Wednesday, September 19, 2007


What 's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, sc. ii


WHERE is the FUA & MUA leading the nation – to a dysfunctional state? In their recent challenges the emergency government seems to be threatened by people's ambition for political freedom. Since the FUA & MUA have taken charge of the 1/11 interim government has implemented several decisions which contradict the principles of the freedom of expression enshrined in the state constitution as well as the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights 1966 ratified by Bangladesh in the year 2000.

After blanket censorship on critical news and opinion in newspapers and TV channels, arrests & torture in custody of scores of journalists and editors, specially during curfew hours, intimidating several newspapers and shutting down a TV channel, and the latest victim is free-lance cartoonist Arifur Rahman, after his cartoon under the title “Naam (Name)” published in “Aalpin”, the most popular weekly satirical pullout magazine of largest selling vernacular daily Prothom Alo.

After The Netherlands cartoon outcry on Prophet Muhammad, Bangladesh has been catapulted into the international limelight in the recent controversial decision of FUA-MUA Sarkar to arrest and detain the cartoonist, ban the edition if Aalpin, intimidate the editor to make public apology which was said “hurting the sentiment of the Muslims”.

The cartoonist has been accused of blasphemy, which demonstrates the growing intolerance of Sunni Muslims in a nation which have been created after a bloody war of liberation in 1971 for a democratic, secular and nationalism. It’s a pity that poet Dawood Haider (1974) and feminist writer Taslima Nasrin (1993) had also fallen under the scornful eyes of resurgence of “defeated Islamist” in Bangladesh. Incidentally both are presently living in exile in fear of persecution of radical Muslims.

Day later the blogger's in Bangladesh have stumbled into a nine-year old juvenile magazine “Kishore Kantha” published by pro-Islamist Chattra Shibir, the student wing of dreaded Jamaat-e-Islami.

The cartoon in the pro-Islamist juvenile magazine was contributed by a student of a notorious Madrassah in Amirabad, Feni in November 1998. Why nobody bothered? Rather interpret - nobody dared to raise the issue of “hurting the feeling of Muslims.”

Now that we know the history of the cartoon published in Prothom Alo, can we anticipate the FUA-MUA will also take action against the contributor madrassah student Mohammad Masud and the editors Matiur Rahman Akhand (chief editor), Ehsanul Mahmud Zubayer (editor) and Sirajul Islam Shahin (executive editor).

Why? Because the cartoon was published in a staunch advocate of Islamic Ummah publication and shadowed by the dreaded Jamaat-e-Islami, who believe in creating an Islamic state and implement Sharia Law to persecute women, secular and religious minorities in Bangladesh. Or because whatever Jamaat and their wings do are “halal” and have the right to express their feelings in whatever forms and language. Outrageous!

As we all know the Baitul Mukarram Khatib (chief priest) Maulana Obaidul Haque has demanded of the government to arrest the editor and ban the publication of Prothom Alo during a parley with the Law (B)adviser Moinul Hossein. I trust the pro-Jamaat-e-Islami Khatib will also demand the arrests and ban of Kishore Kantha!

Of course the FUA-MUA Sarkar should demonstrate that their decision will be applied equally and will also punish the Chattra Shibir leaders responsible for publication of cartoons satirical of Prophet Muhammad. Let the world see that the blasphemy laws can also be applied to Islamist making fun of Muhammad!

It was really painful when we heard that the cartoonist Arif and the sub-editor of the “Aalpin” magazine had lost their jobs with Prothom Alo for publishing a cartoon on the culture of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh. We need to understand why the Prothom Alo editor had succumbed to FUA-MUA intimidation. Possibly to save the cancellation of the declaration (registration).

In the past the Prothom Alo editor globalised the cause of Tipu Sultan, who was brutally injured by the cadres of a former Awami League lawmaker Joinal Hazari in 2001, for his investigative reporting. The editor Matiur Rahman had always been outspoken about cause of persecution of journalists. But this time his newspaper is a victim of intimidation of the FUA-MUA Sarkar. Could the editor have continued with his commitment to the freedom of the press, and protect the interests of the journalists? We will have to wait for the next step.

The press is enchained! In other way, we can say people’s voice has been muffled. The civil society is licking their wounds after nearly a dozen university teachers have been arrested to enflame pro-democracy riots. So who will speak for people now?

Well the action by the government will apparently encourage the defeated Islamists and radical Muslims to further intimidate and coerce the secular, liberals and pro-independence population of the country. Already people cannot express their mind in fear of persecution by people wearing military boots and as if they instead running suited-booted interim government (as we see the TV channels). Time to change the expression: SWORD IS MIGHTIER THAN THE PEN. #

Imagine the “Man” in the cartoon is Gen. Moin/Barrister Moin (M) and the kid could be a general public (P)

M: Who is Awami League chief?

P: Shiekh Hasina
M: You should not say like that. Before mentioning any politician, you should address them as "Corrupt", ok!

M: Who is BNP Chief?
P: “Corrupt” Khaleda Zia
M: Who are pro-reformist politicians in AL and BNP?
P: “Corrupt” Mannan Bhuiyan and “Corrupt” Amir Hossain Amu
M: Hah!

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is a Bangladesh born journalist, presently living in Canada in exile. He is former correspondent for TIME Asia magazine, Daily Times (Pakistan) and His email:

Masudul Biswas is a free-lance contributor, media researcher and a former reporter of the Bangladesh Observer. Presently an international student of Mass Communication
in the United States. His email is

This article first appeared in