Those who led the bleeding of innocent civilians, raping of women must be tried: we must compel the government to bring the collaborators to justice. The future of liberty, democracy, peace and stability in Bangladesh largely depends on the trial of the perpetrators of the genocide in 1971. We must resist any attempt by the government and/or any interest group to legitimise Jamaat’s politics of hatred, violence, and discrimination in our democratic process
WHEN KARL Rueger, an ultranationalist renowned for his hatred against the ethnic and religious minority and abhorrence for individual liberty, won the mayoral election of Vienna, Austria in 1895, it shook the foundation of emerging liberty in Europe (Fareed Zakaria, 2003, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, p59-60). The emperor Franc Joseph I of Habsburg, fearing that Rueger’s induction would jeopardise the future of liberty, refused to recognise him as the elected mayor. Despite his indignation, the emperor eventually had to submit to the choice of majority and recognise Rueger as the mayor. Much later the emperor’s fear was vindicated. The emperor had rightly feared that Rueger’s intention, as ingrained in his ideology, was not to promote the virtues of democracy and liberty but to exploit the democratic process to promote his ultra-nationalism. Rueger’s induction later led to the ascent of the Fascists and the Nazis, respectively, to the Italian and German political powers as organised minority albeit through democratic election.
The Fascists (1922-1943) and the Nazis’ (1933-1945) ascent to the political powers can be attributed, inter alia, to three important factors: (i) the failure of the political establishments in Italy and Germany to live up to the expectation of the people; (ii) the rise of ultra-nationalism; and (iii) the activism of the extremely organised propaganda machines and dedicated foot soldiers deployed by both the Fascists and the Nazis to undermine the credibility of the politicians and dismantle the political establishments.
Once ascended to power, both the Fascists and the Nazis continued their onslaught on individual liberty and democratic institutions. They unleashed the infamous Black Shirts and Gestapo to suppress the voices of freedom. About 20 years of Fascist rule in Italy and 12 years of Nazi rule in Germany ended up with the greatest human disaster in history, the World War II, which annihilated 50 million people across the world including the massacre of six million Jews by the Nazis.
The turn of the event in the history now proves that Karl Rueger, who abhorred individual liberty, democratic values, religious harmony and diversity, should never have been allowed to participate in the democratic process in the first place.
In Bangladesh, Jamaat-e-Islami is the reincarnation of the Fascists of Italy and the Nazis of Germany. Its antipathy like that of Karl Rueger toward democracy and liberty, its penchant for organised violence similar to those of Black Shirts and Gestapo, and its discriminatory principles against religious minority like that of Nazis are causes for serious concern. The reasons that should have prohibited Karl Rueger from participating in the democratic process equally apply to Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. At least four compelling reasons would justify why Jamaat must be rejected from participating in the democratic process. These reasons are as follows.
First, Jamaat-e-Islami doesn’t believe in democracy or any form of godless materialism. The excerpt ‘Muslims who form the overwhelming majority will not tolerate secularism, socialism, capitalism or godless materialism’ (Abbas Ali Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami’s views on defence of Bangladesh, p4) bears testimony to this effect. A political party or any organization which doesn’t believe in democracy must be cast out from the democratic process.
Second, Jamaat’s view on political participation is discriminatory. Once ascended to political power, Jamaat will not hesitate to restrict or even deny the rights of religious minorities and women, thereby degrading their status to second-class citizens. This fear is rightly justified when one reads the following passage extracted from the article ‘An Introduction to the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh’. The passage reads: ‘Any sane and adult person can become a Member of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh if he or she accepts the basic creed of the Jamaat-e-Islami as his or her own creed, accepts the aims and objects of the Jamaat-e-Islami as his or her own aims and objects, pledges to fulfil the demands of the constitution of the Jamaat-e-Islami, performs the obligatory duties ordained by Islam’ (An Introduction to Jamaat-e-Islami; http://dailyalochona.blogspot.com/2008/10/mukto-mona-why-jamaat-e-islami-shouldnt.html, p2). Jamaat’s creed being the belief in Islam, for any non-Muslim aspiring to hold political office under Jamaat’s hegemony must submit to the creed of Jamaat-e-Islami. Such membership criterion is discriminatory, exclusive and unconstitutional. Any form of forced exclusion is anti-democratic. And, by requiring individuals to submit to the belief of any particular religion to be eligible to participate in the political process is against the country’s constitution. Therefore, Jamaat is working against the constitution and must not be allowed to participate in the political process.
Third, Jamaat’s ultra-nationalistic view is anti-democratic and is a threat to the regional peace and stability. Jamaat’s ultra-nationalistic view, similar to those of Karl Rueger, Mussolini and Hitler, is reflected in the statement ‘the psychology of the defence forces in Bangladesh must be anti-Indian’ (Abbas Ali Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami’s views on defence of Bangladesh, p4). Such jingoistic attitude is a serious threat to the regional peace and stability of South Asia.
Fourth, in 1971, Jamaat not only opposed to the creation of Bangladesh, but it collaborated with the Pakistani army in perpetrating one of the worst genocides in the world history. Jamaat’s crime against humanity led to the death of three million civilians and rape of more than 200,000 women and destruction of billions of dollars worth of properties. It’s leadership including Golam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mujahidi, Kamaruzzam, Delawar Hossain Saidi have never been tried in the court of law for committing such a heinous crime. Nor have they ever apologised for their opposition to the creation of Bangladesh. In contrast, they are thriving and constantly resorting to shenanigans to rub their dirty and bloody hands off their complicity in the crime against humanity and treacherous acts against the creation of Bangladesh. On October 28, 2006, the way few hundred armed Jamaat cadres stood up against thousands of angry opposition activists can be reminiscent of the way a few members of the black shirts used to dismantle political rallies during the Fascist rule in Italy. The thousands of rounds of bullets that came out of the guns of Jamaat cadres on that day indicates how ferocious Jamaat’s foot soldiers can get, even today, to protect their fervent belief from being strolled or discredited.
All these indicate that hatemongering, discrimination, and violence have always been the principle strategies of Jamaat’s politics to rise to political office. A political party whose strategy and politics is based on such principles is anti-democratic and must be rejected.
If we are to learn any lessons from the consequences of the Fascist and Nazi rules, then, to protect democracy and liberty, we must stop the recurrence of the same in Bangladesh. We must constantly remind citizens of the country that Bangladesh is born out of the sacrifice of millions. Those who led the bleeding of innocent civilians, raping of women must be tried: we must compel the government to bring the collaborators to justice. The future of liberty, democracy, peace and stability in Bangladesh largely depends on the trial of the perpetrators of the genocide in 1971. We must resist any attempt by the government and/or any interest group to legitimise Jamaat’s politics of hatred, violence, and discrimination in our democratic process. If we fail to resist the Jamaatification of the institutions of the country, Bangladesh will fall into the grip of the forces of darkness of middle age. #
ABM Nasir (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches economics at North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina, USA