Leaving Islam



Torching of Ahmadiyya mosque in Bangladesh sets a bad example

 A.H. Jaffor Ullah  

The rise of religious extremism and the growth of sectarianism coupled with incidences of violence in Bangladesh is a telltale sign of intolerance and bigotry that are on the rise.  The latest episodes of torching and bombing of several Ahmadiyya mosques in Brahmanbaria – an eastern district in Bangladesh – speak in volume the pathetic state of sectarian feuds that are brewing in this placid deltaic land for over a decade or so.  

No too long ago, Bangalees in this tiny land as big as Wisconsin (one of the 50 states in America) used to live harmoniously not only with different sects of Muslims such as Ahmadiyya, Sufi, etc., but also with non-Muslims belonging to other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity.  When we were growing up in the 1950s and 1960s we never heard the incidences of bombing or torching of prayer houses belonging to minority sects of Muslims let alone Christian church or Hindu mandir.  What then has gone wrong o abysmally in the last three decades?  This is not a rhetorical question; nor glib response to this question could do a justice.  In the meantime, extremism is on the rise in this deltaic land.  Thanks to politicization of the religion Islam by some two despotic regimes of yesteryears who did it purely for political purpose.  The nation had been treading the slippery slope of extremism since 1975 after the killing of founding father of this nation.  The despot who was behind the killing of Sheikh Mujib is long gone but the culture of hate against minorities is growing a la cancer.  The civil society of Bangladesh has never confronted this malady with courage and vigor.  And now, we are reading in various newspapers published from Dhaka that in the wee hours of night on June 24, 2005, not one but multiple Ahmadiyya mosques became the victim of torching and bombing.  

Ahmadiyya is a minority sect of Muslim religion in South Asia, which was started in the middle of nineteenth century by one Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in a village by the name Qadian located in Punjab .  The followers of the spiritual leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad are called Ahmadiyya or Qadiani.  Ahmad believed in the supremacy of Koran and considered Muhammad a prophet.  His teachings however differed from Sunni and Shia sects in that he placed reasoning over blind belief.  Ahmad wrote that Jesus was not lifted to the heaven but he died naturally as other mortals do on earth.  There are other minor differences too but by and large, the followers of Ahmad are Muslims as Sufis are considered Muslims.  

The fundamentalists do not consider Ahmadiyyas as being Muslims and they waged a jihad against them in Pakistan .  This infighting between fundamentalists and Ahmadiyyas goes back to 1950s when Qadiani mosques were attacked in Lahore .  An extremist faction of Sunni sect by the name Khatme Nabuwat (The End of Prophecy) that believes in the finality of Muhammad (being the last prophet) abhors Qadianis because they (Qadianis) consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a prophet.  The members of Khatme Nabuwat had waged a unilateral jihad against Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan .  It took about a quarter century for this jihad to come to the shore of Bay of Bengal .  We have noticed that members of Khatme Nabuwat had been waging “war” against Ahmadiyyas in various parts of Bangladesh , lately.   

Not too long ago an Ahmadiyya mosque located in Nakhalpara (in Dhaka City ) became the epicenter of controversy as members of Khatme Nabuwat tried to occupy the building by force.  When this was going on, we read newspaper reports where it was mentioned that Khatme Nabuwat had the blessings of Jamat-i-Islami, the political party that is a member of four-party alliance, which is in power since October 2001.   

We also viewed digital images of confrontations between Khatme Nabuwat goons and Ahmadiyyas as the latter tried to protect their mosque from forcible occupation.  In one instance, the local police was helping the aggressors.  One has to simply wonder why did police want to help Khatme Nabuwat activists when clearly the civil rights of minority sect members were violated in public.  The Bangladesh Constitution allows every religion and sects to worship as they please.  Even then, the extremists who Bangladesh newspapers call “bigots” are hell-bent on destroying Ahmadiyyas mosque.  They (extremists) want the government to declare Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims.   

Bangladesh ’s liberal newspapers have been writing endlessly against the evil design of Khatme Nabuwat to squash the religious rights of Ahmadiyyas.  The civil society is also sympathetic to the plights of this minority sect.  Not too long ago, I read that members of the civil society formed a human chain near an Ahmadiyya mosque so that Khatme Nabuwat goons cannot forcibly take the possession of the mosque.   

It was heartening to read the editorial written by New Age in the aftermath of Friday’s torching of the Ahmadiyya mosque in Brahmanbaria.  The lead editorial in new Age on June 25 reads as follows: “Bigotry in Brahmanbaria.  The nation’s image, before us and before the outside world, has taken a fresh new battering.  This time it has been in Brahmanbaria, where religious fanatics have bombed two and torched one Ahmadiyya mosques in the town. Only last week, a conference in London, one that was not taken kindly to by the government, made a pointed reference to the persecution the community in question has been going through in this country.  One would have thought the authorities, in the face of all the criticism it has been coming in for over its silent stance on the Ahmadiyya issue, would have moved to douse the flames.  That they have not is a matter of intense regret.  What has happened in Brahmanbaria is definitive proof of how the fanatics in our midst, the elements grouped under the so-called Khatme Nabuwat, remain determined to push the country into a state of sectarian chaos.  It is something that sends endless streams of fear down the nation’s sensibilities.”  

The spate of recent attacks on Ahmadiyya mosques also brought condemnation from West.  Another leading newspaper from Dhaka wrote, “US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas R Burns yesterday (June 25, 2005) expressed concern over growing incidents of persecution of Ahmadiyyas including Friday's (June 24, 2005) attacks on an Ahmadiyya neighborhood in Brahmanbaria.”  

Another English news daily, The Independent, wrote in their editorial on June 26, 2005 as follows: “The sustained attack on the Ahmadiya community is a gross violation of democratic principles and values and threatens to knock the bottom out of our standing as a democratic polity wedded to freedom and equality. The attack has been continuing with increasing virulence. This has seriously bruised the country's reputation in the comity of nations and is also sowing the seeds of internal disunity and unrest.  The donors and friends of the country abroad are watching with consternation and dismay the way the minority community has virtually been placed under siege.”  

Clearly, the newspaper editorials are reflecting the concerns of intelligentsias who think the image of the nation to outside world is marred.  The government of Khaleda Zia is least perturbed however by the ominous development of rise in sectarian violence in Bangladesh .  The extremists are after Ahmadiyya sect today.  Maybe, tomorrow they will be torching churches and mandirs.  Who knows?  The extremists want to convert this nation of 145 million impoverished people into a fundamentalist nation a la Talibanism.   

In summary, the specter of sectarianism is on the rise in Bangladesh .  The torching and bomb blasting of Ahmadiyya mosques in Brahmanbaria speak in volume what has been happening in Bangladesh , which used to be a tolerant society not too long ago.  The reticence of Khaleda Zia government in this regard does not bode well for the nation.  The outside world may erroneously think that Bangladesh wants to tread the path of Talibanism and become an archconservative Muslim nation.  Therefore, the government should immediately declare Khatme Nabuwat – the troublemaker - a terrorist organization.  The government has already declared Jagrata Muslim Janata of Bangladesh (JMJB) a banned organization because it went after communists and minorities in Northwestern Bangladesh .  What is so different about Khatme Nabuwat?  As because Khatme Nabuwat is cozy with Jamaat, that hardly gives any reason to be lenient with this extremist group.  The sooner the group is declared banned, the better it would be for Bangladesh .  This cancer of hatred should be surgically removed as soon as possible.  The government is fully capable of doing this and it should consider doing this a tall order of the day.                 


Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA  





Articles Op-ed Authors Debates Leaving Islam FAQ
Comments Library Gallery Video Clips Books Sina's Challenge

  ©  copyright You may translate and publish the articles posted in this site ONLY if you provide a link to the original page and if it is not for financial gain.