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On use of Religion in Politics

by Maulana Abdul Awal

Saturday, May 31, 2008 

To us, who keep faith in the Gracious Creator, religion means belief in Allah, towards His incepted provision and scriptural guidance and their implementation in one's own life. However these provisions are nothing supernatural, rather constitute an well-organized form of living in manner so that people can improve themselves into true human beings. Thus they can achieve mortal prosperity and spiritual salvation. This is the prime objective or goal of the religion we believe in. Almighty Allah had sent Nabi Rasul, the Prophet for implementation of the goal.

As religion is concerned, it is a subject of belief or disbelief, a resolution of mind. It is one's personal concern as well. Hence truth when imposed forcefully upon anybody can not be considered as truth. Essential condition of search for truth is freedom of conscience. There is no hard and fast rule in it. The holy Al-Quran says, `There is no compulsion and pressure about the Deen (the way of life)' [2: 256]

All the religions provide guidelines for human welfare. Peace, harmony, benevolence -- are the lesson of religion. On the other hand, impropriety, injustice, repression on women, theft and robbery, plundering, killing, malice, greed, violence and terrorism are condemned by all religion.

Since ancient times, founder and preacher of different religion has been preaching in favour of these provisions. Despite its profound contribution in evolvement of human civilization and the objective that it was meant for welfare, religion has been used as a tool for extortion. The ruling class has so far not been able to device nay more effective tool than it.

Freedom of conscience rises higher above all other things in religion. Subjugation of this freedom makes religion dull, customary and mechanical. The notion: religion for human turns into human for religion. Instead of people's harmony and tolerance, restlessness and violence loom large.

In ancient times religion had been imposed on general people within Christian community. If a ruler in a prefecture had been Catholic in faith, all his subjects had to be Catholic. None had dared to defy the system. Islam does not approve such sort of despotism. Here the story of the Christian slave belonged to Hazrat Omar(ra) can be cited. The slave had been put under pressure by some Sahabi to take Islam, which he had refused to do. At one stage Khalifa was consulted about it and he declared the slave had his right to do so.

Christian world witnessed a violent predicament during the seventh century. It took place after control of the religion had been vested to the statehood. Statehood was included in the definition of Church. In both extents of mortal and spiritual life Church had the decisive and ubiquitous power. During that time religious restlessness became very fierce between the catholic and the Protestant who fought a thirty-year of bloody war. At a stage the state adopted religion as a tool for extortion and politics. During that time debate or discussion on theology or religious doctrine was regularly arranged. It kept mass people busy, away from their struggle for social, economic and political right. Towards the end of Byzantine Empire, a debating assembly was arranged in Constantinaple i.e. Istanbul. Debate's topic was what Jesus had eaten before his crucifixion- Tandoori or Chapati. Argument went on for 40 days. By that time the Muslim on a military campaign had reached the entrance of the city and the Roman did not even know about that. Thus Byzantine Empire fell apart. In medieval ages, Christian community saw a very short range of development as an effect of using religion as instrument for extortion and politics. While Muslims established observatory in Spain and carried out research, European Christians made human cultivating land instead of cattle.

During the Second World War, Adolf Hitlar gave way to the craze over religion and instructed his Nazi force to kill the Jews. About six million Jew were murdered. Now Jews are carrying out oppression on Palestine people. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim have been driven out of their homes. For over half a century this displaced people have been leading an inhuman life at refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab countries. European renaissance cured the West of malady of using religion as a tool for politics. Nowadays despite organs named Christian Democratic Party in some of the European countries exist, they do not use religion in politics, rather try to get people's support through their social and economic development programs.

Our dearest Nabi Hazrat Mohammed (puh) advised the Muslim in his valedictory speech not to do excess with religion. He also told them that a number of races had been perished as a result of their intemperance with religion. But within three decades following demise of Hazrat Mohammed his followers started using their religion in politics. Hazrat Mayabia, the then governor of Syria, introduced such act. A war broke out between him and Khalifa the fourth, Hazrat Ali over the trial on the murder of Khalifa the third, Hazrat Osman . The battle took place on the river Forat. Hazrat Mayabia being almost sure about defeat sent his soldiers carrying the holy Quran tied up on the tip of their sword to the battlefield. The soldiers declared, 'no more war, let the conflict be solved by the Quran`. At the gesture Hazrat Ali was compelled to stop fighting. During one and half a millenium following that incident numerous Muslim emperors, monarchs, head of the states and political parties have been utilizing the holy religion. The practice remains uninterrupted.

Use of religion in politics in the Indian subcontinent dates back to ancient times. Goutam Buddha was recognized as the ninth incarnation only after the Arian had killed nine hundred thousand Buddhist. In modern times, use of politics in religion started at the beginning of twentieth century. Muslim League was established in 1906. On the other hand, the Hindu fundamentalist formed Hindu Mahasabha. The Indian National Congress (INC), a political party involving both the Hindu and Muslim, was founded in 1885. Modern educated Muslims had been members of INC, even the learned persons called Alem or Ulema were top leaders of the party. Maolana Abul Kalam Azad was elected President of INC several times. Jamaiat-E-Olama-E-Hind was the organization for Ulemas in the region. Top Ulema like Maolana Hossain Ahmed Madani, the head Maolana of Darul Ulum Deobond Madrasa were the president of the party. The organization was a secular one. Jamaiat-E-Olama-E-Hind did not support either religion based nationalism or use of religion in politics. This organization had expressed their support for our freedom movement. At the meeting of the executive council in 1971 a resolution supporting our struggle for independence was adopted. The party held demonstration in front of American Embassy in New Delhi demanding for the release of Banga Bandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman.

We had to pay a very crucial price as a result of exploitation of religion in politics in the subcontinent. Before and aftermath of the division of India lives of millions were sacrificed. The statistics showing exact figure of young women harassed the number of mosque, temple and guru-duara destroyed could not be made available or none has figured those out.

After religion- based division of India, we, the people of this land constituted the majority of then Pakistan. But the people of western part deprived us of our social, economic and political right by using our holy religion as their political tool. When asked for our right they told that we were the broker of India and enemy of Islam. It was also told that Islam was endangered at our hand. But we broke the chain of two nations theory apart gradually by the virtue of our Language Movement in 1952, Six Point Program in `66, `69's Uprising of people, attainment of Awami League`s single majority in the general election 0f `70. Finally through armed struggle under the leadership of Banga Bandhu we succeeded to free Bangladesh. During those days of freedom movement Pakistani rulers and their local alliance, the sectarian circle exploited religion abominably as an instrument for mass killing of Bangladeshi people. Three million people died and three hundred thousand of women were harassed. At that time their slogan was, 'Pakistan has to be saved to salvage Islam. If Pakistan falls apart, Islam cannot be saved ` Thus they attempted to place the religion as the rival to our freedom fight. But the secular and pious people of the country did not pay heed to them. However, Islam was never endangered in our country rather it is observed and practiced at a broader level in Independent Bangladesh.

Bengali people had to pay the highest price for religion during Pakistan period. This was one of the major reasons that secularity was adopted as one of the four state principles in our constitution. After the independence, issues of undertaking program to encourage people about secularity was raised before Banga Bandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman. He told that he had been in charge of a ruined land called Bangladesh. He assured that a widespread cultural motivational program would be adopted after meeting people's basic problems like refugee crisis, communication, food problem etc. But he was murdered along with his family members on 15 August 1975.

Aftermath of the `75 coup d'état saw the rise of reactionary politics in Bangladesh. Military figures, sometimes in their uniform or in civil dress clutched power for nearly 15 years till 1990. They attempted to make themselves credible using religion. In this way Islam, the religion of the majority, started to be utilized in politics. `Bismillah' was added at the beginning of our constitution. Secularity was excluded as a basic principle for the state and was replaced with `Trust and belief in Allah'. In the name of multiparty democracy 66 organizations antagonistic to the spirit of independence were given approval to do politics with other parties. Late President Ziaur Rahman, the founder of BNP, initiated all these. There had been three religion-based political parties In Pakistan period. They were Muslim League, Jamaet-E-Islami and Nezam-E-Islam Party. In 1988 Islam was declared as the national religion, thanks to the eighth amendment of the constitution during the tenure of General Ershad. The fundamental groups started propagating in favour of religion-based politics on a larger scale with the help of Petro-dollar they had received from a number of middle-eastern sources. This also had an impact upon the secular democratic political parties.  

This situation was exploited by the Pakistani secret service ISI. They tried to forge instability in Bangaldesh to take revenge for their lose in `71. The religious extremists became desperate after the Taliban had taken power in Afghanistan. They held meetings, organized rallies, and declared themselves as Taliban of Bangladesh, vowed to turn the country into another Afghanistan. Students were recruited from Kawmi Madrasas and sent to Pakistan in the name of higher education. They received military training there and joined to terrorist organizations such as Al- Oaeda, Lshkar-e- Taiyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat-ul-Zehad-e-Islami etc. Some of them got back to Bangladesh and gave military training to Madrasa students. These people carried out terrorist activities. During the past few years many people died or got injured in the incident of bomb blasts at different parts of Bangladesh. Quoting police source different newspapers informed that extremist terrorists were involved in those terrorist activities.

According to some political observer, the Taliban increased cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan several times higher than earlier after their takeover of power. The poppy was brought to Pakistan, processed into illegal drug and smuggled to all over the world for billions of dollar. A portion of the money was given to the Taliban, another share was kept in Pakistan. A third portion was spent for the religious extremists active in South and Southeast Asia including Bangladesh. It is said that three-quarter of illegal drug business over the world is controlled by ISI. After the collapse of the Taliban religious extremists are supposed to acquire Less amount of money and weapons. But this is a transitory scenario.

Muslims constitutes majority in only 10% of the countries all over the world. The number of religion-based terrorist organization is higher in these countries. Names of such organizations such as Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, Nedaul Muslimin in Tunisia, Hamas in Palestine, Hijbullah in Lebanon, Muslim Mujahedeen in Jordan, Taliban in Afghanistan, Lshkar-e- Taiyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tameer-e-Ummah, Lshkar-e-Zafaria, Jamat-e-Nefaz-e-Kanun-e-Mohammadi in Pakistan, Nahdat-ul-Olama in Indonesia, Al-Arkam in Malaysia can be cited here. There are 66 such organizations in Bangladesh. Fundamentalist organizations are not only found among Muslims, other religions also boast with such organs. Such as BJP, Hindu Mahasabha, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Janasangh, Bazrang in India. Harkat-ul-Zehad and Hijbul Mujahedeen are active in India-administered Kashmir.

Organizations formed in the name of religion not only exploited the latter as a tool for politics, they exploited the same in terrorist activities also. Ironically not any singular religion lays any support for terrorism. By virtue of information technology the world has turned into a global village. People, nations and different ethnic entities craving for unadulterated peace and friendly environment. But terrorist activities by the fundamentalists are spoiling it. Referring to the mischievous the holy Quran says, ` Whenever it is said to them that do not make mischief on the earth, they only said: "We are the reformers. Beware, in fact these people are the mischief-makers but they do not have sense. '[2: 11-12]

Our dearest Nabi Hazrat Mohammad (puh) said: ` soon human kind will witness an age when Islam would exist only as a name and the Quran would be only the words. Mosques would be brick-built but no direction would be there. Ulema would be the wicked persons among people under the sky. Terrorism and indiscipline would be originated out of them and would return unto them. ( Sura Bokhari)

Terrorist activities being carried out in different countries, especially in Islamic ones reflect the predicted scenario of the Quotations from the Quran and Hadis. For exploitation of religion in politics, tolerance in the society is withering away. Terrorism is spreading out. Hindu extremists in India destroyed the historic Babri Mosque in Ajodhya insisting on their claim for the birthplace of Rama. Reaction of this incident dispersed in Pakistan and Bangladesh and many temple were destroyed in the two states. An extremist leader of an alliance party to the ruling BNP-Jamat coalition government told once proudly that blood should be poured at the root of the tree named Islam instead of water.

It would not be irrelevant to note here that, confusion with usage of the word `Fundamentalist` exists in our practice. A particular class claims that the pious people are hinted at by the term. This is totally a baseless claim. Each and every word has a lexicographical and a terminological meaning and can be used in either sense as necessary. Say, lexicographical meaning of Al-Badar refer to those who take part in holy war. They are the pride of Islam. But in our context Al-Badar does not refer to the Warrior of Badar. It means to those who killed Bangladeshi people during our freedom fight. Similarly those who use religion for political interest are called fundamentalist. It is not meant to hint at the pious ones. So there is no rational reason to give up using the term if not getting confused by the misinterpretation.

Terrorist attack on Twin Tower in New York, on Pentagon in Washington, the civil war between the Taliban and the Mujahedeen and post war situation, terrorist networking of Al-Qaeda all over the world, Israeli terrorist act on the Palestine people, bomb attack in different parts of Bangladesh, torture on the minority group in here, on opposition leader, activists, killings, repression on woman- all are consequences for political exploitation of religion. Mass consciousness to resist such evil activities generated at any county or any region in the world by the force against humanity need to be strengthened. Sources for their money and weapons have to be identified and concealed. All secular, democratic political parties and social, cultural and humanitarian organization and people have to take part in this attempt. With a noble view to restoring peace this is the prime responsibility and duty at present of everyone irrespective of religion, cast and creed.


Sent by: A Rahim Azad __._,_.___

khabor..........We Know Bangladesh Better. 

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