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Bangladesh: the outbreak of “sectarian terror”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016 09:08
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by Valeria Sforzini
EPOS Insights


It has been defined “Sectarian terror”, and it scares even more than the common one, since it persecutes not only those who are considered infidels, but also and especially those who decide to strongly support a political idea far from the conservative mentality or to take an autonomous position regarding social themes. Bangladesh is constitutionally a secular country; article 12 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states, as a fundamental principle of its policy: “The principle of secularism shall be realised by the elimination of communalism in all its forms; the granting by the State of political status in favour of any religion; the abuse of religion for political purposes; any discrimination against, or persecution of, persons practicing a particular religion”.

For 50 years, the secularist nature of the country has been put in danger by the strong impulses given by the extremist Islamic groups. Since 1971, military governments that used Islam as a means for gaining social acceptance have characterized the troubled history of the country. In 1988, Islam was proclaimed religion of state by one of these regimes, and it maintained its status also during the following governments as a means to gain consensus. This fact worsened the extremist tendencies that characterized a wide wing of the population. The current government of Sheikh Hasina became more and more indulgent towards conservatives in the attempt of gaining consensus and remedy the lack of popular mandate.

As the main opponent of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and consequently, of its major alley, Jamaat-e-Islami, Hasina’s government should grant freedom of worship, of speech and of expression. As specified in Bangladeshi Constitution, the government should safeguard believers in any religion and protect those who express their position against Islam. Since 2013, this is not a certainty anymore, and too many homicides involved secularist bloggers and intellectuals that spread messages of religious openness and of gender equality. More than 20 people were killed since 2013 and after the murders that occurred in April of 2016, the fear is that the situation could get worse and lead to an escalation of violence.

Extremist groups created a list of 84 bloggers with the aim of warning the population against their blasphemy and irregularity. The name of the bloggers executed with machetes in the name of Allah can be read in this list and the question that arises from this situation is why they’ve been defined “atheists” even if they openly profess a religion. A chain of violence and terror is threatening pacific coexistence in Bangladesh and the survival of religious minorities: Christians, Hindu, Buddhists, and atheists.

Discriminatory and repressive tendencies are taking over inside Muslim majorities and the execution of the infidels,rather than their imprisonment, seems to have become the main purpose of the extremist wingers. In the country arises the fear that the Islamic Caliphate is hiding behind these murders but the government denies any involvement of ISIS. Jamaat-e-Islam plays a leading role in the campaigns of terror brought against religious minorities and the possibility of a Bangladeshi Jihad becomes more and more concrete everyday. The role of religion inside the country has always been crucial but the secularist nature of its constitution has always spread a sense of liberty.

The names of the two intellectuals killed in April, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh's first and only LGBT magazine and of the professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, became both a symbol of freedom and of the “open prison” in which the country is turning into. The gravity of these events is worsen bythe disapproval of the victims’ behaviour by the government that underline the purpose of Sheikh Hasina of obtaining the votes of the conservative part of the population. The government of a secular country like Bangladesh should protect its citizens no matter what religion they follow, instead of classifyingmessages of respect of and equalityas “objectionable opinions”. But still, the deaths of the two intellectuals remain unpunished. The main question is which future waits for this country, and how long will it take for the Islamic extremists to take over and change the rules of Bangladeshi freedom.


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Thursday, 25 August 2016 09:16
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