“Article 31 and Article 12 of the constitution of 1972 contained some provisions which strictly prohibited floating of political party based on religion and the use of religion for materisalising any political interest was banned. Unfortunately, these provisions were omitted from the constitution during the post 1975 period and the religion based politics started in the country” – Barrister Shafiq Ahmed
Passionate wave of progressive spirit appears to be hitting the bastions of religious parties. None other than the prime guard of constitution, honorable Law minister, seems to be leading the wave. We are yet to see his rhetoric turning into reality, but if that ever happens, only heaven knows who will stop the eventual chaos.
Banning of an ideology that is seen as a threat to civil norms is totally acceptable. It’s a much easier task when the idea is in its infancy. But when it has acquired enough support, a significant group of followers, and appeared to have gained enough “moderation” in its tune, banning and therefore a head on confrontation is no longer a good idea.
Almost every country that tried some sort of outright ban, especially in the context of religious parties, had to painfully admit their failure. Today’s Middle Eastern semi-despotic regimes are prime examples. Their attempts to ban the lunatic ideologues gave rise to such wave of fundamentalist violence that the very existence of these states is now questionable. Those Arab states that at once shined like the emerging beacons of secularism, socialism, and nationalism, (quite like us in 1971) were ruined into total anarchy and now lead by an immortal dictatorship.
Bangladesh’s experience with local religious demagogue has been mixed on the other hand. Curious mixture of Mullah, Military, Money and Modernity complicated the scene. Whilst most Islamic countries fell prey to puritan ideals, our mix and match combination with a light touch religiosity of the overall population never gave much political satisfaction to power hungry mullahs; until, of course, recently. Like others, we too are seemingly sliding down the scale, and at this historic point Bangladesh ought to take a political step that will decide her fate in years to come.
The sad fact of life is that where there is religion, there is follower and therefore there are sentiments which are easy to be manipulated. Yet, human mind, if given the right opportunity, time, understanding, and education have shown a profound likeness for liberal democracy that no fundamentalist religiosity can unset.
We have choice at hand. Do we allow them to run free, or choke them to death and therefore let them burst and cause chaos? I think the solution lies in the “third way”, tighter regulation and allowing the political discourse of ideological debate to linger.
For the last three decades, despite absence of democracy, sellers of heaven have not profited from the masses. In a sense their existence resulted in two contradictory outcomes. One is that it prevented a large scale conversion to destructive ideas and showed their policy failure to politically enlightened Bengali nation. The other a fringe minority that felt they failed to rule by God’s thoughts have now lost their minds and following their brethren up in the SWAT hills. It is this small minority that needs to be choked. As for the “bigger” and more diluted followers, keep them keen and keep them mean in the democratic political discourse. They will swallow their eventual demise.
About the author:
Chowdhoury Mohibul Hassan Nowfel is a graduate of London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in Anthropology and Law. He is also a qualified Barrister/Lawyer from the Honorable Society of Lincolns Inn through the College of Law London.