OF ISLAMIC SOCIETIES, A MYTH OR A POSSIBILITY?
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
illogical mode of global Islamic dogmatic
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