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Jamaat-e-Islami’s hartal call has offended many, some of them are offended just because it’s Jamaat-e-Islami. This is understandable as this is the party that stood against Bangladesh at birth and played a role against its coming into being. Many now argue that it all happened a long ago and we should forget it but when a war crimes tribunal is on — no matter how it looks — the past is very much about today. The Jamaat-BNP alliance is a fact of life as well and it relates to the political life of the AL too. But these are political matters and has little to do with the angst we feel at the state of things now. If the BNP thinks that supporting Jamaat is a matter of survival and the AL thinks that this will kill Jamaat forever and hobble the BNP, we identify a major weakness of the parties which is excluding people from the political equations they form.

* * *

It really makes little sense to condemn Jamaat-e-Islami because there is no reason for it to live amongst us. They fought against the independence of Bangladesh and stood in favour of Pakistan. This should be enough to reject them from the political scene forever. However, they are not only active but have become a contestant in the political scene. If common sense, commonly held ideas about political governance and common decency prevailed, we would not have this situation. But Jamaat-e-Islami was able to beat this rap because of our political mess. It was Zia, the military ruler, who took over after a series of coup and decided to allow Jamaat back to power. Nothing was more cynical than this decision but politics in Bangladesh has already built up a long track record of cynicism. The foundation for such a political act was the one-party rule system. It was extremely unpopular and the people who didn’t support this Jamaat-e-Islami entry move may well have thought this was the price they had to pay to get back the flawed, useless, fractured system called multi-party management but not necessarily democracy.

We deserved neither.

* * *

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

But the December hartal doesn’t come in isolation and is the last incident/event in a long series of protest moves made by the Jamaat. This is of course linked to the War Crimes Tribunal that seems well set to deliver a verdict that may send several party members away in one form or the other. It will be a severe blow to the party and they are obviously reacting because it may mean depletion and destruction of their political existence but the main victim of such acts could well be the BNP, the party that originally made them legitimate in politics.

If Jamaat has been able to survive and flourish in Bangladesh, it’s because of a political feud that makes no sense to anyone. And Jamaat has taken full advantage of that.

One can’t blame Jamaat, a party of fanatics, for trying everything but it’s the decline of the political system that makes this happen. Jamaat should be blamed and accused but they are only partly to be blamed. The real blame is on the failed political system.

* * *

The reason why Bangladesh can’t manufacture functional politics may lie in its history where people never learnt to behave as a political nation that shares common goals. Each failed phase — whether one-party rule or military autocracy or mixed menus, etc. — have simply not worked. When the three organs of the state are hobbled by lack of institutional growth, the question that begs asking is largely about the nature of the state itself.

In the last 40 years, records show that the quality of our elections is improving but the impact of the legislature is going down. In fact it’s non-existent because in the last 12 years, the two parties have rarely sat together making parliament based governance a matter of wishful thinking or a joke. Why have a parliament that does not function as a legislature?

The judiciary doesn’t enjoy much public confidence as so many reports, anecdotes and research have shown. Most people would rather not go to the courts for any matter. It is not the sterling guardian of civil rights as it was once thought of as and even if that is a public perception, it’s a perception that can’t be ignored. The physical capacity of the judiciary is also limited as it can deal with only 20% of the total cases that reach the judicial service seeking stage.

The less said about the executive the better.

* * *

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File Photo

These are the official state organs but because the governmental part of the state is so weak the informal part of the same has become stronger. Ordinary people are stronger knowing that they rarely get support and services where a strange set of two state identities seem to live together under one flag. The official of course claims all the credit and by default gets all the blame, the unofficial survives by foraging and patching. But the formal state needs politics to survive which is why even when they defy all logic, we have the politics of the kind we have. It has little to do with us, the people.

* * *

We support the ban of Jamaat-e-Islami because it has no space in our country. Since we can’t have any claim on the state, let’s look at the civil space and ask if Bangladesh and Jamaat can live together. According to us, this party can never be trusted because of what it did in 1971 so it should leave the political scene. It was banned once, why not again? Let’s ask the lawyers how it can be done and maybe they can come up with something. At least let’s try.

Many argue that this will cause Jamaat-e-Islami to go underground and commit acts of violence. Excuse me, but what have they been doing since the trials begun? We have actually cast our lot when the trial began and we may have to live with that. So let’s do it in a way that makes sense.

* * *

In all this, the BNP actually has a chance of redeeming itself. It can distance itself from the Jamaat and almost certainly will become more popular than they think is possible. People really don’t think the BNP and the AL are any different but it’s the Jamaat-e-Islami connection that keeps the BNP at bay. If opportunistic cynicism made it support Jamaat-e-Islami at birth, the same sense of opportunism should make it junk it now.

Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

26 Responses to “Jamaat-e-Islami: Old crimes, new war”

  1. Dr. Sumaiya Rahman

    Certainly, this is good article, captured the reality of Bangladesh. Political alliance is not a new phenomena in Bangladesh. However, please give us a comparative cost-benefit analysis of Jamat’s alliance with BAL and BNP. That might help us to broaden and deepen our insight into the politics of Bangladesh. Any anti-state and anti-welfare activity by any one or any party should be under trail.

    In my opinion, The Father of the Nation, Bango Bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had a dream to build a nation deeply rooted into the welfare of the people. But what we see nowadays in and around us? Does the present situation corroborate and compatible with the sprite of freedom, independence and welfare of the people. We need an Independent Bangladesh, not heavily rely on neighbors and international alliances. We have plenty of sunshine, fertile land, rivers & canals, and human resources to build a welfare state. If we stand together, we will win. If we split, we will ruin. Let us move forward with knowledge, skill, love, affection and dream for the country. Best wishes.

  2. Ziauddin

    Calling to ban Jammat is absolutely ridiculous, stubborn and just like living in a fool’s paradise. Comparing among BNP, AL, JP … Jamatis are the most organized and disciplined political party. They could have been more appealing but these idiots have war criminals as their leaders, which I think hindered their progress as one of the major political parties. And moreover young Jamatis should comply with current sentiment of ordinary people.

  3. SMO Nawed

    Salaam to all,

    I had a few queries if the author could share thoughts:

    1. What was Ghulam Azam’s role as a student of Bangla during the Language Movement in 1952?

    2. Which is larger (a) Koko made 13 crores (b) Abul Hasan….

    3. On a hypothetical situation, if you were studying outside the country and Army kills your parents; how would you react if you’re a human being and not an angel?

    4. Where is Mr Engr Mosharraf Hossain, a listed Rajakar and Putul’s (PM’s daughter) father-in-law, who’s family was involved with the Peace Committee?

    5. If there is no basic difference between Awami League and BNP in morality, who would you recommend voting for? BAL is not an option.

  4. Shahed

    An unbelievably weak article from a person of Afsan Chowdhury stature.

    This article is weak, hasty, factually incorrect, morally sub par.

    I like to point out at least one of many historical and logical inaccuracies of this piece.

    Ziaur Rahman did not rehabilitate party Jamaat-e-Islami. In fact during Zia’s period, Jamaat was never allowed to be registered as a party. Muslim league and Jamaat leaders ( who were already living in Bangladesh as free man from before 15th August) gathered under Islamic Democratic League ( IDL) when multiparty democracy was restored by Zia. It was Ershad regime when Jamaat started doing politics in it’s name and symbol. 1986 parliamentary election is the first election Jamaat participated along with ershad’s Jatiyo Party and Awami League. BNP boycotted that election.

  5. Shaikh Rizu

    When Jamat do something or go with BNP, they are called war criminals. But when AL & Chatra League do much nasty thing, then author, “Where do you stay?”

    • Didar

      BNP and AL are two sides of the same coin. And the writer did talk about that. The topic of the article however is not AL or BNP or how bad they are. We all know that these two parties are responsible for almost all our miseries. But that is besides the point, at least as regards this article.

      This article talks about Jamaat-e-Islami and its role in 1971 and why this party cannot and should not exist in Bangladesh, given the fact that the party opposed the very existence of the country where it is practicing politics at the moment. Please read the article first and then comment.

      You might have a millions of complaints against AL, we all do — against AL as well as against BNP. But do not, for your and your children’s sake, support Jamaat — a fanatical, anti-Bangladesh, extremist religious party. Just refresh your memory and recall what terror JMB and Bangla Bhai unleashed in our country not so long ago. Jamaat is a million times worse thatnJMB. And amidst our bickering over AL and BNP, we are just making Jamaat more and more powerful.

      We will have to pay dearly for our foolishness one day. Take my word for it.

  6. A.Motin

    When Jamaat-e-Islam allied with Awami League, they are freedom fighters. But when Jamaat allied with BNP, they are war criminals? This is how our nasty politics is.

    We have seen Sheikh Hasina eating sweets Moulana Nizami sometime between 91-96 when AL had alliance with Jamaat. During that time Nizami and Jamaat were not war criminals.

    Mr. Writer please don’t run your nasty agenda. Come and work together to build up our motherland Bangladesh.

    A. Motin

    • Anwar Azim

      When Jamaat-e-Islami allied with AL, they were not freedom fighters. When Jamaat became allies of BNP, they were still not freedom fighters. They are war criminals and will remain war criminals even if each and every other political party allies with Jamaat. AL as well as BNP has done something absolutely heinous by allowing Jamaat to allow and exist on our soil.

      Afsan Chowdhury has not run any nasty agenda Mr A. Motin, you are. You are trying to overshadow Afsan Chowdhury’s most valid point i.e. banning Jamaat-e-Islami from Bangladesh. By arguing about AL and BNP and its dirty politics, you are stalling a most important and pertinent topic. And this makes quite clear which side you are on and what your agenda is.

      • SMO Nawed

        The MOST important topic should be “Who are we voting for” and definitely it’s NOT “How many crores we spent on the International Crime Tribunal”.

        History won’t change and we won’t forget. We need to focus on the next election. There will be a lot more articles like this to get Islam out of the scene so that media can run semi-nudity without any problem. However, I’m worried about the expansion of media when I see most educated female groups of the country from Dhaka University, BUET, NSU, IBA and BRAC are gradually converting into wearing Hijaab – much higher in proportion than even 3 years back.

        I guess, the demarketing of Islam through the shameless act of the government has actually proven worth on establishing the true messages of Islam. Let me share an example: if the question papers were not too hard for IBA admissions, the interest among students would have been lower. Same goes for NSU and BRAC at the private label. That’s what you call demarketing which actually earns more respect towards the brand/institution.

        Now that people know it’s harder to follow proper Islam, people are taking up the challenge to be a part of the respected society.

        Coming back to the point, I would say, banning Jamaat won’t solve anything. Rather, the proven crimes shall get executed as soon as possible. As we all keep saying that BAL and BNP are two sides of the same coin; I guess we’re also agreeing that we need a third force with a clearer objective.

        So, ask yourself “Who are you voting for?”

  7. mansoor

    A countable portion of the population doesn’t support the ban on this party. In 1972 ban on this party couldn’t stop its propagation. So nobody can ignore that Jamaat has at least 10% supporters in this country , moreover it has dominating influence over the election. This argument justifies following important events: Awami League won in 1996 election due to isolation of Jamaat from BNP, In 1991 BNP won the majority to form the govt due to support from Jamaat and also in 2001. In 1991 Awami Leageue tried their level best to get support from Jamaat to form govt though it was not possible on the part of AL to form the govt due to lack of attaining 151 seats in parliament.

    Can banning Jamaat stop their activities? Not at all, because lakhs of mosques are spread over the country, they have the safe place to contact, exchange views, have small sittings, exchange books, booklet and leaflets. 100% possibility is the afterwards reaction. These are 1) they will form a party like Justice or Salvation Party, 2) They will go underground, and everybody knows people are fond of those goods which are ‘strictly prohibited’, 3) The Muslim world and also democratic world will not give us value as democratic country anymore. 4) Suadi Arab and other Muslim countries will not count us as friendly.

    So who advises AL to impose ban on Jamaat? Their approach is not realistic at all.

    • A K Saker Shaon

      Where did you learn that “a countable portion of the population doesn’t support ban on this party”? Have you done any survey? Is there any data to support your point? If there is any data, then by all means submit it here. Or else just take your dirty campaign somewhere else.

      Then let me come to the next part of your comment. First and foremost Jamaat must be banned. Yes there are lakhs of mosques spread all over the country, but why do you think that the Musullihs who visit these mosques are all Jamaat supporters? Jamaat is not synonymous to Islam! Or do you think otherwise?

      If after they are banned they do form a party like Salvation Party, then that needs to be contained. The law enforcers will have tackle them as per rule of law. If they go underground and carry out terror attacks then they need to be brought to justice.

      And what do you mean by the Muslim world will not value us democratically? By accommodating Jamaat, a fanatic group of war criminals, we become democratic? I would like to know what is the definition of democracy in your dictionary.

      We all know that the biggest strength of Jamaat is they are very organised and their campaign strategy is top class. But that doesn’t make their agenda or their existence valid a tiny bit. Their agenda is ugly and dark, and we the saner and enlightened people of this country will resist them with utmost strength. Just because we have remained quiet and seen our politicians, both from AL and BNP, play their dirty games of allying with Jamaat to attain their dirty goals, don’t mean that we support them in any way. We condemn AL and we condemn BNP for seeking Jamaat as their partner in politics. But people like me, Afsan Chowdhury and million more who are neither Awami Leaguer nor BNP supporters say this here, on this platform that WE DEMAND BAN ON JAMAAT! WE WANT THEM OUT OF THIS COUNTRY!

      • sajjad

        It is dangerous to demand exclusion of any political party on the basis that it did not want East Pakistan to be Bangladesh. In a war, opposing forces are the basic elements, else war won’t be required. After the war, the winners must accept that the war is over.

        The elements that are working to divide the people into two classes: Pro Bangladesh & Anti Bangladesh, based on the war of 1971,are truly the destructive elements.
        Jamaat is not one person, and your wishes will not get them of this country.

        I do not care for Jamaat, I simply want that a multi-party system must exist for Bangladesh to be a democracy.

      • SMO Nawed

        Just as I write, Mr Mansoor has 2 likes and your comment has 1 like. Start on the survey, you’ll earn your hint, SIR 😀

  8. mahadi

    Let us all hope to end the issue of war criminals by punishing them for their misdeeds. Let us all hope to bring those to justice who signed “SHIMLA PACT” to ensure the safety of those criminals whose crimes were outrageous. Why do we have to wait for 50 years to condemn these criminals? Who are those people that ensured safe return of these criminals into politics? Awami League, BNP should be punished for what they have done.

    • CCU

      Yes AL and BNP should be punished and condemned for allowing Jamaat to do politics in Bangladesh. These politicians are mean and selfish lot. But for their crime why would we suffer? Why would we show disrespect to the millions of freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives and who are still living by allowing Jamaat to continue to exist.

      Please people, focus! Please see what Jamaat activists are doing. They are trying to shift your attention from them to the politicians and their crimes. Let’s not be swayed by their dirty tricks. Please! Let’s get united and fight the snake a.k.a. Jamaat-e-Islami.

  9. Mature

    Why no photo with Awami League leaders with Jamaat. Don’t try to dupe the people Mr Editor. People are unbiased. You are not.

    • CCU

      Yes there could have been a photo used showing AL leaders with Jamaat leaders. The editor could have definitely used a photo like that. But the first and foremost task is uprooting Jamaat. We owe it to our Muktijodhyas and our younger generation.

      And please don’t think that i’m an Awami Leaguer. I am neither AL nor BNP. In the last election, I gave “No Vote”. I know that makes me somewhat an escapist but I couldn’t decide who to vote given the fact that AL and BNP is one party with different names. But one thing I know for sure is Jamaat doesn’t have any right to exist in our country. It must be banned. The sooner we take this decision, the better.

  10. Golam Arshad

    Afsan: The political system and its weird practice is in limbo. The country is divided, and the Prime Minister is solely responsible. She hays her political mileage in the diktat of Pro Liberation and the Anti Liberation enigma. Where is the Will to act to make Democracy functional, the Democratic Institutions are fractured, bleeding and the pitch of emotion heating up “Tui Razakar” and the Nation pays for this Teutonic wrangle. Good job keep up your good work.

    • Nakib Haider

      “Tui Razakar” causes massive itch I see. Well, the PM is not the only one who wants to point to the fracture. Add me to the list too. And keep room for many, many more in that list. Fact of the matter is, there EXISTS a massive fracture. Sorry, I can’t include war criminals and pro-talibans in my list of possible candidates for running my country. Apparently, some do. To those amazing individuals I say, no need to hide and/or troll the internet. Come out and discuss your position clearly. Show your true colors. Don’t be shy, after all, nobody ever heard of any conservative being attacked for expressing their views in Bangladesh.

      Political debate won’t save war criminals though. It doesn’t make anyone a smaller human to admit that the war crime tribunal is worthy of getting our support. I thank the government for this, if not for anything else.

      I also thank Afsan Chowdhury for this article.

      • Golam Arshad

        Thank you my distinguish friend. This is I call, a classic “Doosra” in reverse tune. My friend, saving War Criminal is not the issue, Dividing the NATION is the poignant factor. Keep on batting on a turning turf and wait for that “Curve” that swings to take the Middle Stump. I always draw analogy from the Glorious game of Cricket You are the SKIPPER go on skipping and the darn good time of CHANGE will be a relief for you, All and me. Good shot and Thank you again! Afsan is a good friend, and he writes the brushing lines in truth and faith. How about that my friend

  11. aburuqaya

    Dear Sir: I have read few of your articles in the past, it was in my mind that you are one of those writers who oppose Jamaat with a moral value and also honest. This article really makes me sad. It is not that it was against Jamaat but to see that you are way below than I thought in moral standard!

    You blame Zia, but you did not blame Mujib who had forgiven the Razakaars. You blame BNP, but you did not blame Awami League when they allied with Jamaat in 1996, when they sent there president candidate to Golam Azam for support, I remember it was some time in 1992 or 93 — a group of top leader from Awami league met with Jamaat and appreciated Jamaat’s role in anti-Ershad movement pledged to forget the past and work together for democracy. Lat Abdul Samad Azad was one of the group members. How am I going to forget all of these? Did you forget! So please don’t give up your moral value.

    • Khalid Ibne Masum

      Ban on Jamat is absolute. This kind of virus can no longer exist in an independent Bangladesh. Those who oppose this fact are sleeping with their eyes open. Jamat does not believe in the birth of our motherland and our constitution. This “political” party is one of the biggest hypocrites in the world. Dear author, i thank you for this article.

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