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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

[mukto-mona] Re: Humanism must mean more than Islamic solidarity through selective outrage

Good observation! The phenomenon is not getting unnoticed in the non-Muslim world. If Muslims think they can get away with being cruel to their minorities, they too would be facing the very similar music as it has been observed with Muslim  migrants and refugees in the west and beyond. The attitude towards Muslims would be poisoned and hardened. No good deed would go unpunished!

On Tue, May 2, 2017 at 11:45 AM, Jamal Hasan <> wrote:

Humanism must mean more than Islamic solidarity through selective outrage

Some articles make a lasting impression on the readers. Riaz Osmani's article in News from Bangladesh ("Why is the Muslim World Silent?" August 28, 1998) is one of them. The writer has drawn the readers' attention to the disturbing silence in most Muslim countries when it comes to condemning terrorism perpetrated by criminal outfits in the name of Islam. Osmani's voice was a lonely one as he broached a tabooed topic and proceeded to call a spade a spade.

It is a matter of deep regret that the currently dominant political philosophy in the Islamic world has its roots firmly implanted in an 'Us' versus 'Them' point of view. Reactionary victimology has emerged as the guiding political philosophy. Injustice, whether actual or perceived, to any group of Muslims anywhere in the world draws instant outrage in Muslim countries around the world irrespective of the merit of the case in hand. Rational thinking, far too often, takes the back seat to emotional outbursts and even senseless violence.

History is replete with examples of nations with citizens of diverse religious background. Many of them in the Third World had to fight an uphill battle to earn their independence. It is indeed tragic that many a liberation movement in Third World countries have been hobbled by sharp polarisation along religious lines. The Kashmir movement is a good example.

Not too long ago, it was secular Kashmiriyat that used to define the nationalistic aspirations of the people of this beautiful land. Today, the uprising has degenerated into an exclusivist movement where to be a Kashmiri is to be a Muslim. Non-Muslims have no place in the way Kashmiriyat is being defined today. More than three lakh Pundits from the Kashmir Valley have been expelled from their ancestral land. The secular and eclectic character of Kashmir seems damaged for good.

The Palestinian movement is an example of a national movement that has both a secular and a religious undertone. It is the secular strand of Palestinian nationalism that is best exemplified by Christian–Palestinian activists like Edward Said or Hannan Ashrawi. The Islamic essence of the movement, on the other hand, is manifest from the support it draws from all Islamic countries and their organising body, the OIC.

If Kashmiris or Palestinians had not been perceived as predominantly Islamic people, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) would not have bothered to voice its support for their struggle. In other words, the OIC's humanistic agenda is selective. Religion is its primary determinant. In his article, Osmani has attempted to challenge this selectivity that dominates the thinking in the Islamic world.

The concept of a common nationality under a Muslim Ummah got a chance to prove itself in the Indian subcontinent in 1947. Unlike Palestinian nationalism, Islamic nationalism in the subcontinent was fundamentally centred on religion. By 1947, the elusive concept of Islamic nationhood had mercilessly steam-rolled the aspirations of individual ethnic groups with common cultural and linguistic bonds. A Gujarati or a Keralite Muslim settled in Karachi was expected to wipe out every vestige of his ancestral homeland. Palestinian Muslims, on the other hand, even after decades in exile in places like Kuwait, Abu Dhabi or Libya have not only retained their ethnic cultural mores but have passed them on to the new generation.

It goes without saying that Arab nationalism or Palestinian nationalism in the Arab world and Muslim nationalism in the Indian subcontinent have evolved under different historical settings. Arabs are predominantly Muslims while the majority of the Indians of South Asia are Hindus. The Muslim minority in the subcontinent became alarmed about their future as the Hindus first caught up and then seemed to surpass them socially, educationally and economically. The perceived loss of their competitive edge vis–à–vis the Hindus may have egged on the Muslims to take the separatist route in an attempt to level the playing field.

Consequently, religious identity, rather than ethnic and cultural identity, took the lead role in defining the political dynamics of the subcontinent. Religious zealotry was understandable under the circumstances, but its fallout was inevitably tragic and disastrous. Pakistan seems hopelessly stuck in a religious quagmire with no relief in sight for its hapless citizens.

Since the very inception of Pakistan, Bengali Muslims were treated like social outcasts. This is quite ironical in view of the fact that Pakistan could never have seen the light of day without the participation of Bengali Muslims in the Pakistan movement. Nevertheless, when Pakistan came into being, it was its western wing that emerged as the power centre of the nascent country. The power brokers pointedly ignored the ethno–regional aspirations of the eastern wing.

The Pakistan that came into being in 1947 was a disparate union of peoples who were, culturally and linguistically, so far apart that the newly engineered country showed every symptom of a dysfunctional family. Bengalis were used and abused mercilessly for the next 24 years by the ruling elite moored in the western wing. Pakistan did its best to maintain a facade of unity and religious brotherhood as it sought the limelight on the world stage as the largest Islamic nation of the world.

Bengali Muslims had joined the Pakistan movement in the hope of ending the class exploitation of the zamindars who were predominantly Hindus. They had hoped to break into the ranks of the middle class that too had been largely Hindu. Bengali Muslims had imagined Pakistan to be the Promised Land where they would attain the fulfilment that had eluded them in a Hindu–dominated society.

The aspirations of the Bengali Muslims, though seemingly communal, were moulded essentially by their class aspirations. That is why it never occurred to the Bengali Muslims, as a community, that they must cleanse their land of Hindus who had stayed back in East Pakistan even after 1947. Bengali Muslims signalled their willingness to cohabit the land with their Hindu neighbours as soon as the stranglehold of feudal and middle class Hindus was loosened.

This was the very antithesis of what happened in the western wing where the driving force in the aftermath of the partition was communal rather than class aspirations. Not surprisingly, West Pakistan was cleansed of Hindus and Sikhs in a matter of months, nay, weeks after the partition.

Bengali Muslims realised with the dawn of Pakistan in 1947 that they have been thrown from the frying pan into the fire. Bengalis found themselves playing the second fiddle in a nation where they were the majority. The ruling elite from the west was using religion as a pretext to force traditional Bengali culture to take the back seat. The comparatively fair–complexioned west Pakistanis made no attempt to hide their racial prejudice and contempt for the darker–skinned Bengalis. The Bengalis felt no better than South African blacks under apartheid.

The Pakistani ruling oligarchy seemed confidant that its shenanigans in the guise of Islam would prove effective to exploit the Bengali Muslims for a long time to come. But Bengali nationalism could not be held at bay forever. The liberation war of 1971 was the bloody culmination of a movement that had sought equality and justice for the Bengalis from the very first days of Jinnah's Pakistan. The metamorphosis of the Pakistan movement into the Bangladesh movement brought a breathtaking change in the Gangetic delta. The Pakistan movement in Bengal was a movement exclusively by the Bengali Muslims. The Bangladesh liberation struggle, in stark contrast, attracted support of all Bengalis, irrespective of their religious faith.

Hindus, Christians and Buddhists joined hands with their Muslim brothers to liberate their land of birth from the clutches of the marauding army. The enormous sacrifice of the religious minorities for the cause of Bangladesh has bound their future with the destiny of this nation forever. The uniqueness of the genesis of Bangladesh shows beyond doubt that Bangladesh is, by no means, a logical follow up to the Pakistan movement even though some revisionist historians like to claim so.

Pakistan, although highly dysfunctional from its very birth, managed to maintain a facade of normality for the Islamic world. United Pakistan was the largest Islamic country on earth and many a Muslim country envied its apparent prosperity and military might. This allowed the ruling oligarchy to misrepresent the nature of the 1971 crisis to the Islamic world as a Hindu conspiracy against Islam. Not surprisingly, practically no Muslim nation was willing to speak up for the Bengalis through much of 1971.

The genocide of the Bengalis, Muslims and non–Muslims alike, simply failed to register on the collective conscience of the Islamic world. To add insult to injury, some Arab countries like Saudi Arabia were adamantly in favour of Pakistan's "territorial integrity". Arab nationalism, Iranian nationalism or Palestinian nationalism has no quarrel with Islam. Neither has Bengali nationalism. But Pakistan's subterfuge effectively reduced the issue of self-determination of the Bengalis into an issue of preserving "Islamic" Pakistan's territorial integrity in the face of incessant hostility of predatory Hindu India.

No Muslim country seemed perturbed by the wanton murder of innocent people and the rape of Bengali women by Pakistani soldiers. All news on the horrendous crimes against humanity was quickly dismissed in the Arab world as "hegemonistic Hindu India's grand design of dismembering brotherly Islamic Republic of Pakistan".

It is a sad reality that there are some Bengali Muslims who even today share such a worldview with their Pakistani "brothers". To these men, it wouldn't have mattered in the least if the nine–month–long armed struggle had prolonged into a nine–year war with casualties exceeding 30 million Bengali civilians. These black sheep among the Bengalis would have continued to rationalise the crimes of the fascist Pakistani junta. They would never have allowed their hearts and heads to prevail over a mindset that is outraged very selectively. Tell them that it is a "Hindu plot" and they would gladly condone the genocide of their compatriots in the cause of "Islamic" solidarity.

To religionists, the Bangladesh liberation movement was an affront to the concept of Muslim Ummah. It is viewed as a setback for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Their political philosophy is based on an unshakeable faith in the premise that Pakistan and Islam are synonymous and inseparable. In their eyes, Pakistan is the beginning and end of Islam. Anything that earns the disapproval of Pakistan's ruling oligarchy is quickly dismissed as un–Islamic.

Unfortunately, after the emergence of Bangladesh, there was no effort to acquaint the traditional religionists of the country with its nationalistic and cultural ethos. Even after 1972, mosques and madrassas continued to be in the hands of religious leaders or administrators whose thought process had not evolved beyond the days of pre–1947 philosophy in spite of the epoch making events since then. Regrettably, Islam–based politics in Bangladesh, more often then not, finds expression in a shameless tilt toward Pakistan which, to this day, refuses to apologise for the crimes of 1971.

The Gulf War brought to the open many a hypocrisy that religionists had chosen to ignore or hide for so long. It showed up the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia for what it is. It took a Saudi Grand Mufti to legitimise the presence of Jewish and Christian American soldiers on Saudi soil. Saudi rulers were all too aware that the interests of the kingdom and the ruling dynasty must take precedence under all circumstances, especially when they are threatened by the ambitions of a "brotherly" Muslim, Arab country. During the Gulf war mosques in Saudi Arabia became centres for anti–Saddam propaganda. Mosques in Iraq, not surprisingly, became platforms of anti-Saudi and anti–US rhetoric.

Bengali Muslims have consistently shown solidarity with the politically oppressed Muslims of the world. They have been firm supporters of the Khilafat Movement, the Palestinian quest for nationhood, the Afghanistan resistance and now the movement in Kashmir. Bengali volunteers for Palestinian cause have languished in Israeli jails. After prayers every Friday, Bengali Muslims in Dhaka, Jessore, Kaliganj and Kishoreganj pray for Kashmiris, Bosnians, Chechnyans and Palestinians. And, yet, there wasn't a Muslim nation that stood by the Bengalis in their hour of need in 1971.

Humanity is much more than religious solidarity through selective outrage. I think, for the sake of humanity, the Muslim world owes the Bengalis a big apology.

Jamal Hasan
(The writer is based in the USA).

Whose right is it anyway? Humanism must mean more than Islamic solidarity through selective outrage. Some articles make a lasting impression on the readers.


Posted by: DeEldar <>

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               -Beatrice Hall [pseudonym: S.G. Tallentyre], 190