SENTIMENTAL OBJECTION against removal of "bismillah"s placement in the Constitution of Bangladesh has begun just as I apprehended. This is a familiar trick reminiscent of Hitler's campaign rhetoric stoking popular racial and ethnic sentiments in 1930s Germany. Later the Catholic Church of Austria used religious sentiments to persecute the Jews and oust them from Vienna. The lesson to be learned is that the word of God, when politically manipulated, can bring massive human destruction. The Genocide of 1971 is scorched in our memory.
When I raised the issue of illegally placed “bismillah” above the Preamble of the Constitution of Bangladesh in the internet forums, I got angry responses. Accused of being anti-Islam and a paid servant of Zionist masters, I was asked: “Why "Bismillah" is a problem for you?”
‘Bismillah’ is not a problem for me. It is a constant and trusted companion. Besides using it in prayers, I love saying it at the commencement of any good work, and I love writing it. Give me a minute or two, and any old pen, and even without practice, I will write ‘bismillah’ in Arabic in passable Nashtaliq calligraphic style.
I do have a problem though with a thing called Martial Law. There is no such thing called ‘Martial Law’ in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. ‘Bismillah’ should not be put above the Preamble of the nation’s Constitution by an unlawful usurper of civilian power who called himself Chief Martial Law Administrator. The use of ‘bismillah’ for such crass political purpose behind the clout of illegal Martial Law by a Proclamation Order in 1977, thereby betraying the trust of 150 million people should surely count as the most shocking and egregious blasphemy! It is pure kufri!
See the Holy Qur’an for a strong interdiction against invoking Allah's name in an unlawful act like this in Sura Hud (11: 18):
Waman athlamu mimmani iftara AAala Allahi kathiban ola-ika yuAAradhoona AAala rabbihim wayaqoolu al-ashhadu haola-i allatheena kathaboo AAala rabbihim ala laAAnatu Allahi AAala alththalimeena
And who (is) more unjust/oppressive than who fabricated/cut and split on God lies/denials/falsifications? Those, they are being displayed/exhibited/shown on (to) their Lord, and the witnesses/testifiers (the angels) say: "Those (are) those who lied/denied/falsified upon their Lord." Is not God's curse/torture on the unjust/oppressors? …11:18
Anything that bears the sign of preference for one particular religion, be it the religion of a large number of natives, is debris from the illegal acts of constitutional vandalism. Surely it is blasphemous to use the hallowed name of Allah as a mark to legitimize such an act of unjust vandalism. By upholding the welcome repeal of the Fifth Amendment, Act 1979, the Supreme Court has fulfilled the duty of the judiciary in the service of preserving and defending the Constitution of Bangladesh. Now it seems that a Parliamentary process should be put in place to remove this heinous blasphemy and restore the sanctity of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
Independence from the British rule, and then from Pakistan’s oppression, must mean freedom from the dreadful colonial practice of categorization of people and computation of demography by the professed faith of a person or a group. Counting people by their religions means everyone is forced into a pre-selected classification that ignores other principles of grouping. We must stop the practice of depicting majority/minority on the basis of religion alone.
The Parliament should do its part to fulfill the obligation of preserving and protecting the Constitution that represents our valiant fight for independence from a false statehood (Pakistan) whose existential basis was this weird notion of computation of people by their religion. Pakistan was a disasterous experiment in a bad idea! The birth of Bangladesh in 1971 proved conclusively that Muslim Bengalis do not need a separate state as Muslims only and no one else. They can live with people of other religions and ethnicity as they have happily and prosperously done so for centuries.
Farida Majid is a poet, scholar and literary translator, used to live and teach in New York City. She is a regular contributor in Mukto-Mona forum. She could be reached at: email@example.com