Md. Asadullah Khan

DURING the past one month, more than 100 people were killed in the rampage and violence unleashed by Jamaat-Shibir cadres. 21 people died in the violence after the convicted Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah was hanged. Driven by hate-filled ideology, they are out to set the whole Bangladesh civil society on fire.

The soft approach and to a great extent patronage of the past governments created a fertile ground for such insurgency to grow to such a menacing level. The past governments made no effort or took no concrete steps in identifying the culprits and their source of strength that masterminded such banal attacks.

Terrorist activities and insurgencies throughout the world follow a similar pattern. A minority group becomes visible with a spectacular attack. The militants and their acts are plugged into long-standing grievances and enjoy some degree of popular support among the poverty-stricken, uneducated and fanatic masses. The administration resorts to means that are often repressive, which eliminate terrorist leaders without healing the wounds that lie beneath the surface. In absence of the leaders, terrorist groups begin to fragment and separate groups set about their own agenda. What is worse is that these are often indiscriminate and brutal and directed against targets with no symbolic value. Bangladesh is now passing through this phase of the threat and attack.

The global strand of radical Islam relies on ideology, not organisation. So when the war on terrorism destroyed the extremist bases in Afghanistan and confined bin Laden to a series of hiding places, it didn’t derail his ideology. In December 2001, he was reported to have said: “My life or death is unimportant, the awakening has started.” In Bangladesh today we can see what this awakening entails

Evil has an uncanny habit of blending with fantasy. Osama bin Laden aroused the subliminal passions of his chosen folks with the dream of an ‘Islamic Utopian State,’ and his instrument of salvation was the doctrine of murder. The inheritors of such evil spirit in this country have combined dogmatic certitude with total ruthlessness without even a touch of remorse. With the bomb attacks, cocktail blasts, burning, and killing-spree rocking the country, it appears, they have neatly hijacked a conflict-ridden country to make it the nerve centre of terror.

Since 2001, the mentors of radical Islamic thought and ideology in our country prepared the ground, and now they have successfully injected a disturbing dimension into our lives—fear. In macabre fashion, the protagonists of this ethos who could not accept the creation of Bangladesh and its ideology did more than arouse the fear of invisible terror. They have compromised the environment of trust in which modern societies live and flourish. What is more unfortunate and uncontrollable is the flow of funds, logistics, and explosives from external sources and through undefined and uncharted routes.

Ill-served by corrupt politicians and entrenched bureaucracy, the youth numbering about 40 million are fuming with rage. With allurement of a better future and better jobs by destabilising democratic governance and through installing a government of their choice, the disillusioned and disenchanted groups were brought down on the street with the mission to kill, burn and destroy everything, as if this country does not belong to them. These enemies of the country have nothing to lose but themselves for their act is born out of blind fanaticism, but the country has a lot to preserve — its honour, freedom and culture.

Some places in Satkhira bristle with madrassas because of Jamaat dominance, and the only ‘industry’ that has flourished in these places is smuggling. Past governments, or even the Al or BNP leaders here or at the highest level, didn’t care to see why and how madrassas outnumbered the schools there. A large number of people are now landless farmers and languishing in poverty with no livelihood. The only alternative left to them is to send their wards to madrassas because madrassas provide these boys food, shelter and Islamic education free of cost. Most Jamaati leaders and their remote patrons have chosen these places as the most fertile ground to sow the seeds of radicalism that continues to spread, disseminating a culture of hatred, rebellion and killing. This was long in the making, but the government elites had blithely ignored the danger signals over the years.

At the time of liberation, there were about 200 madrassas in Bangladesh. As of 2006, there were 16,000 registered Qawmi madrasas with 2 lakh teachers and 5.5 million students. If unregistered Qawmi madrassas are counted then the number could be about 64,000. But appallingly, most of those educated in these institutions find themselves unemployable at the end of their education. This brings to the fore the question of balanced academic curriculum that includes math, science subjects, English and Bangla.

The government can no longer afford  to neglect or bypass the crucial matter of bringing academic reforms in the madrassa curriculum in the interest of peace, social justice, national progress and prosperity. Unless the whole education system — both school and madrassa — is geared to function in a way that ensures quality as well as equality of opportunity, it will be difficult for the nation to avert the disaster, conflict and destruction that we are witnessing now.

Most madrassas sustain themselves on foreign funding, largely from the Middle East, other than the hefty donations made by some affluent Muslim businessmen and industry owners in the country out of emotional attachment to Islamic values. Some madrassas do not ask for government funding to assert their independence from official control. Making a modest beginning during Zia’s rule, the politicisation of madrassas began in earnest during Ershad’s time to counter the political forces opposed to his dictatorial rule.  During this time, madrassas recorded a phenomenal rise in number.

The economic empire that they have built in the country through establishment of businesses, industries, banks and in the transport sector provides them the economic muscle to launch ‘jehadi’ movement in the country. And now, when the feud between the two mainstream political parties is at its worst, Jamaat-Shibir cadres are out to destabilise the country by all possible means. It seems they live in a different planet and have no remorse for the death and destruction they cause.

The must be reform of madrassa education, including official registration of madrassas and regular inspection, banning of foreign funding, banning of arms training, if any, and integrating them with general education system. In line with the system that was in vogue in our schooling days, Muslim students in the SSC level must have Arabic, which will help them understand the Quranic inscription by themselves.

The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.
December 28, 2013


About Ehsan Abdullah

An aware citizen..

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