Wednesday, 8 February, 2023

Is religion-based politics a concern for Bangladesh?

Is religion-based politics a concern for Bangladesh?

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From the beginning of mankind, religion has played a fearful role in our lives. For example, if one doesn’t pray, he or she won’t be able to get into heaven. The situation does not end here; it includes that person’s eternal burning in hell. The opportunists use this fear to gain political power and wealth by deceiving the illiterate and ignorant people. As a consequence, this led people to do whatever they wanted to do. Moreover, the minority population of the country leads a horrible life, and this is where the Islamophobia begins. Bangladesh has been experiencing the obnoxious influence of religion in politics from the colonial period till now, which has endangered the dream of secularism in our state. History shows us that religion-based politics is unable to bring anything good; rather, it brings a massacre for the state and its citizens. For example, during the 1971 independence war, former West Pakistan mixed religion with politics and killed millions of people in the then East Pakistan in the name of Islam. In the Islam religion, it is written in Surah Al-Baqarah-256, “There is no compulsion in religion,” which means “Do not force anyone to become Muslim, for Islam is painful and clear, and its proofs and evidence are plain and clear.” Religion is connected to our emotional appeals, whereas politics is connected to our logical appeals. It is not always necessary that mixing up these two will bring something good for the nation. In fact, whenever religion-based politics has occurred, the country has faced tremendous devastation, like religion-based politics for students, suppression of the minority group, and most importantly, inhibition of women’s empowerment.

The term “student politics” is scary, and when it is combined with the word “religion-based politics,” it becomes horrifying. The mind of a student is like a piece of clay; one can shape it in whatever way they want. The political leaders seize this chance, provide them with a ferocious and vague knowledge of religion, and make them understand that only killing people is the solution. In Bangladesh, under the name of Islam, “Islami Chhatro Shibir (ICS)“ has killed a lot of people. In the name of “Jihad,” they have killed intellectuals like Humayun Azad, blogger Rajib Haider, and many more. Their fetterless thoughts about religious fundamentalism were accused of being anti-Islamic by the extremists, and as a result, they have faced a brutal death. Another example of the brutality of student politics is the incident of the “Holy Artisian Bakery.” The brainwashed students responsible for the killings of non-Muslims thought this was in the name of Jihad. But in reality, such killings of innocent people would never have occurred. Suppressing the minority is another phenomenon in our country that is the result of the influence of religion over politics. As the constitution has declared Islam the state religion of Bangladesh and most of the Bangladeshis are Muslims, the political parties are using it to oppress the minority groups such as Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and ethnic communities. For instance, if we consider the vicious incidents involving Sitakunda and Ramu, we can see that the minority Hindus and Buddhists are the victims of harassment. A mob destroyed 12 pagodas and more than 50 houses in Ramu on the night of September 29, 2012. The temples are being broken down, the houses are being burned, and even the people are being forced to death. The reasons for the attack in Ramu have always been declared to be the defamation of Islam or Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Attacks are happening mainly in border areas, which might have some political and economic aspects. If the attacked people flee to the neighbouring county, the benefit is doubled, because firstly, the property of the minorities is up for grabs, which is an ancient way to accumulate primary, and secondly, the new residence can be utilized as “vote banks.” Even the ethnic communities never get their rights. We rarely see Chakma or Marma in high position in workplaces. They are never given the opportunity to receive a proper education because they are not Muslims. They are deprived in every sector of life, even the right to vote in our country. Not only were those two killed, but two Hindu men were killed and over 100 people were injured in 2021 as a result of placing the Holy Qur’an on the knee of a Hindu deity. It may cause pain to Muslim believers, but Islam does not grant the right to kill. Not only in Bangladesh, but back in the history of the 9/11 attack in 2001, Al-Qaeda, a group of terrorists, hijacked planes in the USA. The Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the death of the Egyptian president all served as catalysts for the rise of Islamic extremism. Because of American support for Israel and authoritarian, secular Arab regimes, such fanaticism evolved into anti-American sentiment. These are only making matters worse for innocent Muslims; for example, after the 9/11 attacks, people are terrified if a man has a long beard or a woman wears a hijab; all they assume is that a Muslim person is carrying a suicide bomb, not only in the USA but also in the Kashmir areas. For example, Yassin Aref was jailed for 15 years after being the target of Islamophobia and a contentious FBI arrest in USA.

Another issue in Bangladesh is suppressing women’s empowerment. Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, and each family has at least one girl or woman. If we prevent them from obtaining an education, we are essentially severing our own limbs by allowing half of our population to remain uneducated. So what can we expect where half of the population remains uneducated? This happens because we think the religion tells the woman not to get out from under the veil (parda) and not to get an education. Rather, we think staying under the hood is an Islamic activity for the girls, and it’s also mandatory. It is also considered a sin to show the face of a woman and get out of the house. Additionally, even when they don’t want women to be educated, people search for a female doctor when a woman is in labour. Even in the twenty-first century, Hefazat-e-Islam’s recent activities have demonstrated this. Among their 13 demands, they had demands like, “Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels after scrapping women’s education policy.” Both the Qur’an and the Hadith make it clear that women, like men, are required to advance their knowledge and pursue it. So, why do countries like the Taliban prohibit female secondary education in Afghanistan, where Islam has never prohibited female education? In a country where women like Begum Rokeya Shakhawat Hossain serve as role models, we expect to outlaw female education and women’s empowerment. Another idea is early marriage. They believe that getting married and taking care of their homes is preferable to women going to school. Even after all of this, if a woman succeeds in obtaining a degree, others still determine her destiny by claiming she cannot find employment. It is a hostile act toward Islam. In a nation where we have been supporting women in leadership for decades, we still hold the belief that women are not suited for positions of authority. Religion-based politics causes us to forget that if a woman can give birth to a leader, she can also be a leader.

Criticising the wrong information about religion does not make anyone an atheist. He or she can have the right to follow his or her own religion. Dragging a particular religion into the mix with politics will only make it worse. Islam is a pure and clean religion, which some people are defaming at its worst. No man is born with a religious label; we are born to be free. If we want to reclaim our sense of security and the confidence of the female community, these are hard issues for our secretive authorities that need to be answered honestly. Therefore, we can only guarantee a flourishing Bangladesh if we can establish a politics devoid of religion in which followers of all religions are allowed to participate.


Nashita Tasneem, an intern at the Daily Sun