Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Jihadi clouds over Bangladesh


TAREK FATAH

A clash of civilizations is unfolding in Muslim Bangladesh, where the forces of radical jihadi Islamism are trying to topple a liberal democracy, and no one in the West seems interested.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ruling Awami League have accomplished something of which no other Muslim leader in any Islamic country could dream.

She fought a courageous battle against jihadi Islamism by strengthening secular democracy in the country’s constitution and barring religious parties from using Islam as a political tool.

While other leaders in Islamic countries with quasi democracies such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia have surrendered to the bullying tactics of the Islamists and bent over backward to accommodate medieval mullahs, Bangladesh’s PM has not blinked, despite threats and strikes that are disrupting the country’s economy.

With a national election looming, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its religious partners, the jihadis of the Jamaat-e-Islami, have resorted to a dangerous tactic that brings back memories of the 1971 genocide, when the country’s Hindu population was virtually wiped out by Pakistan’s occupation army and its Islamist collaborators.

On Monday, at least 15 people, including six women, were injured when opposition BNP men stormed a Hindu village and vandalized and looted houses.

The villagers complained they came under attack after they refused to participate in a nation-wide strike called against the government.

Traumatized by the violent attack, Hindu women and children of 125 families had to flee the village as opposition goons ransacked about 40 houses and looted valuables, said witnesses.

The Muslim on Hindu attacks in Bangladesh come in the shadow of a war crimes tribunal sentencing two prominent leaders of Bangladesh’s Islamist movements to death for their role in the 1971 genocide committed by the Pakistan Army.

Both convicted Islamists happen to be residents of the U.K. and the U.S. and were found guilty on 11 charges relating to the abduction and killing of 18 pro-independence activists, including academics and journalists, in the final days of the 1971 war.

Stung by these verdicts, the opposition Islamist parties are threatening to bring the country to its knees if Hasina does not resign before the elections in the New Year.

The opposition BNP says, unless Hasina relinquishes power, its supporters will whip up nationwide strikes. It is also threatening to boycott the elections.

Last week, Hasina offered the formation of an all-party government to see through the elections, but the BNP is going ahead with a rally in Dhaka on Friday, with one party leader asking supporters to come “prepared with arms”.

To counter the Islamist threat, the ruling Awami League has also announced plans for a competing rally on the same day, raising the risk of more bloodshed.

So far this year at least 150 people have died in opposition protests and more than 2,000 have been injured during strikes and protests.

If the Awami League of Hasina is either pushed out of office by mass protests or in an election, be prepared to see another Pakistan emerge on India’s eastern flanks, with hard-core allies of the Muslim Brotherhood turning back the clock on one more Islamic country.

The U.S. and the West must keep a watchful eye on the developments inside Bangladesh and help Dhaka fight the jihadi onslaught.

FIRST POSTED IN THE TORONTO SUN, NOVEMBER 05, 2013