A section of Islamists has stirred up an entirely unnecessary debate centring the construction of a new sculpture of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It is as if the idea of sculpture is completely unique and the country is going to have one for the first time. Even though the debate has no rhyme or reason, it has generated much heat and carries the risk of inciting violence.
Given the sensitivity of the matter we must tackle the situation prudently by disseminating right information among the people and stopping the fanatics and rumor-mongers in their tracks. This newspaper yesterday exposed the hollow claims of the Islamists by publishing photographs of a dozen statues in different Muslim majority countries. There are sculptures of political, social, and prominent personalities all over the world including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan to name a few.In Bangladesh too there are over a hundred sculptures of important figures like Bangabandhu, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Lalon Shah, Begum Rokeya, Pritilata Waddedar, four national leaders and many others across the country. They are the luminaries of the nation and their sculptures were set up to preserve their memories so that the new generation can feel proud and inspired.
But it is unfortunate that a section of Islamists stoked up the current controversy by mixing up idols with sculptures. They have created much confusion among the masses in this regard. Their logic is that sculptures are built in the first place to preserve memories, but people turn to worship them later on. To justify their claims they cite references from medieval ages. But in the modern era nowhere in the world people worship sculptures. There are sculptures in the world which date back hundreds or thousands of years back, but have never been worshiped. Even the country’s first statue – the one of King Edward VII of England built in 1905 in Bogra – has no record of being worshipped.
Only believers of certain faiths worship idols built in places of worship. Idols do not symbolize any earthly figure. But, while most sculptures symbolize important figures in history, some others are symbol of freedom, friendship, justice, aesthetic architectural beauty and so on. So, there should be no room for confusion regarding structure with idol. Those who have triggered the controversy may have some ulterior motives.