- Posted February 13, 2013 by
Is the Movement in Shahbag, Dhaka, Bangladesh Against Muslims or the Religion Islam?
On February 5th, 2013, the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) court sentenced one of the notorious war criminals Abdul Quader Molla, a senior party leader of the political party, Jamaat-e-Islam to life in prison for mass murder during the Bangladesh liberation war against Pakistan in 1971. The massive murders that Quader Molla committed at Mirpur, Dhaka during the liberation war earned him the title of ‘Butcher of Mirpur’. The verdict came as a shock to the mass population as they felt that the court was too lenient considering the crimes that Quader Molla had committed during 1971.
Within hours of the verdict, people from all walks of life spontaneously joined a protest called by the Bloggers and Online Activists Network (BOAN) at Shahbag, one of the main intersections in Dhaka to demand the death penalty of Quader Molla. The protest later culminated into the 2013 Shahbag movement. Since then thousands have gathered at Shahbag and vowed to stay there until Molla is sentenced to capital punishment. This is a non-political movement lead by the youth generation supported by people irrespective of gender, age, religion, ethnicity and occupation. Shahbag is now being referred to as ‘Projonmo Chottor’ or ‘New Generation Circle due to the role the youth generation has played in initiating this spontaneous and largest movement in the history of Bangladesh. Today was the eight day of the movement and people are still there day and night holding vigils and continuously chanting slogans against the war criminals and singing patriotic songs.
The youth generation may not have seen the war in 1971 but surely they are feeling the spirit of the liberation war right now which is pulling them towards Shahbag. Especially, the youth generation realizes that without the sacrifice of their previous generation who fought for the independence of Bangladesh, the country could not have become independent. The youth generation feels that it is their obligation now to demand the death penalty of the war criminals and ensure that these war criminals receive the death penalty. This way they feel that they will bring justice to the people who died and fought to bring the independence of the country.
Not only people in Bangladesh but Bangladeshis living all around the world have been touched by the movement at Shahbag. They have stayed tuned on their facebook, twitter pages, newspaper websites and television channels from Bangladesh to get the latest updates about the movement. To express solidarity with the movement at Shahbag, Bangladeshi people living all around the world has also gathered with banners, posters chanting slogans against the war criminals and demanding the war criminal’s capital punishment.
Though the majority people in Bangladesh are supporting this movement, it cannot be denied that a fraction of the population, who are mainly the supporters of Jamat-e-Islam are strongly against this movement. They have also made statements that the ICT should be abolished and also stated that all the allegations against Quader Molla and the other war criminals who are being tried at the ICT, most of whom are leaders of Jamat-e-Islam are based on false allegations. They have demanded that all their leaders be freed unconditionally. In the past two months they have held violent protests across the country to pressurize the government to free their leaders. They have hired lobbyists from influential countries to speak against the tribunal and also spread propaganda against the tribunal. The Jamat-e-Islam has made claims that the allegations that have been made against their leaders has been done as a conspiracy to shut down their party. They have also declared that the current movement that is going on is lead by atheists to threaten Islam and Muslims. To stop the movement they have published several propaganda articles and blogs in social media as well as in reputed international print media. They have also threatened people who have supported the movement.
What is the tool that the Jamat-e-Islami supporters are using to divert people away from the movement and to threaten people who are supporting the movement?
A Bangladeshi community abroad gathered on Friday, 8th February 2013 to express solidarity with the movement at Shahbag with banners and posters demanding the death penalty of Quader Molla and swearing to keep supporting the Shahbag movement until the demand has been met. After the event, one of the members published the photos that they took in their community’s facebook group page. Within a couple of hours that member received a message in facebook from a former member of that community. The summary of the message is:
“You have crossed the limit. You are creating division in the group for the first time. You have done a dirty job. I simply hate you, you are definitely an atheist, prepare for hell after death. You have no right, no right at all to post on facebook such controversial things. Are you trying to destroy our belief? What is your intention? Millions of people love Sayeedi (one of the Jamat-e-Islami war criminals currently awaiting verdict of the court) but he has been falsely accused of war crimes and you are demanding his death penalty? This is simply politics. Why did the community express the solidarity with the movement and post pictures about it?”
One can simply realize that the message has been sent by a supporter of Jamat-e-Islam and sympathizers of the war criminals. From the message one can realize that ‘religion’ is being used as the tool or shield to threaten people and divert people away from the movement.
Is the Movement in Shahbag, Dhaka against Muslims or the Religion Islam?
Due to some of the misleading information out there, many people are still unsure if the movement in Shahbag is against Muslims or Islam. The truth is that the movement is absolutely not against Muslims or Islam or any other religion. The political party Jamat-e-Islam in 1971 was against the creation and independence of Bangladesh. During the war their leaders with the Pakistani army killed, raped and tortured millions of people who wanted an independent Bangladesh. To cover up their stance and crime that they committed in 1971 the party leaders have been using religion as a shield over the years by becoming Islamic scholars and leaders. They influenced people to join their party and to become their supporters by spreading the message that supporting Jamat-e-Islam is a part of Islam. If they do not support the party and does or says anything against the leaders or the party then they will become non-believers of Islam or atheists and thus they will end up in hell. The supporters of the party also believe likewise just like the supporter who sent the hateful message in facebook.
Islam has nothing to do with Jamat-e-Islam. Jamat-e-Islam is using Islam as a shield to protect their existence and to influence people to join them. The majority of the people of Bangladesh are Muslims and majority of these Muslims are supporting the movement at Shahbag. In fact, one of the most influential Imam’s or Islamic leaders of Bangladesh Imam Allama Fariduddin Maswood also participated in this movement and expressed his solidarity and support with the movement. Even in the community that is being discussed, out of the 30 people that gathered at the solidarity event only four of them were not Muslims. Most of the Muslims who attended the event are also practicing Muslims. Therefore, one should understand by now that the movement at Shahbag is definitely not a movement against Muslims or Islam because majority of the people who are supporting this movement at home and abroad are Muslims and this movement has also been acknowledged by several Islamic scholars and leaders in the country. The one and only objective of this non-political and non-religious movement lead by the youth generation is to demand the death penalty of the war criminals.