Category Archives: minority persecution

Bangladesh Genocide was presented in Global Understanding Convention


Monmouth University of New Jersey hosted Global Understanding Convention at its campus on April 6th to understand the roots of all previous genocides. Dr. Nuran Nabi, a freedom Fighter of Bangladesh liberation war and currently a councilman of Plainsboro Township of New Jersey, was invited to speak on Bangladesh genocide during 1971. Dr. Skenderi of Pristhina University of Kosovo spoke on the genocide in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Dr. Adekunie spoke on the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

Dr. Nuran Nabi

Dr. Nuran Nabi

Dr. Pearson, the Vice President and Provost of the Monmouth University opened the convention and Dean Dr. Green chaired the opening session. Professor Dr. Golam Mathbar, Dr. Dooley, Dr. Denney examined the degree to which religion, language and ethnicity have mattered in contemporary genocides. Scholars from national and international institutions as well as students of Monmouth University attended the convention.

Dr. Nabi presented a detailed description of the magnitude of Bangladesh Genocide and war crimes. He specially emphasized the point that Bangladesh war criminals were not put under trial for their war crimes. Though current Bangladesh government has taken initiative to put local war criminals under trial, however, war criminals who are in Pakistan and other countries are still beyond the reach of Bangladesh authority. Therefore, Dr. Nabi urged the international community to join in the campaign to bring those war criminals underal trial for their crimes against humanity. Dr. Nabi mentioned that Bangladesh genocide is a forgotten, least researched and least documented genocide. He proposed to start a course on Bangladesh genocide in Monmouth University. University authority responded to the proposal with a sympathetic consideration.

It is to be mentioned that Dr. Nabi earlier presented Bangladesh genocide in a seminar in Rutgers University in last November and in Kean University in 2007.

Comments by Ashok DEB:

Dr. Nuran Nabi has also authored a book on the Libaration war of Bangladesh and the atrocities which followed thereafter.You can read more about his book  here


Bangladesh dropped from US watch list over Violation Of Minorities’ Rights

 Rezaul Karim

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a US Congressional panel, dropped Bangladesh from its Watch List of countries deemed to violate minorities’ right to religious freedom. The absence of measures to promote minority voting rights and the failure of the government to investigate the severe anti-minority violence of 2001 were among the reasons for which Bangladesh was placed in the Watch List from 2005 to 2008. However, in light of the positive developments witnessed during the December 29, 2008 general elections, the commission removed Bangladesh from its Watch List of 2009. 

 The report said at that time the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government failed to investigate or prosecute acts of severe violence, including killings, rape, land seizures, arson, and extortion committed against religious minorities, particularly Hindus, who were perceived to be allied to the then-opposition Awami League. Despite these improvements, USCIRF report said Bangladesh continues to have outstanding religious freedom issues and face threats from religious extremism. dhaka_bangladesh_4112

According to the report, the BNP led by Khaleda Zia shared power with Islamist parties during 2001-06, when the country witnessed an unprecedented rise in religious intolerance. After refusing to for long, the BNP-led alliance government, in the face of protests at home and an international outcry, banned four Islamist outfits

 Aided by the expansion of Islamic schools (madrasas) and charities, many of which receive foreign funding with varying degrees of government oversight, Islamist activists have gained significantly in political, economic, and social influence in recent years, the commission’s report reads. Members of Jamaat-e-Islami allegedly used their influence in the previous BNP-led government to deny funding disadvantaged groups viewed as opposing Jamaat’s Islamist political and social agenda, it said.

 It said the caretaker government was widely criticised by international and local human rights agencies for serious human rights abuses, including suspected extrajudicial killings by security forces, arbitrary detentions, torture, curbs on press freedom, and violations of the right to due process.

 During the 2007-2008 emergency period, the commission said Islamist groups rose in political prominence and public visibility. In September 2007, emergency restrictions on assembly were apparently waived to allow Jamaat and other Islamist supporters burn effigies and stage public protests against the publication of a newspaper cartoon they believed mocked an element of Bangladeshi Islamic culture. Cartoonist Arifur Rahman was jailed without charge for six months. In March 2008, restrictions on assembly were again ostensibly lifted to allow protests by Islamic groups against a policy proposed by a consortium of women’s organisations to strengthen constitutional provision for the equal rights of women. In October 2008, federal agencies removed five sculptures of traditional Bengali musicians opposite Zia International Airport in Dhaka at the behest of Islamic leaders, who allegedly deemed the sculptures un-Islamic.

Turning to minorities situation, it said although the constitution provides protections for women and minorities, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Ahmadiyyas, and other minorities must regularly grapple with societal discrimination, as well as face prejudice that hinders their ability to access public services, the legal system, and government, military, and police employment.

 The commission recommended that the US government encourage the new government of Bangladesh to take early actions on the following issues and ensure consistent implementation.

1. Investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the anti-minority violence that occurred in the wake of the 2001 national elections.

 2. Repeal the Vested Property Act and commit to restoring or compensating owners for properties seized, including the heirs of original owners.

 3. Rescind the 2004 order banning Ahmadiyya publications, and ensure adequate police response to attacks against Ahmadiyyas.

4. Enforce all provisions of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and declare that members of Bangladesh’s tribal communities are deserving of the full rights of Bangladeshi citizenship.

5. Create and support the promised National Human Rights Commission, which should be independent, adequately funded, inclusive of women and minorities, and defined by a broad mandate that includes freedom of religion or belief.

6. Include in all public and madrasa school curricula, textbooks, and teacher trainings information on tolerance and respect for freedom of religion or belief.

7. Ensure that members of minority communities have equal access to government services and public employment, including the judiciary and high-level government positions.

Does Awami League Victory Offer Hope for Real Change?



Dr. Richard L. Benkin


Dr. Richard L. Benkin


Bangladeshi elections had been put off for so long that it was difficult to predict what they might produce. On December 29, 2008, however, the people of Bangladesh answered that question clearly by giving Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) a landslide victory. That’s both good news and bad news for the left-center party good news in that it need not make any dubious deals to being other parties into its ruling coalition; bad news in that the world will hold Hasina and her party responsible for what happens next. The AL is inheriting an economy in shambles, a still-corrupt officialdom, a nation infested with Islamist terrorists, and a seemingly ineradicable tradition of minority oppression, even ethnic cleansing. Curing those ails is an enormous task, and one key to success will be actions the AL takes to secure foreign support for its effort.

In January 2007, I met with former Bangladeshi Home Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar at his home in Dhaka, three days before a military coup suspended elections scheduled to be held later that month. The reason for the military’s intervention was that Babar’s party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had rigged the upcoming vote so transparently as to render any potential outcome illegitimate. At the time of my meeting with Babar, there it still appeared that the election would take place as scheduled; and Babar along with the rest of the BNP was planning their next move as the nation’s leaders.

Babar asked me how I thought the United States could help Bangladesh and what we could do to secure that aid. I responded that “Bangladesh and your party in particular” are going to have a tough time convincing anyone in Washington or anywhere else to support you until “you take real action to stop three things: massive corruption, tolerating and even sponsoring radical Islamists, and the oppression of minorities, women, and journalists.” During the BNP’s long tenure in office, matters grew worse on all three dimensions. Babar himself remains in prison having been arrested by the interim government for his own role in Bangladesh’s seemingly endemic corruption. Often, the Awami League has touted itself the antidote to these ills, particularly the last two; and while there is no question that it is preferable to the BNP and its Islamist coalition partners, the swooning we see in some quarters are pre-mature. The AL has a long and hard road ahead of it, and it ultimately will be judged on its actions and their effectiveness for the people of Bangladesh; not on its fine words or the a priori support of others. And thus far, its actions fail to live up to its words.

Let us remember the unique situation that transpired just prior to its assumption of power. First, the BNP transparently rigged and somehow expected that the opposition, the entire diplomatic community, and most importantly the people of Bangladesh would not notice. By doing so, it revealed a level of corruption so deep that cheating was considered acceptable enough to be done in the open. But the AL only made matters worse. Its rants against BNP mendacity found the entire world on its side, but instead of proving itself to be in a class above the BNP, it showed itself to be no better. When I arrived in Dhaka AL leader Hasina was on television and in the press calling for violence in the street to “shut down” the nation. Instead of capitalizing on her support and going to various embassies in a statesman-like way, she acted like a demagogue that would bring the country to greater misery that it already was. The general impression in world capitals was that both the BNP and AL would bring the country to ruin if it meant scoring points against the other; that their leaders cared less about the national interest than they did about their own petty feuds. The AL’s actions confirmed that impression and so no one saw either party as a palatable alternative. In an historically unprecedented action, every western democracy called on the Bangladeshis not to hold elections.

Not long before that, the AL abandoned its stated principles of religious freedom and a secular government by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the radical Islamist Bangladesh Khelefat Majlis (BKM). In exchange for BKM’s support, the AL stipulated that Islamic clerics’ fatwa would be binding on the entire nation if the AL won the election. The MOU parties also promised to ban any law deemed contrary to Quranic values, put madrass degrees on the par with public schools and universities, and outlaw any criticisms of the Prophet Muhammad. Undoubtedly, AL defenders would remind us that the party rescinded the MOU, but that was only after the elections were cancelled—and almost a month after it at that.

While the Awami League frequently identifies itself as the defender of minority rights, its record is less than convincing. Professor Abul Barkat of Dhaka University has conducted the most authoritative study on Bangladesh’s Vested Property Act (VPA). The VPA was modeled after Pakistan’s Enemies Property Act, and like its predecessor is a racist and retaliatory law aimed at Hindus and other minorities. It empowers the Bangladeshi government to seize the property of non-Muslims and distribute it to Muslims of their choice. As Barkat has shown, the percentages of the spoils collected by the BNP and AL are almost identical with their positions flip flopping depending on who is in power. At the end of its tenure in 2001, the AL passed the Vested Property Return Act, but that was recognized as an empty gesture that would never be implemented.

This is not to say that the world should despair that there will be no change under the new AL administration; but it should caution everyone not to assume things will change based on words alone. There is hope, however. This AL’s landslide victory presents the party with an opportunity it has not had in the past; namely, to operate free of the pressures and interests of coalition needed partners. Sheikh Hasina has stated that the economy and the people’s welfare will be her top priority, and success will require her government to tackle the issues mentioned in this article in order to win international credibility for Bangladesh. Her government can take some basic actions to secure that.

As one of the AL’s first actions, repeal the Vested Property Act and set up a commission to return seized properties to their rightful owner. By this point, even members of the government have called the VPA “a black law” in that it has no justification by any standard of human rights and jurisprudence. All parties interviewed about the VPA said they are looking for the AL to right this historical wrong. It would be easy to do and do quickly as a message to the world that this Bangladeshi government is committed to act and not just talk in upholding the principles basic to the people and culture of Bangladesh.

Secure cooperation of the United States and NATO and announce that Bangladesh will work jointly with them in a grand alliance against Islamist terror. There was a time that Bangladesh was identified as a moderate Muslim nation and one that would stand against terror. That time is long past thanks to a BNP government that abetted the expansion of radical Islamists in its country. It has been rumored that even Osama Bin Laden has at times found safe haven in Bangladesh. To re-establish its anti-radical credentials and win international goodwill, Bangladesh must show that it is ready to back up its words with action.

Control the open border with India that allows contraband and terrorists to flow freely between the two countries. I have been to that border and saw how easily people and goods move illicitly between the two countries. That is not good for Bangladesh or India. It has devastated the border areas and costs both countries enormous amounts in resources dealing with the consequences. The AL has maintained cordial relations with its giant neighbor, and controlling the border could be the first step in building a new relationship that will benefit both countries greatly.

Conduct behind-the-scenes negotiations and then announce that as a moderate Muslim county, Bangladesh will act as an honest broker in the Middle East conflict. In 2003, I published “Dear Bangladesh” in which I recognized that Bangladesh was uniquely positioned to take on this role. Since then, however, hard-line statements by BNP officials (many far more strident that those heard anywhere in the Muslim world except in rogue states like Iran) have made such a role less likely. There have always been efforts to establish some level of contact between Bangladesh and Israel, and one that would not compromise Bangladesh’s support for the Palestinians or jeopardize its expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia. It would be another way for Bangladesh to re-establish its moderate Muslim credentials, and it would change Bangladesh’s role from that of a poor victim to a major international player that needs to be courted.

Immediately allocate police and military resources to enforce laws against minority oppression and attacks on minorities. Make this RAB’s primary role. The AL has said all the right things about supporting an end to this rampant minority oppression and ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus; but it has yet to say how it will enforce laws that have proven invulnerable to enforcement. Not only do anti-minority incidents in Dhaka and other large cities proceed with impunity (and this is the case whether the victims are Hindu, Christian, Ahmadiyya, or any other minority), but the countryside has been open season on non-Muslims for decades where even local law enforcement participates in or allows the atrocities. It would be another way the AL can show it is ready to back its words with action. And it might turn its human rights albatross (RAB) into an instrument that enforces human rights.

Continue the mandate of the Anti-Corruption Commission. Strengthen the Commission and staff it with individuals from all major parties and the military so its justice will be handed down equitably. Add provisions to prevent this variety from paralyzing its efforts.

Launch an initiative for international investment and tourism in Bangladesh. A prominent AL supporter told me, “We don’t want handouts, we want joint ventures.” The future of Bangladesh lies in its ability to attract foreign capital. There are resources that have not been tapped, unmet needs of this giant population, and natural beauty and wonder that would make anyone’s vacation a memorable one. By showing the world that she truly is leading a new Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina can build the international confidence needed to sustain her people well into the 21st century.

Benkin to address US university about Bangladeshi Hindus

Benkin to address US university about Bangladeshi Hindus

Blitz Desk

American human rights activist, Dr. Richard L. Benkin, has been asked to give an address to American University on the plight of Bangladesh’s Hindus. Benkin is the USA Correspondent for Weekly Blitz and one of the paper’s spiritual founders. Editor and publisher, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, tapped Benkin to work with him in 2003, and the two have been brothers ever since. Benkin also led the international movement that eventually freed Blitz editor from imprisonment and torture. American University-one of the most prestigious universities in the US capitol-is having a series of events to commemorate the internationally observed Holocaust Remembrance Week, to honor the victims of the Nazi holocaust against the Jewish people. An estimated 6,000,000 Jews, or one third of the world’s Jewish population at the time, were murdered by the Nazis in an attempted genocide of that people.

Dr. Richard Benkin’s address will take place on Thursday [April 23, 2009] evening as part of a panel on “Modern day Genocides.” He will be joined by Jeremy Woodrum, cofounder and director of U.S. Campaign for Burma and Cory Smith, policy and advocacy consultant for Humanity United. The panel will focus on Burma, Darfur and Bangladesh.

Benkin’s invitation originated when an American University student heard him speak about the plight of Shoaib Choudhury and was inspired to tell others about Benkin’s work in general and the Shoaib Choudhury case specifically.

He and others followed Benkin’s more recent efforts on behalf of the Bangladeshi Hindus and decided to try and get him to speak on campus. The Holocaust Remembrance Week events were a perfect match.

“We Jews came out of the holocaust with the promise, ‘Never Again,'” Benkin said. By that we meant that we would never again allow such a thing to happen. But for us, it didn’t just mean not letting it happen to Jews but to anyone. That’s the spirit that drew me to stand up for Bangladesh’s Hindus who are being ethnically cleansed from that country. That spirit and the courage of my brother, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.”

Benkin said that what is being done to the Bangladeshi Hindus is something that he would have to oppose in any case; but his opposition is even stronger, he said, because it is being done by Islamist radicals “aided by their allies in the government” and is part of the international jihad against all those who stand in the way of radical Islam and its goals.

At American University and other meetings in Washington, Benkin will present findings from his month-long trip to India during March 2009, where he met with Bangladeshi Hindu refugees, some of whom continue to face attacks “from Islamists on both sides of the border,” he said.

“I spoke with refugees who fled Bangladesh as recently as 22 days before I interviewed them. The specifics of their stories vary, but the underlying message is the same. Some radicals will seize their property, beat or threaten them, or sometimes worse. They then go to local authorities who tell them to leave the country or face the consequences. I met a girl who couldn’t have been older than 14 or 15 who was raped by these radicals while they beat her father! Anyone who does that is garbage and anyone who knowingly lets them do it is garbage, too. And you know what we do with garbage.”

Benkin also said he knows that is not the people of Bangladesh; but they must be opposed just as we would have opposed the Nazis. He sees a light, however, in this week’s conference.

“We know that the Burmese junta has been persecuting the Muslim Rohingyas. I wonder if Mr. Woodrum will be talking about that. Because all decent human beings are in the same boat with these people. We’re all potential victims, and I would love to see Muslims and Jews standing together to fight these evils. Some people think that’s a fantasy, but who knows? There’s an old saying that ‘we must hang together or we will surely hang separately.'”

It may be mentioned here that, during his recent India tour, Dr. Richard L Benkin was also willing to visit Bangladesh to meet members of religious minority groups as well as local media. But, Bangladesh embassy in Washington refused to issue him the visa, for the fifth time. In 2007, Richard Benkin was allowed to visit Bangladesh during January 8-18. During that tour, he met with a large number of minority activists and social workers in Bangladesh as well as business and media community to understand best possible ways to help Bangladesh in getting various forms of benefits from the United States.

Devil’s Advocate: Taslima Nasrin

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Devil’s Advocate: Taslima Nasrin

“I dream of a beautiful world where no women will be oppressed”

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. As the Indian Government takes its time responding to Taslima Nasrin’s application for citizenship how does she respond to her critics? Those are the two issues I shall tackle today in an interview with Taslima Nasrin. Ms Nasrin you recently said ‘I would like to be known more as an activist who can influence society than as a writer. Are trying to change the world’.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes. I have a dream, I dream of a beautiful world where no women will be oppressed.

Karan Thapar: You have also said something else which I find very perplexing. You said ‘if you want to be a human being, a good person you have to first be bad in this society.’ Are you suggesting that good people defy society they defy its values and its conventions and therefore they are considered bad.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes I think so.

Karan Thapar: And are you a bad person in that sense.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: You defy society.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: And you defy its conventions.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: And you enjoy doing so.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Your critics say that this is just posturing. They say Taslima Nasrin says things, she does things, she adopts positions to attract attention and give herself publicity.

Taslima Nasrin: No it’s not true.

Karan Thapar: Are your critics being unfair?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Let’s begin by talking about some of the things you have said about Islam. You have said it’s not true that Islam is good for humanity its not all good. Islam completely denies human rights. And then later elsewhere you have written about what you called the ‘venomous snake’ of Islam. How do you justify these extreme views?

Taslima Nasrin: You know if any religion keeps people in ignorance, if any religion allows the people to persecute other people of different faith and if any religion keeps women in slavery then I can’t accept that religion.

Karan Thapar: You are saying Islam does all of that.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: But the truth Taslima Nasrin is that all over the world Islam is recognised as a religion that perhaps has done more for women’s rights than any other in the area of education, inheritance even giving them a legal identity in their marriage.

Taslima Nasrin: No it’s not true. There is no equality between man and women in marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance under Islam.

Karan Thapar: In Islam for instance just to take inheritance women have a right to inherit, it’s an inalienable right. Again in Islam a woman in a marriage is a legal entity of her own. The marriage itself is not just a sacrament it’s a contract.

Taslima Nasrin: Yes but women do not get equality. Women get half of the property than their brothers get.

Karan Thapar: Can I put something to you? As someone who is born as Muslim you know that the fault really lies in the way Islam is interpreted or the way Islam is enforced. But by blaming Islam itself, which is what you are doing, aren’t you pandering to the Western world’s present prejudice with Islam.

Taslima Nasrin: Of course not. I criticize Islam and also I criticize Christianity, Judaism I criticize Hinduism because women are oppressed by old religions. Old religions are anti-women. Religions were made for men and men made religions for there own fun, for there own interest.

Karan Thapar: So you are the enemy of all religions?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes.

Karan Thapar: When I say enemy, should I in fact be saying do you hate religion?

Taslima Nasrin: You know there are many people who believe in religion. I do not hate those people. I consider them as human being. But they believe in religion – that religion itself is against women. It’s not only the fundamentalists. Religion actually was created by men for their own interest. Yes some people can believe in religion I don’t object it but the thing is that we should not practice religion because it’s against humanity, against humanism, against human rights, against women’s rights, against freedom of expression…

Karan Thapar: You are going even further than Marx ever went. Marx described religion as the sigh of the oppressed creature, as the heart of a heartless world, as the soul of soulless conditions. You are saying something quite different. You are saying it’s against humanity.

Taslima Nasrin: It’s against humanity.

Karan Thapar: And you don’t say this for effect.

Taslima Nasrin: Because you know if women are oppressed by old religions and if you do not believe in women’s rights then you do not believe in human rights, then you do not believe in humanism.

Karan Thapar: But your critics say that you are only saying this to attract attention, that you are only saying this to give yourself publicity to make yourself controversial…

Taslima Nasrin: No I don’t need publicity. It’s a dangerous thing to say. The fundamentalist issued fatwa against me, they set price on my head and I couldn’t live in my own country I had to live in exile for more than 12 years.

Karan Thapar: So you sincerely believe all these things?

Taslima Nasrin: I sincerely believe all these things.

Karan Thapar: All right lets come to something else that your critic says. Let’s come to your autobiographies. You have gone out of your way in your autobiographies to give explicit details of your sexual liaisons without consulting the other party and without carrying about other party’s right of privacy. How do you justify that except on the grounds of providing ‘forgive me cheap titillation’?

Taslima Nasrin: You know I wrote my autobiography and I wanted to tell everything what happened to me everything.

Karan Thapar: But what about the other party, doesn’t the other party have a right to some privacy.

Taslima Nasrin: They didn’t tell me that they need privacy.

Karan Thapar: Do they need to tell you?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes or if they told me I would not have listened to them. If they cheated me if they exploited me why should I hide that?

Karan Thapar: But did they exploit you? They made love to you they didn’t expect that to be revealed to the world.

Taslima Nasrin: Why shouldn’t I. I wanted to.

Karan Thapar: Is it ethical?

Taslima Nasrin: I think so.

Karan Thapar: Or was it simply done to attract attention to the book.

Taslima Nasrin: I don’t need any attract attention.

Karan Thapar: You see its not just people’s privacy that you have invaded you have also compromised third party. For instance in one of your autobiographies you reveal that Syed Shamsul Haq told you that he was having a relationship with his sister-in-law. That poor woman perhaps didn’t want the world to know but you trumpet all over her rights by revealing it.

Taslima Nasrin: You know I only mentioned the things what was important to me.

Karan Thapar: Why was this important to you?

Taslima Nasrin: Because first time I heard that one big man whom I considered my idol or who was a big writer whom I respected very much and he was saying that he was having sex with that woman or this woman, he wanted to do that thing or this thing, that I actually couldn’t imagine.

Karan Thapar: Quite right. You wanted to teach him a lesson or you wanted to pay him back in his own coin but as a result you have compromised the poor sister-in-law. She may have wanted privacy, she may have wanted secrecy she may not have wanted the world to know that she was having a relationship with her brother-in-law you have done that for her.

Taslima Nasrin: I have no intentions to embarrass her.

Karan Thapar: But you have done it.

Taslima Nasrin: No I did my things. I was writing my autobiography so I have to tell everything that I knew was truth and I had to tell the truth.

Karan Thapar: All right you say you have to tell the truth in which case why did you settle out of court with H Jalal. When H Jalal first accused you of writing fantasy and fiction you retorted that he was speaking a pack of lies and yet when he took you to court you settled out of court. You agreed to remove his name you agreed to in fact expunge large sections of the description of your relationship with him. Why?

Taslima Nasrin: It was actually done by my publisher.

Karan Thapar: You could have refused.

Taslima Nasrin: I refused that…

Karan Thapar: So you mean they did it without your permission?

Taslima Nasrin: It was just they changed the name. Already his name was known and he filed case against me.

Karan Thapar: But then addition to changing the name large sections of description of your relationship with him was expunged.

Taslima Nasrin: No.

Karan Thapar: It says so in the Hindu newspaper. December 19, 2003.

Taslima Nasrin: No it’s false.

Karan Thapar: You never corrected it you never denied it.

Taslima Nasrin: I did that in the Bengali newspaper.

Karan Thapar: Why not in English?

Taslima Nasrin: They didn’t ask me.

Karan Thapar: All right at least you changed the name. If you believe what you are doing was justifiable and that you are telling the truth why changed the name?

Taslima Nasrin: I didn’t want to change the name but it was publisher’s pressure that I had to change the name.

Karan Thapar: Why did you give in to pressure.

Taslima Nasrin: I didn’t want to … but publishes sends out my book a lot…

Karan Thapar: Without your permission?

Taslima Nasrin: Without my permission.

Karan Thapar: Did you considered taking the publishers to court?

Taslima Nasrin: I did not and I don’t think that it is a compromise. There are lots of books of mine, which were banned by Bangladesh government.

Karan Thapar: Your books may be banned but I am talking about the principle of revealing people’s personal details of invading their privacy. I put it to you that your critics say Taslima Nasrin only does this to titillate to attract attention to create controversy.

Taslima Nasrin: No it’s not true.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you then another sentence from your autobiography, which people say it proofs that she only writes to attract attention. You say “I think a woman can maintain her chastity even after maintaining sexual relationships with ten men. ” That may sound clever it may be catchy but it’s meaningless.

Taslima Nasrin: No it’s not meaningless. Actually what I said that honesty.. one person can be honest one woman can be honest.

Karan Thapar: There is difference between honesty and chastity. Chastity is not a state of mind it’s a physical state.

Taslima Nasrin: You know there is a word in Bengali, which is sath means honest and shotti means chaste woman. So there is no word for man in that sense. So I related the word sath and shotti. Sath means honest so one woman can be honest after having sexual relations with ten men.

Karan Thapar: You sound a bit like humpty dumpty. He said I use words to mean what I want them to mean. You have every right to do that as an author the problem is it becomes very difficult to communicate and almost impossible to understand. If you keep using words in this way you are simply playing with them.

Taslima Nasrin: No actually you don’t know Bengali. If you knew Bengali you would understand that the two words sound the same like sath and shotti.

Karan Thapar: Your critics say that Taslima Nasrin is her own worst enemy.

Taslima Nasrin: I don’t think so. Critics can say anything. I know what I am doing and I am telling the truth. I want to change the society I want to make women conscious about their rights and freedom. I don’t want any religious law I don’t want any patriarchal system.

Karan Thapar: Lets turn to your application to become an Indian citizen. Its been almost two-years since you applied and even today a decision has not ben taken on it. Meanwhile you visa has only been extended for six-months at a time. Do you think you have been treated fairly?

Taslima Nasrin: I don’t think so. Most of the people in this country as far as I know want me to be a citizen of India. I was persecuted in my country and I had to live in exile for over 12-years. I speak Bengali and I would love to live in Bengal, in India. I think its humane to allow me to live in this country.

Karan Thapar: For two-years now the Indian Government hasn’t given you its decision. How much unhappiness has that caused you?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes I am unhappy and its really not a very good condition that I’m living in. I live in constant tension that I might have to leave.

Karan Thapar: The other thing is that they wont give you a visa for more than six-months at a time. Businessmen can get a visa for a year or more but they only give you an extension of six-months. Is that unfair?

Taslima Nasrin: I dint know whether it is fair or unfair. But I am unhappy with the way I have been treated by the Indian Government.

Karan Thapar: In March you told the PTI that the hold-up was because the West Bengal government hadn’t given a letter of recommendation to you saying that you should be made an Indian citizen. Why did the West Bengal government do so?

Taslima Nasrin: I think the West Bengal government banned my book because they wanted to make Muslims of West Bengal happy. May be, if I live there the Muslims will be unhappy.

Karan Thapar: So it’s become a political issue?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes it has. I think so.

Karan Thapar: Have you raised this with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee?

Taslima Nasrin: I tried meeting him so many times but it seems it’s impossible to get an access to him. He refused to meet me and I might try again.

Karan Thapar: Are you trying with confidence or are you just trying it because you think, you have to keep trying?

Taslima Nasrin: I have to keep trying because I love to live in India. It’s important for me to live in India.

Karan Thapar: In the meantime the All India Ibtehad Council has announced a bounty of Rs 5 lakh for your life. Do you feel safe in India?

Taslima Nasrin: Though it’s not safe here but still I love to live in India. I would live in India despite threats.

Karan Thapar: But aren’t you scared that some fundamentalist, some mad man might come and shoot you because there is a Rs 5 lakh bounty on your head?

Taslima Nasrin: It can happen in any part of the world. Fundamentalists are there everywhere. When I was living in Bangladesh, the fundamentalist could kill me any moment. When I was living in Europe, I got security but still fundamentalist could kill me there. There was a constant threat.

Karan Thapar: So you aren’t scared that some fundamentalist might come and kill you because there is a bounty on your head?

Taslima Nasrin: No I’m not scared at all.

Karan Thapar: The paradox is that political situation is changing in Bangladesh dramatically. Democracy is being revived, jehadist are being arrested and even killed and people are breathing easy again. How do you regard those changes in your own country?

Taslima Nasrin: I think it’s temporary.

Karan Thapar: You don’t see this as the beginning of a change in Bangladesh?

Taslima Nasrin: I would like to think that its the beginning of a change in Bangladesh. But who would to power? It would be the same old political parties who are pro-fundamentalists use Islam for their own interests, to get votes from the ignorant masses. They would come to power and would never allow me to live in my own country.

Karan Thapar: So are you saying that things in Bangladesh would only change when the leaders of the Awami league and the Bangladeshi nation party will be completely removed from politics? And that an altogether new blood, new people be allowed to step in?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes I think so. A revolution is needed in Bangladesh.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you what the editor of the Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star wrote about you on March 21. He said “it is time that the state moves to reinstate the rights of a woman who has been wronged for over 13-years. She belongs here, whether or not anybody likes it.”

Taslima Nasrin: It’s wonderful. I felt happy that somebody supported me in Bangladesh. But this is one lonely voice and certainly not enough to make to go back.

Karan Thapar: So India has to be your home in the foreseeable future, since Bangladesh is not safe.

Taslima Nasrin: I think so.

Karan Thapar: Why don’t you speak to the Indian government asking them to be allowed to stay here, be given a longer visa and be given citizenship?

Taslima Nasrin: Yes, I would like to say that.

Karan Thapar: Regardless of the fact that your critics say she is posturing.

Taslima Nasrin: That’s false.

Karan Thapar: It was a pleasure talking to you.

Taslima Nasrin: Thanks you. #

The interview was broadcast on By, 22 April 2007

Jamaat’s politics of hatemongering, discrimination and violence

Jamaat’s politics of hatemongering, discrimination and violence


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;, 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 ( teaches economics at North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Statues will be pulled down if Islamists come to power Amini threatens

Sunday, April 19, 2009 09:42 PM GMT+06:00
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Published On: 2008-10-18

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Statues will be pulled down if Islamists come to power Amini threatens

Staff Correspondent
Chairman of a faction of Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) Fazlul Haq Amini yesterday said statues built by Sheikh Hasina-led past government will be demolished if an Islamic government is formed in the country.

“If we or an Islamic government comes to power, all statues built by Hasina will be pulled down,” Amini, also ameer of Islami Ain Bastabayan Committee (IABC) announced at a news briefing in the afternoon.

IABC organised the conference in Dhaka Reporters’ Unity auditorium.

Amini, however, said he did not know whether Khaleda Zia-led government built any statue.

Alluding to Shikha Onirban, the eternal flame in Dhaka Cantonment in memory of the military personnel martyred in the liberation war, he said the country’s defence forces ‘worship’ fire, against which his organisation had spoken before ‘as the practice is anti-Islamic’.

He threatened to wage a greater movement against the government ‘if it fails to immediately put a stop to the activities that are going on against the country and Islam’.

“The movement will not be deterred by any emergency, martial law, jail or harassment,” he said adding, they cannot remain silent ‘if anti-Islamic activities continue in the name of the state of emergency’.

The IOJ chairman also said statues are being constructed all over the country, and demanded that the government puts a stop to the move.

“We respect laws and we can’t beak the emergency powers rule, but we also can’t tolerate the anti-Islamic activities anymore,” he said.

Talking about the capital city, he blamed past Awami League (AL) regime for ‘its efforts to turn the city of mosque into a city of statues’.

“The present government is also trying to turn the Muslim nation into a country of statues,” he alleged.

He, however, denied allegations that they had protested against sculptures of bauls [folk singers] in front of Zia International Airport and forced the authorities to pull them down.

He also demanded that Dr Taj Hashmi, a teacher of an American college, be declared ‘anti-Islam’, and be expelled from Bangladesh for his writings in a Bangla daily.

Amini accused the caretaker government of failing to hold the election on time and to hand over power to an elected government.

He said the caretaker government enjoyed enormous public support when it assumed office but its position is now questionable.

“There are serious concerns among the people due to some government steps against the country and Islam during the emergency of the last 21 months,” he said.

He also demanded scrapping of the Women Development Policy 2008, and stopping of an alleged move ‘to hand over control of the country’s primary education to Brac’.

IABC leaders Abdul Latif Nezami, Shafiq Uddin, and Abul Kashem were also present