Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Few months back, when an eminent jurist and newspaper editor Barrister Moinul Hussain passed an offensive remark on a female columnist and later sought apology and withdrew his remark, the women rights activists and groups in Bangladesh went mad with the agenda of somehow sending this senior jurist and journalist into prison. Even there had been clear signal from the government calling upon people to sue Barrister Moinul Hussain. As a result, there were extreme enthusiasms in lodging cases against him for “insulting” a female columnist, and finally he ended up in jail. Lower courts too had no mercy for Barrister Moinul for the reason; unfortunately those courts are not out of influence from the executive branch. According to latest information, apex court has granted bail to Barrister Moinul and also froze proceedings into those series of cases. Interestingly, that female columnist had filled just one case while the over-enthusiastic “women rights activists” around Bangladesh almost competed in lodging series of cases for the same “crime” committed by this senior journalist and newspaper editor. It seemed like just because of his slip of tongue, Barrister Moinul had turned into the greatest villain in Bangladesh. It should be mentioned here that, Moinul Hussain is known as a critic of the ruling party.
Pro-Caliphate mullah enjoys clemency?
On January 11, 2019, head of Hefazat e Islam, Shah Ahmed Shafi, a 95-year-old radical Islamist, who also runs a madrassa named Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam madrasa in Chattogram district, during a gathering of pro-Caliphate Hefazat E Islam (HEI) had asked the guardians to refrain from sending their children to schools and colleges. He said parents may let their daughters study up to grade five so that the girls can keep a tab on their husband’s finances and write letters to their husband.
Hefazat kingpin Shafi said, “Don’t send your daughters to school, college. You may let them study up to grade four or five so that they can keep track of their husband’s money and write letters to their husband.”
He further said, “But if you let your daughter study a lot, she will not be your daughter any more after some days. Someone else will take her away as you’ve seen in newspaper reports what happens to the girls who study grades [higher than grade V].”
He then made the audience make the promise of growing beard, forcing girls and women to put on hijad, niqab and burqa etc.
Shafi also is the head of the Al-Hiyatul Ulya Lil-Zami’atil Qawmiya Bangladesh, the highest organization of Dawra-e-Hadith of the Qawmi madrasa.
Hefazat e Islam made global headlines in 2013 when its members carried out mayhem in Dhaka city after calling a rally demanding establishment of Caliphate in Bangladesh.
Ali Riaz a distinguished professor of political science at the Illinois State University, USA, commenting on Hefazat e Islam kingpin’s remarks wrote, “One can take comfort in the fact that this shocking plea will have no bearing on most of the citizens as they will continue to send their children to schools, and the government will not bother going down the road of changing its policy. But one should neither ignore what these kinds of positions imply nor be oblivious to the fact that there is a political dimension to it.”
Surprisingly, none of those women rights activists or groups felt any necessity of suing this pro-Caliphate mullah for his extremely dangerous remarks against the girls. Few of them only went for some minor protests which against can only be seen as an eye-wash.
What stopped those women rights activists and groups from lodging dozens if not hundreds of cases against Shah Ahmed Shafi throughout Bangladesh? Is it because of Hefazat’s current warm relations with the ruling party? Each and every women rights activists and organizations in Bangladesh should be ashamed of their silence in bringing Shah Ahmed Shafi to the courts of law and even compelling the government in sending him to the jail. This double standard of those women rights activists and groups clearly prove – Barrister Moinul Hussain has been a victim of political vindictiveness and some sycophants of the ruling elites.
What is Hefazat E Islam?
Ideologically there is no difference between Hefazat-E-Islam (HEI) and Islamic State (ISIS) as both the groups denounce democracy and promotes the idea of establishing Caliphate. But, considering the size of the supporters and activists of these groups, HEI may ultimately emerge as a much greater threat to regional and global security, because, according to statistics, Hei has almost four million supporters and activists from the Qawmi madrassas. On May 5, 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam held a rally in Dhaka, which was attended by at least half-a-million HEI men. From that rally, leader of this group, Shah Ahmed Shafi has demanded establishment of Caliphate in Bangladesh.
Hefazat-e-Islam was formed in 2010, as a pressure group comprising the teachers of several madrassa at Chattogram, Bangladesh.The formation was allegedly triggered by the 2009 “Women Development Policy” draft. On February 24, 2010, Hefazat wanted to hold a rally in the port city of Chattogram to protest the government’s move to slap a ban on religion-based politics, cancellation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, and a proposed education policy that would have ended madrasah education. The police refused their request to hold a rally.
Although The Economist claimed HeI to have been financed by doctrinaire Islamists in Saudi Arabia, in reality it has funding from several Afro-Arab sources.
Since 2014 though the ruling Awami League government has been allegimg that Hefazat is a front for Jamaat-e-Islami and seeks to derail the International tribunals for the war crimes committed in 1971, surprisingly in 2018, Awami League had embraced HeI as its ally and even had implemented few of the demands pressed by this extremist group, which went against the secularist spirits of Bangladesh.
Maulana Habibur Rahman, a madrasa principal of Sylet and one of the organizers of Hefazat-e Islam’s May 5, 2013 protest, claimed that he met Osama Bin Laden, with members of the banned militant organization Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami, in 1998.
The then German ambassador in Bangladesh Albrecht Conze opined that HEI demands fundamentalism in Bangladesh.
Hefazat E Islam getting stronger in Bangladesh:
According to media reports, a secularist Awami League has embraced a radical Islamist group like Hefazat-e-Islam as its ally and even had gone further by recognizing Qawmi madrassa degrees equivalent to college and university degrees, thus opening the doors of scope for these radicalized madrassa students in entering the civil and military administration.
Awami League’s warmth towards Islamic fundamentalist Hefazat-e-Islam has raised eyebrows among a section of the liberals in Bangladesh. And such elements are not off the mark. Their argument is the same that Hefazat, perceived to be a diehard communal outfit with its hate actions in 2013 silencing liberals and abetting terror, perpetrated through hate crimes, has now tied up with the Awami League.
Commenting on Hefazat e Islam, English newspaper the Dhaka Tribune wrote: “The radical group also scored a victory when PM Hasina recognized top Qawmi madrasa degree Dawrah-e-Hadith as equivalent to post-graduate degrees, attracting protests from many secular-leaning organizations and individuals.”
In a report titled ‘Bangladesh’s radical Muslims uniting behind Hefazat-e-Islam’, the Guardian quoting a leader of the organization wrote, “Hefazat had previously kept a low profile.”It represents poor people, with little education, mainly country folk, who have always been despised by the urban middle classes. There is nothing transnational or terrorist about the movement, but it may become more radical if it is sidelined,” says Farhad Mazhar, a political commentator. Hefazat enjoys the support of millions of believers, thanks to the control it exerts over the vast majority of Qur’anic schools in Bangladesh. “Our schools train the best imams. About a quarter of them then leave for the Gulf States, the United Kingdom or the United States, and they support us financially,” says Habib Ullah, the movement’s deputy-general-secretary.”
It may be mentioned here that the members of HeI support radical Islamic militancy groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah etc, while many are affiliated with these groups.
Pro-Caliphate madrassa men entering the West:
From the above statement of the deputy-general-secretary of HEI it is evidently proved that the members of this antisemitic radical Islamic group are entering the Western nations including the United Kingdom and the United States. This certainly is disturbing news as these radical teachers can preach radical Islam in the West and also radicalize local Muslims and provoke them towards militancy.
Islamizing the text books:
At the pressure of Hefazat E Islam, Bangladesh government in 2017 had removed “un-Islamic” contents from the school and college text books. Earlier on April 8, 2016, Hefazat-e-Islam objected that Muslim children “being made to read atheism and Hinduism” supporting lessons at schools and colleges.
By implementing demands pressed by Hefazat, the ruling party in Bangladesh had already left a strong signal of its increased interests in developing relations with radical Islamist groups like Hefazat-e-Islam thus violating the secularist principles of the country.
US Congress had expressed concern:
The United States Congress already has passed a resolution HR-1169 against several Islamist groups including Hefazat-e-Islam stating, these groups pose an ongoing threat to Bangladesh’s stability and secular democracy. The resolution was introduced by Congressman Jim Banks.
The resolution called on the United States Agency for International Development and the State Department to halt all partnerships and funding arrangements with groups affiliated with Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Chhatra Shibir, and Hefazat-E-Islam.
But now, with the US Congress housing individuals like Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib and those appeasers of socialists and Islamists enjoying majority in the Congress, it is most unlikely that any further steps would be initiated against pro-Caliphate groups like Hefazat E Islam. The only hope here is – if the Trump administration initiates some drastic measures in listing Hefazat E Islam as a pro-jihadist group.
Can the West stop Qawmi madrassa radicals from entering?
The only option for the Western nations from going into the grips of radical Islam is to stop the madrassa teachers and students, who not only are pro-jihadist but also pro-Caliphate (similar to that of ISIS) from entering under any circumstance. Otherwise, every year, a significant number of notoriously radicalized Muslims with madrassa-education would enter the West with the mission of Islamic conquest.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz.