Time to make our stand against fundamentalist forces loud and clear

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Published on December 22, 2020
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Professor Dr. Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil):

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe was grappled with fresh round of alleged terror attacks, first in France and then in Austria, that made global headlines, something very unusual during these corona-days, when hardly any news unrelated to COVID-19 is to be seen anywhere in the front or back pages of newspapers anywhere in the world. As an inevitable consequence, Muslims worldwide are once again being looked at with suspicion.

There has, no doubt, been provocation by the recent re-publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (S:) by the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo following up their original publication in 2015, but the unfortunate reality is that the victims, apart from those assassinated, are the Muslims in general.

There is certainly sufficient logic behind the argument that French President Emmanuel Macron should have measured his reaction to the outrageous beheading of Samuel Paty, on October 16 and then a similar attack on a 60 year old woman and two others at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Nice two weeks later.

The response from the Muslim community was diverse, but mostly appreciable. While the French Council of Muslim Faith and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif lost no time in condemning the violence, some of the Muslim leaders chose to concentrate their response to President Marcon primarily, and not on the act of terror. Of particular was the response by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran

Khan Niazi. It is true that with their track record of blatantly promoting orthodoxy, a better response was also not expected from Pakistan, but their stand in contrast to that from the Muslim majority countries across Asia and Africa, who came out with criticisms against the acts of violence in the name of Islam, doesn’t do good to the cause of Muslims at the end of the day.

However faced with condemnation from the majority of the Muslims world over, President Macron backed off a bit. The gentleman who once said that there was a need to free Islam in France from foreign influences, recently, has told said in an international news channel that he understands the feelings of the Muslims.

However the impact of such violence in the name of religion is immense. Ms. Naziha Mayoufi, a member of Les Musulmans, an association of Muslim groups and mosques in France, told The New York Times that she felt infinite sadness for the families of the victims. She at the same time also expressed her fear that such attacks will make politicians to freely label Islam as an ‘enemy from within’. Her final statement to the newspaper was in particular noteworthy- “As Muslims, we pay for the damages of these two forms of extremism.”

There has been an interesting analysis by Mr. Albert Hourani, a British-Lebanese historian who believes that modern Muslim terrorist groups are more rooted in national liberation ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries, than they are in the Islamic tradition. According to him, although these terrorist groups adopt various theological justifications for their behaviour, the phenomenon of modern terrorism in the name of Islam is part of the historical legacy of colonialism and not the legacy of Islam. He rightly says that Islamic juristic tradition has no quarter for terrorism.

Coming back to today’s Bangladesh, the phenomenon that we are witnessing around us is also not at all soothing. The vandalism of sculptures of Modhu da, Bagha Jatin and even Father of the Nation Bangabandhu gives clear message that our victory in 1971 needs to be consolidated. We had once and for all defeated the external occupants of our motherland, but the forces of evil are very much active within. It is therefore the responsibility of the majority secular section of our society to be pro-active and make our stand against fundamentalist forces loud and clear. If terrorism is to be defeated, we in Bangladesh and in the Islamic world in general must take on board and speak out loudly for the secularist-humanist principles.

Otherwise not only the world will remain to be a hostile planet for Muslims like us, the foundations of a developed Bangla­desh that we are already foreseeing, will also be laid on volatile grounds.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe was grappled with fresh round of alleged terror attacks, first in France and then in Austria, that made global headlines, something very unusual during these corona-days, when hardly any news unrelated to COVID-19 is to be seen anywhere in the front or back pages of newspapers anywhere in the world. As an inevitable consequence, Muslims worldwide are once again being looked at with suspicion.

There has, no doubt, been provocation by the recent re-publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (S:) by the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo following up their original publication in 2015, but the unfortunate reality is that the victims, apart from those assassinated, are the Muslims in general.

There is certainly sufficient logic behind the argument that French President Emmanuel Macron should have measured his reaction to the outrageous beheading of Samuel Paty, on October 16 and then a similar attack on a 60 year old woman and two others at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Nice two weeks later.

The response from the Muslim community was diverse, but mostly appreciable. While the French Council of Muslim Faith and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif lost no time in condemning the violence, some of the Muslim leaders chose to concentrate their response to President Marcon primarily, and not on the act of terror. Of particular was the response by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran

Khan Niazi. It is true that with their track record of blatantly promoting orthodoxy, a better response was also not expected from Pakistan, but their stand in contrast to that from the Muslim majority countries across Asia and Africa, who came out with criticisms against the acts of violence in the name of Islam, doesn’t do good to the cause of Muslims at the end of the day.

However faced with condemnation from the majority of the Muslims world over, President Macron backed off a bit. The gentleman who once said that there was a need to free Islam in France from foreign influences, recently, has told said in an international news channel that he understands the feelings of the Muslims.

However the impact of such violence in the name of religion is immense. Ms. Naziha Mayoufi, a member of Les Musulmans, an association of Muslim groups and mosques in France, told The New York Times that she felt infinite sadness for the families of the victims. She at the same time also expressed her fear that such attacks will make politicians to freely label Islam as an ‘enemy from within’. Her final statement to the newspaper was in particular noteworthy- “As Muslims, we pay for the damages of these two forms of extremism.”

There has been an interesting analysis by Mr. Albert Hourani, a British-Lebanese historian who believes that modern Muslim terrorist groups are more rooted in national liberation ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries, than they are in the Islamic tradition. According to him, although these terrorist groups adopt various theological justifications for their behaviour, the phenomenon of modern terrorism in the name of Islam is part of the historical legacy of colonialism and not the legacy of Islam. He rightly says that Islamic juristic tradition has no quarter for terrorism.

Coming back to today’s Bangladesh, the phenomenon that we are witnessing around us is also not at all soothing. The vandalism of sculptures of Modhu da, Bagha Jatin and even Father of the Nation Bangabandhu gives clear message that our victory in 1971 needs to be consolidated. We had once and for all defeated the external occupants of our motherland, but the forces of evil are very much active within. It is therefore the responsibility of the majority secular section of our society to be pro-active and make our stand against fundamentalist forces loud and clear. If terrorism is to be defeated, we in Bangladesh and in the Islamic world in general must take on board and speak out loudly for the secularist-humanist principles.

Otherwise not only the world will remain to be a hostile planet for Muslims like us, the foundations of a developed Bangla­desh that we are already foreseeing, will also be laid on volatile grounds.

Writer: Chairman, Department of Hepatology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Member Secretary, Sampritee Bangladesh.