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DEMOCRATIZATION OF ISLAMIC SOCIETIES, A MYTH OR A POSSIBILITY?

By Jamal Hasan

     This afternoon, my Iranian activist friend Armen Saginian ran the show. He came as part of the delegation of Council for Secular Humanism's three day conference in Capital Hilton in Washington DC.    

   I came to know yesterday's session had a house full of audience. Many of the attendees had other engagements after today's morning session. When Armen's turn came, his organization New Horizons could find a fraction of the participants.  Many of the prospective attendees were spread out to different places in town. Although the size of the audience was not as large as in the previous sessions, there was no dearth of speakers. Ibn Warraq was there, so was Pervez Hoodbhoy. It was good to meet Fatemolla from Canada. This is the first time I met this dedicated soul from Bangladesh. Our topic was "DEMOCRATIZATION OF ISLAMIC SOCIETIES, A MYTH OR A POSSIBILITY?" For me, it was a good experience speaking before a selective audience on such a complex issue. Some of my earlier speakers touched upon the bleak situation in Islamist  dominated countries. A young Iranian woman named Roya Bayati drew every body's attention. She came to USA only eleven months ago. Yet her English was quite eloquent, so was her demeanor. No body could believe she belonged to the young generation of a country ruled by Ayatollahs.   

   In my speech I covered the problem of secularism in a Muslim majority society. I gave examples of Algeria and Turkey, in both these countries Islamists showed their muscle flexing through elections and in both cases secular army played not so democratic roles.   

   I covered Bangladesh and its tragic history. In discussing Bangladesh I brought the bloody days of its independence struggle, the genocide perpetrated by Pakistani army and Jamat-i-Islami party members. Regarding the Ummatic mindset of devout Muslims I pointed out the bizarre sitution of Bangladeshi political culture. I mentioned how a nation forgot its tragic past because of the intoxicating effect of Islamic brotherhood. I cited the example of Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who was interned by the rapist genocidal Pak army brass for most of the nine months and who is now shamelessly kowtowing the same forces who were successors of her captors. I made it clear that this type of repugnant and obnoxious situation may be rather common in the realm of political Islam. I urged the audience to consider Bangladesh situation as a test case of irrational   and illogical mode of global Islamic dogmatic  behavior.   

   Another Iranian woman who is quite unforgettable was Azam Kamguian. She was once a prisoner of Ayatollahs of Iran. But unlike Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, she abhors the mullas to the teeth. Living in London, she is a great crusader of secular causes. I was quite impressed to read her articles on Islamic jurisprudence, i.e., Sharia. It was also an interesting experience meeting an associate of Reza Pahlavi, the son of late Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran. I understood he was there to connect with secular activists of the world. It seems among the Muslim majority countries, secular humanists from Bangladesh and Iran are in the forefronts of an arduous struggle. The goal is to change the socio-cultural fabric of that part of the world where Muslims constitute the majority.

 

 

 

 

 

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