New Age Islam Special Correspondent
28 August 2020
Photo Shaikh Hasina
Courtesy Dhaka Tribune
There is no denying the fact that with Shaikh Hasina coming to power in 2009, the extremist and terrorist elements had been subdued to a great extent and the country progressed economically. Minorities had a comparatively better life under the Awami League government led by Hasina.
During the BNP-Jamaat government led by Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh had become a hotbed of terrorism and religious extremist. The two biggest terrorist attacks in the Khaleda Zia regime were the grenade attacks on an election rally of Awami League in Dhaka on 21 August 2004 in which more than 20 leaders and cadres including the President of Awami League' Women's wing Ivy Rehman were killed and Shaikh Hasina's hearing faculty was partially damaged, and, 500 simultaneous bomb explosions in 63 districts of Bangladesh conducted by terrorist Bangla Bhai on 17 August 2005 which shook the country.
During that period, the Islamists of Bangladesh would openly chant,
"Sobai Hobey Taliban, Bangladesh Hobey Afghan".
(All will become Taliban; Bangladesh will turn into Afghanistan).
Bangla Bhai was executed after Hasina came to power as well as most of the accused in the election rally attacks were also sentenced. War Crimes Tribunal set up by her government also sentenced to death or life imprisonment nine leaders of Jama'at-e-Islami and two leaders of BNP in 2012-13.
However, it seems that though the terrorist attacks have stopped, the Shaikh Hasina's government has not been able to contain the scourge of religious extremism in the country.
Since 2013, dozens of secular bloggers, human rights activists, publishers and writers, both from the Muslim and minority communities have been attacked and hacked to death by Islamists of the country. In 2013, the Islamist groups of the country had prepared a list of 83 secular bloggers and human rights activists and circulated it. After that, some of them were even hacked to death. Some of the victims are Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Neel, Avijit and Washiqur Rahman. All the four were killed in 2015, that is, during Shaikh Hasina's government whom they had supported in the hope of freedom from religious extremism and violence.
Photo Photo Niloy Neel
Till then, the local Islamists were involved in the killings. But since 2016, ISIS and Al Qaida's name started to emerge as the driving force behind the killing of secular bloggers and activists.
In May 2016, a professor of English in Rajshahi University was stabbed in the neck by a student. But the most intriguing part of the incident was that the fatal attack on the professor was lauded by the ISIS's online media agency. The release said that the price was punished for propagating atheism. It should be recalled that the ISIS had established its so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq jn 2014 and had influenced the extremists of Bangladesh.
Two days after the attack, on the professor, two bloggers Xulhaz Mannan and Tonoy Manumdar were killed by some extremists. According to media reports, a group affiliated to Al Qaida claimed the responsibility of the killings.
-Photo Asad Noor
The latest victim of the radical Islamists of Bangladesh is a Muslim blogger Asaduzzaman Noor popularly known as Asad Noor who had to leave Bangladesh and is currently hiding in India.
Asad Noor’s case is different in that he and his family were harassed not only by the religious extremists but also by the Bangladesh government. His passport was confiscated and the Bangladesh police raided his house a number of times to pressurise him to surrender. In July, the police arrested his parents and other family members and kept them in illegal detention for two days. His crime is that he had been writing against growing religious extremism in the country and has defended the minority Buddhist community against the attack of the extremist Muslims on the temples and homes of Buddhists. He has been charged under the country's draconian Digital Security Act which is a de facto blasphemy law.
Photo Asad Noor
Earlier in 2017, he was arrested from Dhaka airport on the basis of an FIR filed by the leader of a local Islamic organisation Mufti Omar Farooque accusing him of blasphemy.
In 2020, many activists have been arbitrarily arrested, or kidnapped or held in pretrial detention for indefinite periods.
Fearing arrested or murder, Asad Noor left Bangladesh last year and has been hiding in India since then.
He says that he was harassed because he defended the Buddhists and tried to save them from attacks of Islamists. In 2012, radical Muslims had attacked the minority Buddhist community in the south-eastern town of Ramu, vandalised four temples and set ablaze several houses. Last year, the extremist Muslims again tried to attack the Buddhist community in Rangunia in the South-eastern part of the country following a dispute on the land on which a temple is built.
Asad Noor defended them and tried to save the Buddhists from another attack. Due to this, he became the target of the Islamists. But the unfortunate aspect of this episode is that, Ehsan Mahmood, the younger brother of the Information Minister Hasan Mahmood who is also the joint General Secretary of the ruling Awami League is actively involved in the attacks on the Buddhists and the harassment of the family if Asad Noor..Asad has alleged that Ehsan is involved in a plot to provoke the Islamists against him. For that purpose, a fake Facebook account had been created in the name of a Buddhist monk and anti-Islam propaganda material is posted on that account.
This shows that Ehsan Mahmood is influenced by the extremist ideology and is using his political connections to victimise not only minorities but also those who have defended them.
The harassment of Asad Noor and his family by the extremists and the Hasina government has been condemned by world human rights bodies. The South Asia Wing of Amnesty International has condemned their harassment. Christians of Bangladesh have also joined world human rights bodies to demand an end to the harassment of the parents of Asad Noor.
Shaikh Hasina should look into the extremist elements that have crept into her government and bureaucracy. She and her family have been a victim of this religious extremism and terrorism and the people of Bangladesh have paid a huge price for it. She has to purge her party and her government of the extremist elements before it's too late to save Bangladesh from another tragedy and from the ignominy of being branded anti-minority.
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