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Islamist Groups Are Spreading Lies — Black Propaganda — By Calling the Bloggers “Atheists”


‘Black Propaganda’: Is Blogging A Sin?

By Mahamudul Haque

APRIL 12, 2013

BLOGGERS in Bangladesh are facing “black propaganda” as some so-called Islamist groups have branded them “atheists” to win the political game of saving the accused war criminals. They have launched a propaganda campaign against the bloggers, utilising the lack of understanding of the concepts — blog, blogging and blogger — among general people who have no knowledge about social media. So, awareness of these terminologies among people could help stop “black propaganda” against the bloggers and may be even resolve the current political crisis. Before understanding these concepts we should know the history of propaganda.

The term propaganda, first used in 1622, was widely spread by Adolf Hitler in the ’30s. Hitler had appointed Joseph Goebbels as minister for propaganda in 1933. Goebbels did his job to gain political success, not intellectual depth. US theorists later identified three types of propaganda — black, white and gray. Black propaganda involves deliberate and strategic transmission of lies — its use was well illustrated by the Nazis. White propaganda involves intentional suppression of potentially harmful information and ideas, combined with deliberate promotion of positive information or ideas to distract attention from problematic events. Gray propaganda involves transmission of information and ideas which might or might not be false.

The so-called Islamist groups are spreading lies — black propaganda — by calling the bloggers “atheists” since the Gonjagoron Mancha had gained popularity and seemed to be a threat for Jamaat-e-Islami’s plan to foil the war crimes trials by any means. Jamaat-e-Islam and Islami Chhatra Shibir are disseminating lies with manipulated pictures using social media, including blogs and Facebook, and even traditional media, against the bloggers who join the Mancha.

A Bangla daily intensified the “black propaganda” through instigating religious sentiments involving slain blogger Ahmed Rajib Haidar who was killed on February 15. The propagandists are also doing the same against other bloggers who joined the Shahbagh movement. The groups also convinced a section of people, including women and children, to join attacks in Bogra. A report in The Daily Star on March 3 says: “It was all lies — outright and outrageous — but it worked. Jamaat’s propaganda machine used a photoshopped image of Delawar Hossain Sayedee’s face on the moon yesterday [March 2] to entice people to unleash a second wave of terror that killed at least 19 people in five districts.”

Temporally, the propagandists were successful in (i) creating violence involving some general people (ii) involving some other so-called Islamist groups, including Hefazat-e Islam, against Gonojagoron Mancha and bloggers. As a result, the government has made list of bloggers and arrested four of them, (iii) starting a movement by Hefazat-e Islam, which also placed a 13-point demand at a rally on April 6 including enactment of a law allowing exemplary punishment to “atheist bloggers,” and (iv) making Gonojagoron Mancha and blogging “controversial.”

This was possible because of strong propaganda and lack of knowledge of general people about blogging. If you introduce yourself as a blogger, social media illiterate people take you to be an atheist! Because of this, all bloggers are now facing such kind of trouble though they (Muslims bloggers) have full faith in the Almighty Allah and Islam.

Blogging is not a sin. The word “blog” is short form of weblog, which means log on the web for writing or posting what the person thinks or feels. And “blogging” means the actual act of creating or updating a blog with texts, photos, audios or videos or any other graphics. A blogger is a person who writes the blog, so, what’s the problem with being a blogger? Nothing, but we should consider what types of content a blogger posts on the web.

Like in other countries, different professionals, including propagandists, Islamic scholars, and self-proclaimed atheists write blogs in Bangladesh. When a new medium like blogs had not been introduced, people expressed their ideas through traditional media like newspapers.

Before introduction of blog, there were some self-proclaimed atheists but they did not have any open sources for writing. But now they have such open sources. So, blogging is not a practice of atheism and every blogger is not an atheist. It depends on what type of content is posted at a blog and whether it is hurting Islam or other religions.

But what are the ethics or rules of blogging? Actually, there is no state government code of conduct or ethics for a blogger in Bangladesh, but ethics of general writings or journalistic writings are taught in some university departments, including journalism. So, without enacting any new law or policy on blogging or online journalism, the government should formulate general writing ethics for blogging. Journalists follow some codes of conduct and ethics imposed by the state or the organisations concerned.

The propagandists should avoid the path of telling lies as such bad propaganda was finally defeated, as history shows. They should remember that blogging is not a sin but telling a lie is a sin and completely against Islam, which they use to win political games. On the other hand, bloggers should not hurt anybody or any religious community through blogging; rather they should follow general ethics of writing to avoid any reaction against it.

Mahamudul Haque is Senior Sub-editor, The Daily Star.