Hefazat-e-Islam has once again brought out hundreds of thousands of devout Muslims on the streets of Dhaka calling for their 13-point list of demands. While it is overwhelming to see such a strong public display of Islamic sentiments, one needs to take a step back and evaluate what this 13-point demand will really achieve.
At first glance, Hefazat's demands do seem to be serving the cause of Islam. But a deeper look shows that their demands fall short of calling for a comprehensive solution leaving the underlying problems intact.
For example, merely calling for the death penalty for the bloggers puts the entire focus on a few individuals without analysing the root cause of the problem. What is it that led the country to such a situation where the religious sentiments of the majority of the population were allowed to be hurt by only a handful of individuals?
The answer is not the lack of a blasphemy law.
Rather it is the concept of secularism that has been injected within the society, and which forms the basis of the laws of our country. The claim that secularism is about tolerance towards all faiths is a misnomer. We have seen how secular states in the West have not only allowed, but also actively promoted offensive cartoons and films insulting our beloved Prophet (SM) in the name of freedom of expression.
By confining religion to private matters only, secularism allows laws, values and ideals to be dictated by the prejudices of man. And when human prejudices become the ultimate arbiter in society, nothing remains sacred. Hence, neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can be safe from having their religious beliefs offended within a secular society.
On the contrary, Islam safeguards the right of all people to practise their religions freely, without the fear of being insulted or persecuted. While Islam prescribes harsh punishments for those who insult the Prophet, an Islamic society based on Divine laws educates the people about Islam in an intellectual manner and engages people of different faiths and viewpoints in constructive discussions and debates. This precludes the need for anyone to insult someone else's faith and promotes mutual understanding and tolerance.
Therefore, a call to implement blasphemy laws or to reinstate trust in Allah in the constitution, while the entire constitution itself still remains secular from its very basis, fails to address the root problem.
Likewise, some of Hefazat's demands regarding the role of women in society have been seen by some as being restrictive and backwards. There is no question about the fact that Islam does not allow free mixing of the sexes and the promiscuity that is starting to spread even in a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh.
However, Hefazat's 13-points only call for some very limited aspects of Islam and fails to portray the complete picture of the Islamic model of society - the society that gave women the right to work, earn, seek education, become involved in politics and be active members in all spheres of society fourteen hundred years back.
Islam regulates gender interaction in a manner that prevents promiscuity and moral laxity. This ensures strong family structures and a social environment where men and women can cooperate towards the betterment of society, without turning women into objects of men's desires.
Therefore the issue is not about imposing restrictions on women. Rather it is about creating the right environment for women so that their honour is protected while they go about fulfilling their role in the society.
It is indeed commendable that the sincere Muslims of Bangladesh have stood up for Islam, joining their brothers and sisters around the world in the growing tide of Islamic revival. However our Islamic aspirations should not end in a mere outburst of emotions. Rather it should lead us to call for a comprehensive Islamic solution.
Shafiul Huq is an activist who writes and speaks on Muslim affairs. He is currently studying Islamic jurisprudence and Arabic. He was born in Bangladesh, and is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia.