Yesterday is but today’s memory, tomorrow is today’s dream:” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.
Writing in Bangladesh is a difficult task these days. Pro BNP-Jamaat comments could cast one in an anti-liberation cum fundamentalist block. Similarly, pro AL-leftist writing could earn damnations of being an atheist. This madness is dividing the country and it has to stop sooner rather than later.
Making political parties accountable for their actions is dangerous indeed in a country where the heart rules the head. Thankfully, we are on the road to progress as a civilised society where we can openly and candidly discuss successes and failures of our political leaderships.
In an election year it is usually the failures which get noticed the most in this culture. This naturally does not go well with any ruling party and the more they deny this reality the worse off they get as the democratic clock ticks on. After 67 dead (some say 102), common people look perplexed at the immaturity of the two sides. Lives lost, properties damaged, society divided, all jointly recorded a distant second in priorities.
Holding a ruling party accountable for the past 5 years is not an anti-liberation act. Indeed, it is one of the most important activities promising to hold on to the original spirit of freedom struggle. Critical analysis of the secular-leftist camp is neither a step away from pluralism nor one closer to fundamentalism. On the contrary, an inclusive society demands that citizens remain aware of any rising threats to its value system and the resulting consequences for compromising on ethical and moral values, which may originate from religious beliefs and practices.
Support for pluralistic broad based government must not be confused as a blanket approval for branding religion as the opium of the masses. Peoples’ mandate for leadership does not transcend the spiritual boundaries.
Recent talks of banning Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) need to be seriously examined. As the party with the single largest representation of political Islam, banning JI and its activities could mean an end to political Islam itself in this country. Secularising a people who probably would find it difficult to understand, let alone define, western liberal secular democratic value system, would be a long way home. Most people in rural parts are happy to see a melting pot of ideologies co-existing harmoniously as part of their tolerant culture and historic traditions.
Kemal Ataturk, Reza Shah Pahlavi and Husni Mubarak all thought they were advancing the cause of secularisation in Turkey, Iran and Egypt. Ironically, Islamic parties and Muslim Brotherhood are now in control of those countries. It would be unfair to close our eyes and shy away from the historic events in Turkey, Iran and Egypt due to the role political Islam played in shaping the movements of change. Another one is currently in full swing in Syria.
Women may have abandoned hijab under dictators’ rule but at the polls in a free election they chose to vote for Islamists. These are some of the many realities surrounding Muslim majority countries where political Islam desires to be active. It is difficult to understand what mileage we can achieve if we deny and turn deaf and blind to the emotions of people who are attached to both Islam and politics.
Individuals have the right to choose their religion as mentioned in the Quran, La Ikraha Fi-Deen (“there is no compulsion in religion” TMQ 2:256). This is a command inviolable for any Muslim. It is also the foundation for a tolerant, pluralistic, inclusive social system based on freedom of speech, expression and religious thoughts, beliefs and practices. Islamic state of Medina under the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) established such a state where individual freedom of religious belief and practices were sanctified by law (The Charter of Medina) for the sake of one unified pluralistic Islamic state.
The new generation needs to be told the truth about Islam and the message of justice, equality and liberty. Islamic parties need to do more to think out of the traditional box and present the “spirit and essence” of the Islamic system. The complete picture of Islamic way of life for self and society needs to be drawn in peoples’ minds through deeds and actions of non-violence.
When Shahbagh Spring blossomed it looked almost like a replica of Tahrir Square. At Shahbagh I thought our national awakening was finally on the rise. The young generation have by now hopefully realised their roles and responsibilities. They need to be forward looking, futuristic, visionary and non-violent in their political activism. They need not step into those same old shoes of the past. They can carve their own identity distinctly separated by a visionary outlook, one that will be heads up with any other political concept anywhere in the world.
What they need is a just cause which should be worth dying for. The cause to restore the God-given right to live with honour is one of them. This is a divine cause and one that has been alive since the beginning of the human race. To free mankind from the slavery of another man is the great liberating cause which has been the cornerstone of every civilisation, including ours.
At Shahbagh and at every other town and village square, our youth, I hope, would rise to the occasion and demand the emancipation of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians from poverty, lack of basic rights, inaccessibility to social justice, deprivation of equal status for food, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare.
Liberate our country in the true sense of the term. We should be free to live with honour and dignity, far removed from the image of a beggar or of a corrupt wretch. We don’t want to live in an Orwellian police state surrendering our pride and self respect.
Another quote from Khalil Gibran: “In battling evil, excess is good; for he who is moderate in announcing the truth is presenting half-truth. He conceals the other half out of fear of people’s wrath.”
The writer is Director, Financial Excellence Limited.