By Shuma Raha
August 7, 2015
Niloy Neel, a Bangladeshi blogger was hacked to death by Islamic militants in Dhaka today. This is the fourth murder of bloggers in Bangladesh this year. In each case, the victim was a free thinker, raising an unafraid voice against radical Islam. In each case, machete-wielding murderers hunted down the blogger and hacked him to death.
The killings – and the impunity with which they have been carried out — are significant. They point to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s shocking failure to rein in extremist elements in the country. Bangladesh is a secular country on paper. But if secular voices are being snuffed out with such alarming regularity, then something is seriously rotten in the state of Sonar Bangla.
The butchering of bloggers started with the murder of Rajib Haidar in February 2013. Haidar was an online activist who had been at the forefront of the demand for a death sentence on Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Qader Molla, convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh’s violent dismemberment from Pakistan in 1971. There were massive rallies in Dhaka in support of that demand and they were spurred in part by the fiery writings of bloggers like Haidar.
Sheikh Hasina’s government was forced to give in to public demand and amend the law so as to allow an appeal against Molla’s life sentence. Molla was finally hanged in December 2013.
Since then extremist groups – and the needle of suspicion is chiefly on the Jamaat – have carried out targeted killings of the country’s bloggers. And the Awami League government has pretty much stood by and watched.
The serial killing of Bangladeshi bloggers stems from the same vicious Manichaean logic that saw the murder of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this year, and indeed, the slaughter of thousands of innocents in terror attacks the world over. If you are not ‘us’, you’re ‘them’. And that makes you evil. If you criticise radical Islam, that makes you evil. And you need to be annihilated.
Islamic terror everywhere feeds on this logic. And that’s what makes a recent initiative by the madrasa of Manazar-e-Islam in Bareilly, UP, so heartening. It has decided to introduce a specialisation called ‘Islam and terrorism’ in its curriculum. Its object: to show graduate students how original passages from the Quran or the Hadith are distorted to spread terrorism and corrupt impressionable young minds.
The word ‘madrasa’ is derived from the Arabic root ‘Darasa‘, which means to study. In its literal sense, ‘madrasa’ is simply a school. However, in most parts of the world, the word refers not just to any school, but Islamic schools – institutions that teach Islamic religious texts and the Islamic way of life.
Unfortunately, today, madrasas are often accused of being hotbeds of terrorism. In some cases they are. According to the police, the killers of Washiqur Rahman, the Bangladeshi blogger who was hacked to death in March, were apparently madrasa students. Last year, a blast in Burdwan, West Bengal, was linked to a group belonging to an unregulated madrasa, giving rise to the BJP’s claim that there were many such “illegal” Islamic schools in the state that were breeding grounds for terrorists. Western experts too have often warned against the radicalisation of madrasa students in parts of south Asia and elsewhere.
In this context the need for madrasas to adopt such “counter-terrorism” modules in their syllabus cannot be over-emphasised. Terror attacks need a constant supply of indoctrinated youth who believe that violence is justified. That their religion allows them to kill innocents if it’s for a “higher” cause. The state, the schools, even families must make it impossible for young people to be so murderously misled.
For in end, their terrible jihad destroys not just their victims, but also them.