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BANGLADESH and PAKISTAN - the destruction of Buddhism and Hinduism

  Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

The partition of India led to chaos and hundreds of thousands of people were murdered.  After this chaos divisions would emerge between East Pakistan and West Pakistan and further bloodshed would occur, with the outcome being the sovereign nations of Bangladesh and Pakistan.  However, while India remained to be multi-religious, the opposite happened in Bangladesh and Pakistan and religious minorities faced enormous problems and persecution.

To make matters worse both Bangladesh and Pakistan would witness the gradual Islamization of their societies, notably Pakistan, and massive corruption and persecution of women would continue.  The Islamization of both nations was especially traumatic for Hindus in Pakistan and Buddhists in Bangladesh; and not surprisingly Islamic persecution of minorities in both nations re-awakened anti-Islamic feelings in India.

For unlike the destruction of Buddhism in Afghanistan, which happened centuries earlier because of Islamic conquests, persecution and controlling all leverages of power; the Islamization of Bangladesh and Pakistan took place in the twentieth century and continues today.  Yet why were Buddhism and Hinduism being allowed to be destroyed in both nations?  After all, Buddhists in Bangladesh were a small minority and they could never threaten Islam; the same applies to Hindus in Pakistan.

Therefore, why did other nations remain quiet when massive religious persecution was taking place?  For nations like France, the United Kingdom and United States were espousing 'democracy' and liberals were glorifying multi-faith societies and stating that Islam was a religion of peace.  At the same time major institutions like the Commonwealth, which espoused global human rights, remained quiet when religious genocide was taking place in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In Pakistan the destruction of Hinduism and persecution of Hindus took many forms.  The first path was the massacre of Hindus during partition and forcing Hindus to leave via coercion.  However, over the last 50 years the destruction of Hinduism in modern day Pakistan was based on past Islamic global conquests and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed who sanctioned the persecution of non-Muslims.  For the Prophet Mohammed had told his followers to 'Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day . . . Nor acknowledge the religion of truth (Islam) . . . Therefore, the followers of Hinduism were to be subdued in accordance with the teachings of Islamic Sharia Law, the Koran and Hadiths.

Given this, Hindus were now a subdued minority, like Christians in Pakistan, and they were unequal in law and status in accordance with the teachings of Islam.  At the same time Hindu temples were often converted into Muslim mosques or destroyed, and ancient Hindu architectures were destroyed.  The choice for many Hindus was either to convert to Islam in order to escape persecution, flee to India or to accept that they were second-class citizens in Pakistan and resign themselves to being persecuted.  Not surprisingly Hinduism in Pakistan continued to decline and this civilization was being eradicated by Islam.

The situation for Buddhists in Bangladesh was different, for Buddhism had survived countless Islamic conquests in one region because of terrain and other factors; therefore, Buddhists and other faiths had survived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.  However, the increasing population of Bangladesh led to problems and the government of Bangladesh hoped 'to kill two birds with one stone.'  This applies to moving millions of people to remote parts of Bangladesh, notably the Chittagong Hill Tracts, while at the same time this new Islamic migration would crush the mainly Buddhist tribal opposition in this region.

Therefore, millions of Muslim migrants were moved into the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the mainly tribal Buddhists (some tribals are Christian, Hindu or follow traditional beliefs) became embroiled in a civil war.  Islamic radicals also moved into this region and many Buddhist priests were killed, including some being beheaded.  At the same time hundreds of Buddhist temples were destroyed and the Bangladesh army took part in many massacres, and some Buddhist women were gang-raped by both Islamic zealots and the Bangladesh army.

In time the mainly Buddhist tribals were overwhelmed by the armed forces of Bangladesh and Muslim migration.  Their situation, however, went unnoticed in the West and Islamic nations obviously remained silent.  To make matters worse, the mainly Buddhist tribes had no nation supporting them and no major world leader to draw attention to their plight.  Given this, the government of Bangladesh continued with their policy of persecuting Buddhists while Muslim migration Islamized the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Therefore, the destruction of thousands of years of Hindu/Buddhist civilization in these nations destroyed.  It is clear that mainly Buddhist nations like Japan (and Shinto), Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and others, should form an organization to help their co-religionists; with Japan being the main financial power to raise awareness of Buddhist persecution.

If global silence continues then Buddhism will one day be eradicated in Bangladesh.  However, the global community did condemn the Taliban in Afghanistan for destroying Buddhist statues and art, yet the same global community remains quiet when Buddhist tribes are being systematically persecuted.  Does this mean that Buddhist art in Afghanistan is more important than the persecution of Buddhist communities and the gang rape of Buddhist women in Bangladesh? 

Surely the Hindus of Pakistan and Buddhists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts deserve better?  If the international community remains silent about this crime, then soon these lands will be Islamized and ethnically 'cleansed.'  This is a shame for regional nations and the global community, for they are leaving the most vulnerable and 'voiceless' without any hope.  Are you alarmed, if not, why?

 

 

 

 

 

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