blasts are symptomatic of Bangladesh’s highly polarized society
A.H. Jaffor Ullah
wise man avoids evil by anticipating it.”
Hours after the bombs went off in four cinema halls in Mymensingh town
on Eid evening over a period of about 30 minutes the news of the blasts
was beamed all over the world. Thanks
to the Internet and in particular the Yahoo news site.
Reports accompanying some grotesque pictures were posted in the
Yahoo news site and we all were awed reading the dispatches from
Bangladesh by Reuters and Associated Press reporters.
We also viewed four photos of the crime scene.
One photo showed a wailing mother who lost her son in the blast.
In another photo, few shocked relatives sat beside a victim whose
face was covered with a cloth in reverence to the dead.
Two other photos showed the crime scene, which was the interior
of a cinema hall. In one,
so much blood was seen on the floor that one could imagine the extent of
the damage caused by the blast. In
short, the photos and theirs captions vividly described the intensity of
the blast in which at least 15 people were dead and 300 people were
injured, severely. The
blasts that happened in succession over 30 minutes in several cinema
halls pale the other bomb blasts that have rocked this tiny nation of
130 million in the last four years.
The odd thing about the recent bombings in Mymensingh is that the
incidents could not have happened on any other day.
In harmony with other Muslims all over the world, Bangladesh’s
people also celebrate Eid to end the month-long fasting during Ramadan.
Many urbanites flock to cinema halls to view recently released
movies in a big silver screen. This
year’s Eid is no different but the blasts in several cinema halls in
Mymensingh town have all but marred the geniality and reverence of the
There is unidentified group(s) of extremists in Bangladesh who have
been involved in blasting bombs in public gatherings, church, secular
functions, political rallies, etc. Their
actions are becoming bolder as day passes by.
The targets of these horrible bombings are the liberal folks who
attend in droves musical soirees, Bangla New Years Day celebration, and
political rallies those that are all arranged by secularist organizations,
and political parties. The
terrorists even have targeted church gatherings too.
In June 2001, bomb was placed in a church in Baniar Char, a place
near Gopalganj. The
extremists have even marred the sanctity of Pahela Baishakh, the
Bangla New Year Day celebration at Ramna Boto Mool in mid April 2001.
Barely three years ago, the extremists bombed an open-air stage in
which several people have lost their lives hosting some cultural functions
sponsored by Udichi group in Jessore town in southwestern part of
If one carefully analyzes these bombing incidents, a clear picture
emerges out. The group(s) who
is planting these bombs is avowed anti-secularists and they don’t like
free mixing of adult males and females in public.
These extremists also abhor celebration of culturally oriented
functions. They also do not
like minority religions, which are aplenty in Bangladesh.
If one carefully looks at the victims, one will see that no Muslim
gatherings were ever targeted. Thus,
it makes a very strong case for some unidentified fundamentalist Muslim
group(s) who might be behind some of these bombings.
This is the first time that any cabinet member from Mrs. Khaleda
Zia Administration had pointed fingers at Osama bin Laden’s Jihadi
organization al-Qaeda. Bangladesh’s
Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury said the attacks could be the work
of Osama bin Laden al-Qaeda network or another terrorist group.
This was reported by the Reuters reporter in a news report posted
in the Yahoo mews site at 3:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on December 7,
2002 (early morning hours in Dhaka, December 8, 2002).
It is noteworthy that on September 28, 2002, a similar bomb
incident happened in which two powerful bombs were detonated in Satkhira;
the Roxy Cinema was hit with a bomb in which few people were killed and
many were injured. Half an
hour later, another powerful bomb rocked an exhibition site where a circus
show was in progress. Scores
of people were injured in that bomb blast and few were killed after
receiving fatal injuries. There
is some uncanny resemblance between the Satkhira bombing and the latest
blasting of the bomb in Mymensingh’s cinema halls.
It is also very clear that the group(s) that is involved in the
bombing abhor the idea of merry-making.
Could this then be the work of some fringe Islamic group that
abhors plebeian fun making?
The terrible bomb incidents in various parts of Bangladesh that have
plagued the society in the last 5 years are all but symptomatic of a deep
polarization that was in the making over the last three decades.
Two Islamic-minded military dictators who allowed proliferation of
parochial schools all over Bangladesh did the fault plane of this great
divide. Right now, many
researchers in this area think that there are about 60,000 plus madrassahs
operating all over the tiny nation of 130 million people.
These religious schools are churning graduates those who do not
have acquired any skills. One
of the reasons that Bangladesh has experienced this phenomenal growth in
madrassah education is the endowment from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf
States. The Saudi royal
family to protect their regime at home had thrown money all over the
Muslim world to sow the seeds of Wahabism, an austere brand of
Islam. The petro-dollars were
at work since 1976-77 in Bangladesh.
The nation was veering towards fundamentalism inch-by-inch and our
intellectuals look the other way thinking that no harm may come to this
republic of 130 million from mullahs.
In fact, most university-trained folks who run Bangladesh’s
bureaucracy pity the madrassah graduates.
They never think that any harm could emanate from the clergies.
Considering this naïve view, Bangladesh has allowed unchecked
growth of religious fundamentalism. Some
very clever politicians of the land also wanted to capitalize on this
growth of religious fanaticism. They
are often seen performing year round Umrah hajj, visiting Sufi shrines, or
participating in Urs (birth or death anniversary of Muslim Sufis).
Many unscrupulous politicians in Bangladesh think that they have a
better chance to win an election if they show publicly their new gotten
piety. However, little did
they understand that there is a price tag for all these unchecked growths
of Islamism? Now, some of the
unlucky folks who are bent on making merriment in a small town fair or
enjoying a movie in a cinema house on the Eid Day are paying very dearly
with their lives for the redemption of all this unchecked growth of
fundamentalism. The society
is also paying a hefty price for the follies of a few because these acts
of violence make the Bangladesh society unstable in which real progress is
stunted and they are unattainable too.
There are a section of journalists and intellectuals in Bangladesh who
would invariably disagree with my assertion calling it a simple-minded
analysis. These people will
see the dirty hand of Indian government and in particular the works of RAW
behind the bomb blasting in Satkhira and Mymensingh.
One such dunce has already mentioned in one particular e-forum by
the name ‘MuktoChinta’ right after the publication of news by the
Reuters and Associated Press. This
person already hinted in his quip that perhaps India has a dirty role in
the Eid day blast. Pretty
soon, a chorus of protestation will emanate from the Weekly Holiday, the
daily newspaper The New Nation, a vernacular newspaper ‘Inquilab,’ and
many more like them. This is
not the first time that we heard such condemnation against India every
time a tragedy of this proportion had struck Bangladesh.
In all certitudes, Bangladesh’s plebeians will not listen anymore
to the glib tongue of these charlatans who have made a lucrative career
out of the simplicity of our folks. The
proverbial cat is out of the hat. It
is all but a matter of time when most ordinary folks will understand who
are behind all these bombings.
In summary, the Eid Day bomb blasts in four cinema halls in Mymensingh
are symptomatic of a highly polarized civil society in Bangladesh.
We have many simple-minded folks who are adherent to folk Islam.
But then, we also have many Jihadists in our society.
Many of them are the graduates of parochial schools, which are
aplenty in Bangladesh society. This
ideological divide has taken place over three long decades.
Thanks to funneling of massive petro-dollars from Saudi Arabia and
the Gulf States. These hard
currencies were at work non-stop for over a long period to transform a
docile and agrarian society into a violent one.
Again, what happened on Eid evening in four cinema halls in
Mymensingh is the aftereffect of way too much Islamization of Bangladesh
society. The founding fathers
of Bangladesh had realized this unforeseen danger in 1972 when they had
formulated the first constitution, which was secular in nature.
However, the nation’s happy journey to liberalism was roiled by
the actions of two military despots who changed the landscape of this
docile nation for their own benefit.
The “dividend” of their “investments” has now put the
nation into a collision course. The
sooner our intellectuals realize this and make amends to our dictators’
follies, the better it would be going forward for this unfortunate
republic. Therefore, we all
should seize the day to discuss the ways to make correction to
Bangladesh’s itinerant journey into the realm of gloom and doom.
A.H. Jaffor Ullah writes from New Orleans.
His e-mail address is – [email protected]