Leaving Islam




Jamat-i-Islami of Bangladesh and the Regional Jihadi Networks. 

By Shahriar Kabir 

Most national dailies of Bangladesh published on May 21, 2004, the gruesome photographic testimony of brutality of Bangla Bhai, the self-proclaimed militant fundamentalist, from greater Rajshahi area. Picture showed dead body of Abdul Qayum Badshah (52) of the Raninagar of Naogaon district, hanging from the branch of a tree. It has been alleged that Badshah was a member of Sarbahara Party. The Jihadi outfit, Jagrata Muslim Janata of Bangladesh (JMJB) brutally killed him and hung his dead body from a tree to warn the anti-fundamentalists of dire consequences that anyone opposing them. 

Such grisly pictures were familiar during the liberation war of 1971. The Pakistani army used to kill the Bangladeshi freedom lovers and hung their dead bodies from the trees. They would at times hung them alive from the trees upside down and light fires below to roast living human beings. Alternatively, they skinned them alive while hanging. Again we saw such pictures in Taliban’s Afghanistan. They killed pro-communist President Najibullah and hung his dead body publicly in Kabul. This was to demonstrate to their socialists and communist opponents what brutality the Mullah Omar’s Taliban were capable of. Now again after eight years, with Talibanist coalition Government of Bangladesh, we visited similar pictures of fundamentalist brutality. 

Three days after the publication of the vicious picture of hanging dead body of Badshah an appeal was published in Daily Janakantha, under the title, “ Aro asankhya gachhe asankhya lash jhule thakar aggei kichhu karun” (Please act before numerous more trees have innumerable more dead bodies hanging from them). This appeal was a letter from Shafiqpur High School’s Head Master Mahmud Musa, a victim himself, who wrote as follows:

“I am the Head Master of Shafiqpur High School of Rani Nagar Sub-District, Naogaon District of North Bengal. My home is also in the same village. In the last fifteen years I built this High School on own paternal property step by step, with help of education loving public of the area and public representatives. With persistent personal effort, and in my small way, thus I had managed propagation of education in the area. On May 8th last the JMJB cadres attacked and razed to ground my four roomed inherited paternal living quarters. This incident was published in various national dailies on May 16th, 2004. On the same day another seventy houses were razed to the ground including that of another Head Master and an elected chairman. In these conditions me and other member of my family have taken shelter in near by town. Before the tragedy of destruction of our ancestral house and leaving the village could be absorbed, the JMJB cadres abducted my elder brother (Abdul Qayum Badshah) on Wednesday May 19th. The next day they killed him after public announcement in the microphone, all over the area. Later they hung his dead body from a road side tree in the neighboring Baman village, of Nandigram sub-district, of Bogra District. Newspaper readers have seen this picture on last May 21st. I heard that these butchers are looking for me. They will probably kill me with similar brutality and display my dead body, if they can find me. I am also frequently hearing similar threats of life to other members of my family. Another brother of ours has stayed back in the village risking his life, because it is now the harvesting time. They have once abducted him and after torturing him in their camp have let him go. Our family has a well- established reputation in the area. Our family has a tradition of association with progressive politics and culture. My father and brother both were established in literature and social work in the area. We were also trying to perpetuate this tradition to the best of our ability. Probably that is now considered to be my family’s crime and mine.

The state of Bangladesh has a government and an administration. The country has a police and an army. This area has an elected MP, who is a deputy minister. This district also has a responsible minister. There are many human rights organizations in this country. There is a civil society. There is a government and an opposition party. I want to earnestly appeal to all of them and their sense of responsibility and conscience. I want to let them know that a citizen and an ordinary teacher is now dangerously threatened and is at high risk of life. Will you not come to the aid of this teacher, who is a refugee from his own home with friends and family, due to danger to his life? Will none of you feel responsible enough to stop this medieval terror? Do these goons who have destroyed my home and killed my brother perpetrate it in my fate to continue to see horrors? Those who are not threatened today, how are they assured that they will not be threatened tomorrow? Who is giving them this assurance? Their silence today may turn too dangerous for tomorrow. It may be too late then. I appeal to the government, the administration and conscientious citizen - “ Please do something”. And please do it before you observe many more dead bodies dangle from road side trees.” 

The writer of the above letter Mahmud Musa came to see me on 26th May. He came to inform me about the helplessness of his whole family. I asked him if his murdered brother was actually connected with the “Sarbahara Party”. Mahmud Musa said, “May be, but I do not know.” He stated, “Suppose my brother had done some crime, there is a government, a police, a judicial court and law. If my brother was ordered hanged after the judicial procedure – I would have no complaint. But who is this Bangla Bhai? Is he the court or the government? By which law has he ordered the execution of my brother?” I asked Mahmud Musa if there were any pending cases against his brother with the police. The younger brother of the murdered confirmed that there were, some. But he claimed them to be all false cases. For example he said there is a case with date of crime 30/2/2000. Obviously there was never a 30th February. I asked him, what proof he had that Bangla Bhai’s JMJB had killed his brother. Musa said they (JMJB) have themselves announced and the newspapers have carried this in their report. Bangla Bhai’s 2nd in command Hemayet Hussain Himu, Jamat Amir (a leading position of Jamat-i-Islami party) of Raninagar sub-district. Muffajjal Hussain and Jamat’s former worker Abul Master lead a JMJB armed gang which abducted Badshah and three others. They have hung the dead body of Badshah on a roadside tree, the other three are still missing. I asked Mahmud Musa further whether they have filed a case (FIR) in the police station. He said, “No, not yet.” Badshah’s family is out of the area due to the militant acts of Bangla Bhai. He himself is unable to go back to his village. Additionally, police does not accept complaints against Bangla Bhai. 

Police’s refusal to accept complaints against Bangla Bhai is very normal. It is published in the newspapers that the Police O.C. follows around as bodyguard of Bangla Bhai, the militant fundamentalist leader. The district A.S.P., the divisional D.I.G. are also the protectors of Bangla Bhai, hence in the greater Rajsahi area there is no one with enough courage to complain against Bangla Bhai. Then he revealed why the fundamentalists were mad at his family. Their family is a politically conscious family of the area. Family wise they have been associated with left movements and he once was a member of left-oriented National Awami Party of Bangladesh. Badshah and Musa’s father Abdul Kader was a participant of the Tebhaga movement. Ila Mitra personally knew Abdul Kader. His grand father Sakim Sardar and great grand father Kasim Sardar were known to Rabindra Nath Tagore and had hearty relation with him. Patisar, the famous Tagore Zamindari, skirts Raninagar area. In the Ahmed Rafiq’s research paper on Tagore there is a description of Rabindranath’s friendly relations with Kasim Sardar of Raninagar. In their family they still learn and practice Rabindra Sangeet. They also have a tradition of reading modern literature. They had family relations with Ismail Hussain Siraji. The books that police party confiscated from their house included books by Aroj Ali Matobbar and Ahmad Safa. Musa said JMJB did not allow this year’s Rabindra Jayanti celebration at Patisar. They said, “You can’t sing Rabindra Sangeet – you have to sing Hamd and Naa’t.” 

Musa does not know when they will be able to go back to their home, destroyed by Bangla Bhai. Due to the terrorist activities of militant Bangla Bhai, hundreds of people have left the area. This has been admitted by Maolana Abdur Rahman, JMJB’s Amir and spiritual guru of Bangla Bhai. In an interview with Asaduzzaman Samrat of Ajker Kagoj, Maolana Rahman explained that in the greater Rajshahi area, in seven sub-districts, in this task of suppressing ‘the Sarbaharas’ they had active cooperation of Post and Telecommunication Minister Barrister Aminul Haq, Housing and PWD Deputy Minister Alamgir Kabir, Land Minister Ruhul Quddus Talukdar Dulu and member of Parliament Nadim Mustafa. In Bagmara, where their activities are at the peak, even M.P. Abu Hena is not opposing their action. They are getting full cooperation of the administration. He said there is widespread support among ordinary people of the area. In a short time they have arrested fifty people and found huge amount of weapons. More than five thousand Sarbahara have surrendered. (Ajker Kagoj, 13 May, 2004). The atrocities of Bangla Bhai, under the shelter of two BNP ministers, three MPs and Police has become so widespread that he has not been bothered by the arrest warrant ordered by the Prime Minister (before her departure for China). He is very safely and openly moving around in the area, without any cover. On May 23rd last Bangla Bhai’s storm troopers have marched in Rajshahi under police protection and displayed their arms. They came to the city riding on hundreds of motor cycles and mini-buses and submitted a memorandum to the administration. The police officers have congratulated the so-called Jihad of Bangla Bhai against the Sarbahara group. 

The militant activities of Self-styled militant fundamentalist Ajijur Rahman, aka Siddiqul Islam, aka “Bangla Bhai”’ are being published in Bangladeshi national daily newspapers again since April 1st week of this year. In August of last year, militant fundamentalist organization Jamiatul Mujaheedin (JM)’s members were in the limelight, when they attacked police to decamp with arms, ammunitions and the wireless sets. At that time reportage on their activities continued for about 20/21 days. In January of 1999, militant fundamentalist organization Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami’s (HUJI) killers were in the news when they attacked poet Shamsur Rahman at his home. At that time Dhaka newspapers serially published story of their fundamentalist militant activities. But the present coverage of Bangla Bhai’s JMJB is more widely covered. The organization was once secret and after a few arrests – the reportage subsided. This time however the reportage is continuing even after eight to nine weeks and will not subside till fundamentalist militant Bangla Bhai is arrested and JMJB banned.  

In 1999 and in 2003 we were stunned and frightened to know the countrywide militant fundamentalist network of HUJI and JM, respectively. Like the underground tunnel network of a sly fox the network of these militant organizations are spread all over the country. The reason JMJB is getting more reportage is: HUJI and JM are not open organizations, but JMJB, is. Hadn’t HUJI’s potential killers were not caught on January 18, 1999 while trying to kill poet Shamshur Rahman, we would not have known about their presence in Bangladesh. Initially only three were captured who admitted their association with HUJI. Later, based on their admission police arrested another forty eight persons of which one was South African and another Pakistani. All these facts have been published in various national newspapers. 

On 24th January, 1999, Daily Ittefaq had published, based on an investigative report, that twenty eight other prominent artists, poets and novelists were on the hit list of HUJI. In a publication, Afghan Atlas, published from Nebraska University, USA an important research paper states, “ bin Laden has ISI’s logistics and intelligence support. HUJI and quite a few of Pakistan’s militant organizations have connection to bin Laden. HM has connection with Dhaka based Jihadi Islami, the organization whose assignment is to recruit Bangladeshi and Indian Muslims to fight in Kashmir.” At that time the Pakistani citizen Mohammad Sajjid and South African Ahmed Sadeq Ahmed had admitted to police that bin Laden had given them two crore Taka ( more than 300,000 US dollars) to build a Taliban-style militant group in Bangladesh. This money they had spent via 821 madrassas. (Reuters, Jan 28, 1999). 

In spite of such concrete proof, police submitted such weak charge sheet, that the superior court criticized police for weak charge sheet. It has been seen in the last seven years that whether it is JM or HUJI – police arrested them when there is hue and cry in the newspapers – later they submitted such weak charge sheets that criminals were let go or released on bail. There is never any problem for them to get out of the jail. Last year the militant cadre of JM, who were arrested red handed with arms and seditious pamphlets, they had no problem to get out of jail on April 2nd of this year. The present Inspector General of Police has been alleged to be a collaborator of the genocidal Pakistani army of 1971 and the current Home Secretary is known to have a Jamat connection. Thus it can be clearly surmised why to arrest or keep in custody the militant fundamentalists or to judiciously run the criminal cases against them is not on cards for the Khaleda-Nizami government.  

Whenever there have been any allegation against any activities of the militant fundamentalists, immediately the Jamat-i-Islami chief and Industries Minister of the coalition government Matiur Rahman Nizami states that Jamat has no relation with militant fundamentalists. On last 24th May he again stated in a news conference, “Jamat does not have any relation with so called JMJB or Bangla Bhai. Jamat does not have any relation with Hijbut Tahrir, Hijbut Tawheed, JM or similar organizations.“ (Janakantha, 25th May 2004). On the same day at a news conference sponsored by Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee(EGDNC) and South Asia People’s Union Against Fundamentalism and Communalism, Professor Kabir Choudhury said, “On January of this year in Sylhet, at Hazrat Shah Jalal’s Mazar, there was bombing and five persons were killed. In February, the powerful voice against fundamentalism, Professor Humayun Azad was attacked with machete and he survived narrowly. Again on May 21, at the same Mazar of Hazrat Shah Jalal, an attempt was made on life of the newly appointed British High Commissioner to Bangladesh. In this attack another three persons were killed and nearly hundred were injured. Even though the British High Commissioner survived the attempt on his life, he is still in the hospital. Even though the investigative reporters of Bangladesh’s national dailies found a member of the coalition Jamat-i-Islami responsible for the terrorist act, the coalition government, in an attempt to protect Jamat, has taken no action.”  

The U.S. Asst. Secretary of State Christina Rocca expressed displeasure about the activities of Bangla Bhai, during her 3 day visit to Bangladesh , on May 18th , last. She asked Jamat leader Matiur Nizami about Bangla Bhai’s whereabout. (Janakantha, 20th May 2004). Obviously, before coming to Bangladesh she must have done her homework on the related information and documents of proof in this regard. If Bangla Bhai did not have any relation with Jamat, Ms. Rocca would not have asked Nizami about this issue, since the issue is not about his Industries Ministry, but his party Jamat-i-Islami. No one else is expected to know better than Nizami in this regard.  The chief of Jamat is an influential member of the present cabinet. Thus there is no possibility asking Nizami under arrest and oath about his party’s relation to JMJB, Jamiatul Mujaheedin or other militant organizations of Bangladesh. If such hypothetical scenario ever happens, the close links between Nizami’s Jamat-i-Islami and the Islamic extremist organizations would have been divulged in a second. 

In August of last year, JM militants had a clash with police and a few were arrested, Jamat as usual said they had no connection with Jamat. Again on May 20th of this year, Nizami repeated the same story to Ms. Rocca. But in last August all Bangladeshi newspapers had published reports about relation between Jamat and Jamiatul Mujaheedin. When police raided the house of Montajurul Islam, the chief accused of Khetlal militant attack, the documents they found not only had distinct proof of Jamat connection to JM but also to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Also in August of 2003, three books written by Maolana Masud Azhar were found in the Jamiatul Mujaheedin office in Jaipurhat. Pakistan based Jaish-e Muhammad‘s commander Masud Azhar’s name flashed across the newspaper headlines in the sub-continent in December of 1999, when Indian Airlines flight number IC 414 was hijacked. The Islamic extremists hijacked the passenger plane to Afghanistan with a primary demand to release the militant leader Masud Azhar. The Indian government was forced to release him to meet the demand of the hijackers. When he was arrested in India he had submitted in his deposition the following facts: He was born in Bhawalpur in Pakistan on July 10th, 1968. His father was a Deobandi type strict religious person. He joined Harkatul Mujaheedin(HM) during his student days and went to Afghanistan as a Jihadi per instruction of the organizational head Maolana Fajlur Rahman Khalil. In 1993 catching an Air Emirate flight he flew in to Dhaka, Bangladesh accompanied by Sajjad Afghani. Then he went to Karachi but Sajjad Afghani went to India. In January 1998 he again came to Bangladesh, on a Portuguese passport, to enter India. On January 29th he boarded a Bangladesh Biman flight to New Delhi. In February, on his way from Delhi to Srinagar he was arrested. (www.stratmag.com/issue2nov-15/kargil.html) 

At the time of Khetlal terrorist attack, Jamat declared, that the principal accused Montajurul Islam was expelled from their party two years earlier. But according to published newspaper reports Montajurul had applied for becoming Roqan (Jamat-i-Islami’s senior hierarchical position) of the Jamat and these papers were found by the police. While Police is not admitting publicly to the news reporters any connection between Jamat and JM, they admit that diaries found in the terrorist hideouts provide full list of workers and leaders of Jamat and Shibir.

“…The following were also found during search there:

  1. Election leaflets of Abbas Ali Khan, ex-Amir of Jamat.
  2. An application for monetary help from Sirajul Islam, a local Beniapara madrassa student to the Jamat funding organization Baitul Maa’l.
  3. A Baniapara Ahmedia Madrassa receipt book for donations received.
  4. A copy of Dhaka’s Bengali daily Bhrorer Kagoj dated February 13, 1995. The newspaper had the head lines in Bengali: “Rajshahi University declared closed – two dead in Chhatradal- Shibir clash – more than 150 injured. “

After militant-police confrontation, police informed that in the hideout they also found:

  1. Many books and publications belonging to Jamat and Shibir.
  2. Monogrammed diaries of many Shibir activists.

The recent full day’s investigation has yielded that the building where the militants had congregated for training was owned by Jamiatul Mujaheedin leader Montajurul Islam. In the concerned area processions were taken out under the leadership of Montajurul, more than a months before the January 20, 2003 brutal murder of five persons in the Pir place of Begunbari sub-district. He had openly declared in these rallies that they would oppose and annihilate any anti-Islamic activity in the area, soon after which the brutal murders were conducted. The absconding militant leader, was seen in the open, hobnobbing with the Jamat leaders and was also actively building armed JM organization. Many sources in the area inform that he regularly trained more than 100 persons military and guerrilla tactics and warfare, in his private compound. Additionally, a letters have been found which clearly establishes Jamat and Jamiatul Mujaheedin connections. In this letter district Jamat secretary Abdul Matin Sardar had given Montajurul Islam significant number of organizational directives. (see Bhorer Kagaj, 2oth Aug, 2003). In all Dhaka newspapers including prestigious “Daily Star”, “Prothom Alo” and “Janakantha”, in their investigative reports have stated that the Bangla Bhai’s, JMJB is the open manifestation of banned organization JM.  

It has been noticed that whenever the government is under pressure from donor nations they ban the fundamentalist organizations and arrest some of their operatives. Then soon after the banned organizations and operatives resurface under a different name, with the same activities. The jailed activists are soon released, as usual. The jailed militants came out of prison on April 2nd, 2004. The same day’s Janakantha carried the news that in Rajshahi, under police protection, the militants attacked and mercilessly butchered a person named Babu, who was allegedly a Sarbahara activist. They shouted slogans like, ” Nara e Takbir, Alla ho Akbar.” Since then for the next eight weeks, the news of Bangla Bhai’s of JMJB has been reported in Bengali media with clear reference of the organization’s link with Jamat and Afghan Taleban. The brother of Badshah,(the Hanging dead body of May 21), Mr. Mahmud Musa informed that Jamat’s Raninagar Amir, Mufajjal Hussain was in the team of Badshah’s abductors. 

In the long sixty three years of Jamat-i-Islami’s history, there is no example of any of their leaders ever accepting the blame/responsibility for any of their misdeeds. In 1953 Jamat’s Chief Maududi was charged with murder of thirty thousand innocent Ahmadiya in Pakistan’s Lahore, after a riot in which that many had lost their lives. Maududi was prosecuted, proven guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Yet until today, Jamat has not acknowledged that they were responsible for the massacre of innocents. During the Bangladesh’s war of independence, Jamat-i-Islami’s militant wings like Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams were formed simply to assist Pakistan army’s perpetration of genocide, which they did in the name of protection of Islam. They tortured and murdered the freedom fighters and intellectuals in large numbers, which were published in their own party paper

“Daily Sangram”. Now, however, they say that they were not involved in those murders but Awami League was. I had retorted to this blatant lie in a BBC interview. I stated that if we had to assume that Nizami or Jamat were not involved in the preparation of the list of intellectuals till the last days of 1971’s Bangladesh liberation war, then we had to assume that Nizami was an Awami League activist in 1971. In that context we were supposed to believe that “Daily Sangram” was the party paper of Awami League. This is the same daily, which published vivid details of many massacres by Al Badr of freedom fighters with glowing tributes. And lastly, Nizami himself wrote many columns to inspire Al Badr cadres to kill the freedom fighters, in this ignoble newspaper. 

There is a commonality of purpose between the Nizamis and the JMJB, JM and other Islamist fascist outfits. Every one of them has a goal to establish an “Islamic state” in Bangladesh like the one under the Taliban in Afghanistan, with a Koran and Shari’a based law. Where is the difference between Jamat and these militants, in goal and ideal? It is now quite evident the main pillars of Jamat’s politics are: lies, deception and slyness. When Matiur Rahman Nizami says that he and Al Badr have no connection with 1971’s mass murder of the Bangladeshi intellectuals, or Bangla Bhai or Montajurul have no connection with Jamat – the lies became very glaring and self-evident. If every thing is false then why does police look for Shibir activists after the bomb attack on the British High commissioner, at Shah Jalal’s Mazar in Sylhet? Why did Christina Rocca ask Nizami, and not others, “What about the whereabouts of Bangla Bhai?” 

According to the psychologists, continuous lying develops into a type of mental disorder. Nizami is so much overtaken by this disorder that soon a day may come when Nizami would say, “I have no relation with Jamat” or may be– “I am not Nizami.” Nizamis may think that the people of Bangladesh are fools, as they perceived them in 1971. They claimed then that without Pakistan there would be no trace of Islam in the face of earth. In 1971, the people of Bangladesh, buried Pakistan, the beloved land of Nizami and his likes, to create Bangladesh. In 1971 also Jamat had a two member representation in the cabinet and they jubilantly performed all the murders and atrocities. They are repeating the story, now, again. Had any one in March, 1971 envisioned that the burial of Pakistan and Jamat would have been conducted only nine months later, in these very banks of Buri Ganga in Dhaka? The Dhaka of 1971 is now a metropolis. The progeny of the three million martyrs and this old city are waiting eagerly and are counting the days for the upcoming disaster of Jamat.  

Shahriar Kabir is a writer and a human rights activist in Bangladesh. 


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