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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Where is Awami League heading toward?

Couple of days ago most Bangladeshi daily newspapers published news involving the Awami League (AL), which we find deeply frustrating and troubling. Awami League (AL), in its bid to gain power at any cost, has signed and reached an agreement with one of the notable radical Islamic parties in that, the former shall grant legitimacy to all bona fide Sheikhs and Mullahs to issue fatwas outside the purview of the country's courts if they get elected in the next elections. According to newspaper reports, AL leadership has also promised that they would pass a law in Parliament making any kind of criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad and his associates ( sahaba) a punishable crime. Anyone not acknowledging Muhammad as the last Prophet shall be declared a non-Muslim such as the minority Quadiyanis in Bangladesh, as clearly mentioned in the said contract. In short, if implemented, AL is set to establish something like the infamous Pakistani Blasphemy Law in Bangladesh, if they get elected.

This news has been a hard blow to all those who have been aspiring for a secular and democratic Bangladesh. We say so because, in their so called compromise, AL leadership has stooped to a level where there hardly remains a boundary between AL's opportunistic strategies and those adopted by its counter-parts— the pro-Islamic BNP and the radical Jamayat-e-Islami gang. In fact, many think the AL deserves to be ranked as a worse option in the light of signing this agreement. We must not forget that these radical Islamist parties have been a menace to society and a threat to the freedom of thought in Bangladesh for quite some time. Attacks on Ahmed Sharif, Humayun Azad, Taslima Nasreen and other secular writers and activists bear testimony to the fact that these radicals want to drag the nation backwards. This is not a question about electoral politics, but of the future of the nation. Whether Bangladesh wants to keep the last remnants of the secularism is the question. The country has already slid down the path of an intolerant society under the BNP-Jamaat government in the last five years. The threat of Talibanization of Bangladesh has become real in many ways. AL has signed a deed with a jingoist Islamic party whose followers on Dhaka's streets once shouted, "amra hobo Taliban, Bangla hobe Afghan" (We shall be Taliban, Bangla will be Afghan). The same gang has led agitations demanding that Quadiyanis be declared non-Muslims. Their hatred for secular and political ideology has never been a hidden agenda in Bangladesh. This agreement will put the nation on an irreversible course to darkness.

We therefore strongly condemn AL's agreement with radical Islamist parties and question the prudence and the moral judgment of AL leadership in building a secular and progressive Bangladesh. We urge the AL to annul the agreement immediately, urge the partners of the AL to stand up for the cause of secularism, and we urge all Bangladeshis who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion to speak up against this so-called agreement. The nation deserves better. #

December 24, 2006

The article was drafted by the moderation team, an online network of South Asian Humanists

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