To save Bangladesh, bring back people’s politics
Firoz Ahmed

How do we make sure attacks like the one in Holey don’t happen again? This is the first part of a two-part long form

  • How are the youths in our country getting brainwashed?  
    Photo- BIGSTOCK

Bangladesh has not seen this type of ferocious attacks and killing of people before. We express our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, although no amount of consolation can soothe them. Our thoughts are also with the injured and the traumatised.

It appears to me that, regardless of the reasons in the terrorists’ minds and their external directives, if any, their one clear goal was to hold Bangladesh’s economy to ransom, without diplomatically attacking it.

The masterminds behind this attack, to achieve their secret aim, have held up the economy by targeting the foreign investors here.

The consequence of this attack will be felt for years to come. Bangladesh’s economy is heavily reliant on export -- the garment/apparel products constitute about 72% of the total export (the Italian victims were working in the textile industry).

The Bangladesh economy will be in danger; if foreign buyers do not feel secure, they will stop coming here and will not put in orders from our RMG industry. The employment of millions of people, and the main source of economic stability for the country, will be crushed.

We need to highlight a point: There will be yet another attempt to characterise Islam or the Muslims through this attack. Religion is a spiritual belief -- a believer can still live as a believer without harming the followers of the other religions, and can even fight in a political alliance with the believers of other religions.

I know that majority of religious Muslims want to live as citizens of a modern state. In every country, there are those who want to drive out, or damage, the believers of other faiths. It is the state which is responsible for protecting its citizens’ wealth, dignity, and religious independence.

Here, we find the government failing totally in upholding this responsibility. Had they ensured the right to practice religion for all citizens -- Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians -- then the use of communal violence and fundamentalism in politics would have been reduced.

At the same time, culture and education would have been stronger and free.

Perhaps it was the aim of the attackers that the religion be disgraced and religious tension be spread. Assassinations cannot be stopped by issuing religious fatwa. Both sides can find supporting evidence.

There are reliable Hadiths advising not to attack the believers of different faiths during a war, and there are Hadiths advocating tough stances against them. However, all these Hadiths, which were issued in different contexts, are being misused by opportunists for their own benefit.

In all religious scripture, there are decrees that may appear contradictory. No society, including ours, follows religious texts exactly at all times.

Rather, due to progressive development of education, culture, and economy, some accepted norms and procedures are established, which all -- followers of state religion or other religions -- respect and obey.

As a result, by only looking at religion, we cannot resolve this issue. Instead, it is very important to identify and understand those individuals or groups who are carrying out the attacks.

Alongside ensuring punishment for their crimes, it is crucial to understand the reasons behind their actions and their ideology.

If we want to eradicate these ideologies, if we want to ensure that in future attacks do not happen, we need significant educational, social, cultural, and economic restructuring.

Another point to consider is, even if there are millions who may hold such extreme views, there will be only a handful who would be prepared to sacrifice their lives for them.

Even though we have fundamentalists and communal-minded individuals, and intolerance has grown and spread, do we know, in our localities or amongst family relations, a huge number of people who would be willing to carry out such attacks?

Does anyone expect that, after such an attack, thousands would come out on the streets to support the attackers?

No. That is not happening.

Rather, the vast majority of the people have condemned this attack. Their feelings are stiffened and consolidated against the religious extremists.

How are the attackers selected and lured to carry out operations if there aren’t as many as we’d expect? There are many more issues such as training, protection, and finance.

We would have thought such opportunities are more readily available in countries like Pakistan than Bangladesh, due to the cultural and political activities carried out during the Afghan wars.

If the political gain by using public sympathy is not behind this, we need to consider other avenues. Would this attack generate public support? Absolutely not.

The possibility of a deterioration of economic condition may, in fact, disenchant pious citizens.

To destabilise political and economic conditions, that we have discussed, earlier remains the most convincing reason. This attack could jeopardise the Bangladeshi economy.

Then, who are the players, and what do they want? Unfortunately, we are not so clear on this. Maybe the leaders are not certain either. Or maybe the country would need to suffer further as a pawn between their bargaining.

However, there is no doubt that the wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Syria have antagonised much of the youth against American imperialism. A global trend has emerged -- a few youths are attacking people of different beliefs and communities with intense hatred and animosity.

This self-destructive process, however, is giving legitimacy to the imperialist war. Often, in the end, they (the few angry youths) are used by the imperialists.

But this is only the external influence.

The real question is: Why do our youths fall victim to plots generated by the imperialists? Why are we not seeing the evolution of positive actions and political developments -- patriotism, self-investigation, and self-development -- coming out of this hatred towards imperialism?

What poisons are being sprayed by our culture and surroundings? Why is this trend so common among private university students? Without investigating these issues, how can we be so certain?

 

The concluding part of this long form will be published tomorrow

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Firoz Ahmed

Firoz Ahmed is the former President of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation, one of Bangladesh’s largest leftist student unions. He is currently member of the progressive political party Ganosamhati Andolon (People’s Solidarity Movement), which contested the 2015 Dhaka Mayoral election under popular young leader Zonayed Saki.