Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
After announcing nomination to infamous Al Qaeda pal Mufti Shahidul Islam, now simply for the sake of winning in the next general election, Bangladesh Awami League has finally signed an alarming five-point agreement with ultra radical leader Shaikhul Hadith Allama Azizul Huq of Khelafat Majlish, ensuring right to the clerics in giving religious edicts, which shall be treated as legal and binding on the citizen of Bangladesh.
AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil on Saturday signed this five-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh Khelafhat Majlish (BKM). AL promised that certified Alems
(Islamic clerics) will have the right to issue fatwas
(Islamic religious edicts) if the grand electoral alliance comes to power through the upcoming election.
The other points of the MoU include promises to impose a bar on enacting any law that goes against Quranic values, initiation of steps for proper implementation of the initiative for government recognition of the degrees awarded by Qaumi Madrasas, and a ban on criticisms of Prophet Muhammad and the caliphs as well declaring Ahmediyyas as non Muslims. The signing took place in the Azimpur residence of BKM Chairman Allama Azizul Haque in a sequel to an AL attempt to bring BKM into the fold of the grand alliance.
Even a large majority of AL central and grassroots members, just as a cross-section of socio-political organizations and people of all spectrums, were deeply shocked by the party’s sudden and inexplicable decision. Many of them feel it will prove hara-kiri for the party in the election. But as usual, the general secretary of Awami League at the massive public outrage poured in, first tried to deny signing of any such agreement, suggesting that it was all a hoax fanned by some ‘vested quarter’ with an ulterior motive using the media. But as copies of the signed agreement circulated around, Jalil finally said he signed ‘only a MoU and not any agreement’. Abdul Jalil said, “It is not a contract. It is a memorandum of understanding,” adding, “It is an understanding based on an election strategy.”
Talking to a private television channel, Jalil said, “Ordinary people, especially villagers, are weak on the issue of fatwa. If educated alem-ulemas
, who are knowledgeable on matters of religion, issue fatwa or directions, those will be better than the ones issued by uneducated persons.” Defining a fatwa, Jalil said, “A decision on any issue is a fatwa,” adding, “There is a very wrong interpretation of it in this country. If we can escape that interpretation, then we can have control over fatwa so that no one can issue a fatwa on a whim.”
“AL is against those rural fatwa that order whipping of people or public humiliation of women,” Jalil said.
Meanwhile many former lawmakers of AL also told reporters that they feel ashamed because of the agreement. They also said they might quit the party if the MoU is not cancelled immediately. “If our party allows Islamic fundamentalist practices like fatwas after 35 years of liberation then what is wrong with forging an alliance with anti-liberation Jamaat-e-Islami,” one of the frustrated leaders of AL Central Working Committee commented.
Sources said the agreement was signed following a faction of top AL leaders’ initiative to bring different Islamic political parties, which largely depend on donations from a few Islamic countries, into the fold of the grand alliance.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Bangladesh said the signing of the accord between AL and Khelafat Majlish is part of a great conspiracy to turn Bangladesh into a radical state and to take the country into dark ages.
“As a citizen of Bangladesh, we are astonished and worried,” Missionary-in-Charge of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Abdul Awal commented.
He said, “The omnipotent Allah is enough to protect us. Our faith doesn’t depend on any person or any party. We are least bothered about what anyone thinks about our religious status.”
Dhaka’s press became virtually stunned at the very unpredictable behavior of Awami League while compromising its secular ideology just for the sake of winning in the next general election. According to sources, a number of radical and extremist organizations have already joined the grand alliance led by Awami League. Meanwhile, AL has assured nomination to several questioned figures including Mufti Shahidul Islam who is known to be a close aide of Ossama Bin Laden.
Commenting on such behavior of Awami League, one of the Dhaka’s largest dailies wrote, “We are dumbfounded by the once-anointed secular party the Awami League’s U-turn into an inexplicable marriage of expediency signed up with Khelafat-e-Majlish, the ultra orthodox Islamist group led by Shaikul Hadith Allama Azizul Haq.
Though AL has denied making such a deal, we find the denial somewhat convenient. We feel some sort of undertaking has been given by the AL which is far removed from its founding principles.
In terms of what has been reported as parts of a written contract between AL’s general secretary Abdul Jalil on behalf of his party and Khelafat-e-Majlish secretary general Abdur Rab Yusufi, the AL, on assumption of power, stood committed to grant the right of fatwa (Islamic decree) to ‘certified clerics’, which a High Court verdict in our country had forbidden earlier on. The AL also has virtually acquiesced in enacting an anti-blasphemy law.
The other three features of the accord are: firstly, no law that in any way contradicts the Quran and Sunnah will be enacted in parliament; secondly, recognition will be accorded to Quami Madrassa; and thirdly, those who do not believe in the assertion that the Prophet of Islam is the last messenger of Allah would forfeit their right to be known as Muslim, an oblique reference to the Ahmadiyya community.
On the question of fatwa, a system of law parallel to the existing legal system is being pandered to. This means that certain Ulemas will be placed above the law of the land.
By one fell stroke, the AL has sacrificed at the altar of opportunism and a numbers game in the power struggle against the right of centre Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), whatever principle the party stood for as a historically secular and liberal organization.
By this action the AL has disappointed a large part of its traditional voters who may well, in disgust, desist from voting for the party. Therefore, we believe the AL should withdraw from the position it has reportedly taken, both out of a principled stand as well as to preserve its traditional vote bank.
To build a forward looking and modern Bangladesh aligning with fringe obscurantist elements cannot be of any help; this realization must dawn on the AL before the party can come out clean on the issue.”
Another English daily commenting on AL’s bigotry wrote, “The Awami League, which has so long been seen by many as a secular party, has reportedly signed on Saturday a three-point agreement with an Islamist fundamentalist political group called Khelafat Majlis that they would contest in the ensuing parliamentary polls together and that the alliance, if voted to power, would not get any law enacted which would be inconsistent with the dictates of Qur’an, sunnah and shariah in the first place. The accord also stipulates that the alliance, if elected to power, would ‘reserve the right’ of certain category of Islamic clerics ‘to issue fatwa’, and that criticism of the prophets and their associates will be considered a criminal offence and that an official recognition of the qoumi madrassah degree will be implemented, etc. Clearly, the Awami League has bound itself by an agreement to implement an Islamist fundamentalist manifesto.
The fundamentalist agreement that the Awami League has reached with Khelafat Majlis is not only anti-democratic in general terms, it is specifically repugnant with the secular democratic sprit of the country’s war of independence – the spirit that the Awami League seldom fails to refer to when comparing itself with its arch political rival, the BNP-Jamaat combine. But by signing such an undemocratic and anti-secular agreement with Khelafat Majlis, the Awami League policymakers have left its liberal sympathizers with hardly any reason to take pride in being associated with the party.
Notably, this is not the first time that the party has compromised its self-professed principle of secularism. In the near past, the party has done a lot of hobnobbing with the fundamentalist forces in the name of tactical move. The Awami League helped to give a kind of social and political legitimacy to Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh by way of engaging in a not-so-clandestine negotiation with it when fighting against the government of the BNP between 1991 and 1995. Besides, it was only the other day that the party reached an electoral understanding with the Islamic Constitution Movement – a fundamentalist party that loudly preaches for a theological state to be set up in the country. And all these anti-secular moves are being taken in the name of tactical electoral unity against the BNP-Jamaat axis.
Tactic for what? Is it a democratic election that the agreement is about? Are we still talking of women’s empowerment? All is fair in love and war – and electoral politics? Can we imagine a more cynical bartering away of all the gains of the war of independence, and that too by a party which has always berated its opponents for desecrating the principles and values of the war? Can decades of social progress, blood of hundreds of thousands of martyrs, honor of hundreds of thousands of women be sacrificed for electoral gains? While election is a means in democracy, the democratic polity finds many a proposition, such as secularism, non-negotiable in any circumstances. The Awami League has virtually betrayed the secular spirit of the war of independence and defrauded those who love to believe that the Awami League, unlike the BNP, is a secular democratic party.
Now, what remains to bee seen is the next move that the left democratic political parties and groups, assembled in the AL-led alliance, take in the present circumstance.”
Posted on 26 Dec 2006 by Root