the preamble of our Constitution it is stated that it shall be a fundamental aim of the State to realize through the democratic process a egalitarian society, "free from exploitation a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights" and freedom, “equality” and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens. This is a clear constitutional mandate for securing "rule of law" and "fundamental human rights" for all citizens irrespective of his sex, religion, colour, place of birth, or any other opinion. Article 1 Part 1 declares Bangladesh to be a unitary state, any division among its citizens based on religion or language or of any other reason shall not be allowed. The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but also allows other religions to be practiced in harmony. It also states that every religious community or denomination has the right to establish, maintain, and manage its religious institutions as Article 2A runs to mean the state religion of the Republic is Islam, but the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religion. Article 12 (c) prohibits the abuse of religion for political purposes, the interpretation of this clause can be as such that any attempts made in abuse of religion or religious sentiment shall not lawful anyhow. Article 27 declares all citizens to be equal and to be entitled for equal protection of law. Article 28 declares discrimination based on religion illegal. Article 41 gives citizens the right to practise and promote religious beliefs and further provisions of Article 41 guarantee in individual's right to refuse to practice a religion, or to be compelled to be educated in a religion other than their own. Sections 295, 296, 297 and 298 of the Penal Code of Bangladesh deal with offences against religious places or practices.


    These all provisions of international legal instruments vividly concentrate over the necessity for securing the equal rights, protection and status for all citizens disregarding his religious or any other opinion. These imply that Bangladesh, as country, is under obligation to protect and preserve the rights of citizens disregarding his religion. And our constitution articulates the same languages of international instruments. Our government has no way to go out from our constitutional mandates or mandates under international law, where it is a party. And as a citizen we have obligations towards our country, countrymen and constitution. We have to be complied with the authority of our constitution, until it preserves the provisions of rule of law and justice for all, for keeping peace in the society and for not inflicting aggression upon the people of other religions.





    To conclude, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians all of us we are living in the same society, we are taking breath in the same air, we are living under the same sun and sky, and even, whatever we believe, we are created by the same entity. Every religion advocates for equality, justice and peace. Hence, we should comply with our religious and constitutional obligations to let the justice for all be kept above all. Every one of us should be tolerant and friendly to others with the sense that we believe in peace, integrity and respect for all, love for all and hate for none.

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