By Taj Hashmi
November 24, 2014
AS media reports, the Bangladesh Government is going to proscribe the Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party. This move could be taken as early as December or latest by January 2015. The High Court has already de-registered the party, which amounts to revoking its legitimacy. From the ongoing debates among politicians, analysts and members of the civil society in Bangladesh on proscribing the Jamaat it appears that the issue solely hinges on one particular premise, the party's opposition to the Liberation War of Bangladesh; and its leaders' and workers' collaborative role in the mass killing and rape of Bengalis by the Pakistani occupation army in 1971.
I strongly believe that the proscription of the Jamaat in Bangladesh is essential, not only because of its heinous role against the Liberation War, but also for two other important considerations:
First, the Constitution does not allow the existence of any religion-based party in Bangladesh. A two-third majority in the Parliament has not yet amended the Constitution. Second, the Jamaat not only wants to establish an Islamic State, but it also believes in establishing a totalitarian Islamo-Fascist state where minorities and non-Muslim subjects would be just tolerated, would live as Zimmis or “protected people” with inferior rights. This official policy – as it appears in Maududi's writings – is not that different from what prevails in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and what the Islamic State (ISIS) is trying to establish in Iraq and Syria.
Since the Constitution does not allow any religion-based party in Bangladesh, the revival of the Jamaat and all religion-based parties by Zia ur Rahman simply violated the Constitution. The cardinal state ideologies, including democracy and secularism, can only be dropped or modified through a countrywide referendum. Even two-third majorities of parliament members are not entitled to bring any changes to the state principles.
General Ershad also violated the Constitution with impunity. His insertion of the clause of “State Religion” in the Bangladesh Constitution, turning Islam the “State Religion”, is a glaring example in this regard. Surprisingly, all the elected governments since the overthrow of the dictator have not revoked this provision, which is in violation of one of the fundamental state ideologies, Secularism.
Those who are against the proscription of the Jamaat argue that a) imposing a ban on the party would violate democratic principles; and that b) a proscribed Jamaat would be very dangerous as thousands of its members would go underground to engage in terrorist activities in the al Qaeda-esque manner. These are fallacious arguments. The fate of the would-be-terrorists emerging out of the proscribed-Jamaat would not be that different from what happened to terrorists belonging to various terror outfits in the recent past. Bangladesh is not the only country having terrorist threats; it will have to learn how to live with terrorism.
Now, I am not the only person to consider the Jamaat proto-fascist; and its founder Abul A'la Maududi (1903-1979) a clever manipulator and demagogue. He studied some science and was a journalist in his youth. So, like Hassan Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Bin Laden, Mohamed Morsi, and al-Zawahiri, technically he was also a “techno-cleric”, not an Islamic scholar, Aalim or Maulana. Renowned Islamic scholars from South Asia, including Deobandis and Sufis from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have issued several fatwas against the Jamaat and its founder. They consider Maududi a heretic-cum-anarchist and the Jamaat a Fitna or anarchy. Famous Indian nationalist Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958) considered the Jamaat fascistic and deviant.
In the backdrop of Maududi's writings, Jamaat emerges as an Islamo-Fascist party. Maududi and Jamaat are inseparable. What Maududi is to Jamaat, Marx is to Communism. As Marx believed in the destruction of all states, so did Maududi.
In Maududi's own words: “Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth, which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation, which rules it …. Islam requires the earth—not just a portion, but the whole planet”. He believed that the “Muslim Party” or Jamaat should eliminate all “un-Islamic” governments by force; and “the head of the state should be the supreme head of legislature, executive and judiciary alike …. No non-Muslim or woman could be a head of state.” In Jamaat's Islamic Republic, the non-Muslims would not have the right to vote in presidential elections, must be “rigorously excluded from influencing policy decisions”, holding “key posts” in government and elsewhere, and would have to pay the discriminatory poll tax or jizyah in lieu of military service.
In view of the above, there is no reason to believe that the Jamaat or its sister-organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, is just an Islamic party or like the Christian Democrats in Europe. Maududi and Jamaat have profoundly influenced Islamist politics and its derivative, Islamist terrorism, throughout the world. As Maududi's writings influenced Sayyid Qutb and Mohamed Morsi of the Brotherhood, and Ayatollah Khomeini, so did they influence Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Osama bin Laden. Before assuming the office of the President of Egypt, Morsi stated he would “make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizyah”.
Pakistan's draconian Blasphemy Law and discriminatory policies against minorities and non-Muslims, and the overall dysfunctional state of affairs, may be attributed to the slow Jamaati infiltration of Islamist intolerance into society, especially during the military rule by the pro-Jamaati General Zia ul-Haq (1977-1988).
The Jamaat wants one or more mega Islamic States through gradual infiltration of Muslim societies. While Jamaat wants to go slow towards establishing its totalitarian state, al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS and their ilk want to attain the same goal only through violent means. Abbas Ali Khan, the acting Amir of Jamaat in Bangladesh told me (for some specific reasons) in 1991 that his party did not believe in coming to power through elections (as it never polled more than 5 per cent votes) but through “other means” or gradual infiltration of society to stage a violent Islamist revolution.
Can Bangladeshis afford to become “(A)n ideological state in which legislators do not legislate, citizens only vote to reaffirm the permanent applicability of religious laws, women rarely venture outside their homes lest social discipline be disrupted, and non-Muslims are tolerated as foreign elements required to express their loyalty by means of paying a financial levy”? If not, it's time to proscribe the Jamaat. And the Prime Minister can do it just through one executive order. Meanwhile, politicians, intellectuals and members of the civil society – who believe in democracy and human rights – should take bi-partisan and proactive role to uphold democracy and human rights in Bangladesh.
Taj Hashmi teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, US. Sage has recently published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.