From the 20th century to the present day, the Islamic world has suffered greatly and continues to do so. This is the result of the lack of an Islamic Union, or rather a union of love and hearts between Islamic countries. Without union, there came fighting among brothers; violence and cruelty replaced love and friendship. One of the bloodiest fights between brothers in recent times was that between Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Before 1971, Bengal was part of Pakistan, and was known as East Pakistan. Despite their historical bonds of friendship, there was an atrocious war between the Muslim peoples of Pakistan and Bengal, after which Bangladesh declared independence. The war lasted nine months and saw the most appalling slaughter. Five hundred thousand people lost their lives, tens of thousands of women were raped and millions of people were forced to leave their homes.
The foundation of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was not, of course, sufficient to resolve the problems of the Bengali people. Indeed, the country’s short history has been one of a struggle against social, political and economic problems.
With its population of 160 million, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most populous and crowded countries; it is also one of the poorest. It stands 146th on the U.N. Human development Index for 2013. Forty million Bengalis are too poor to meet their basic food needs. According to UNICEF reports, those most affected by inadequate nutrition are women and children. In some regions, such as the jungle areas and camps inhabited by Rakhine Muslims who have fled the repression in Burma and sought shelter in Bangladesh, hunger and poverty are resulting in deaths.
There have been economic development, albeit very minor, aimed at reducing poverty in recent years such as the manufacturing sector that has been regenerated with foreign capital investment. One of the main obstacles to economic development, however, is widespread corruption across the country.
The standard of teaching in educational institutions in Bangladesh is far below modern world standards. Major problems such as old and rickety schools, methods that are inappropriate for today’s conditions, inadequate public funding and children being sent to work instead of school, all await resolution.
However, there is an even more severe threat. Defects in teaching and education are being taken advantage of by various radical groups. Young people raised in schools set up by these groups with fanatical ideas presented to them in the name of Islam - but which actually have nothing to do with Islam’s essence - are darkening the future of Bangladesh.
Although Bangladesh has a better record than some of its neighbors when it comes to women’s rights, women are still not properly valued or respected. Although the current prime minister is a woman, one in every two women is a victim of violence. Young girls being forced into marriage by their families is, sadly, a routine event.
Although it calls itself a democracy, Bangladesh is in fact only a partly-free country. Freedom of expression is limited and the media are severely repressed; torture and death in detention are widespread. The main reasons are some politicians who cannot bear the idea of democracy, opposition and criticism, and some bigots who regard democracy as some manner of perversion.
The record of special units affiliated to the Bangladeshi Army and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), set up to fight terror, is full of human rights violations, such as extrajudicial killings and the killing of innocent people in careless combat.
Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and its political, cultural and economic center, has played host to coups and military regimes for half of its recent history; the other half of that history has seen a ruthless struggle between the two main parties. One is the center-left Awami League, which is still in power and known for its closeness to India. Its rival is the center-right, nationalist and conservative Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The main cause of political instability is the endless conflict and bad feelings between the two.
Interestingly, there are no great ideological differences between the two parties. Nonetheless, instead of constructive debate which should be kept within the limits of political rivalry, there is instead a ruthless enmity, and instead of acting in union and unity for the development and prosperity of the country, there is a destructive conflict. The price of these political conflicts is paid by innocent Bengalis in the form of poverty and death.
One of the main threats to this poor country in South Asia is fanaticism, which has been on the rise in recent years. Some radical groups that use the name of Islam are engaged in intensive and constant activity aimed at imposing prohibitions on all Bengali society that have no place in the Qur’an. The aim of a protest that was attended by 500,000 people in May of 2013 was to impose the radicals’ various demands on the government, including the segregation of men and women in public spaces, the abolition of statues and the retraction of civil rights given to women.
Of course, the majority of the Bengali people are moderate and not at all fanatical but since the radicals are well organized and act together, this makes them strong, albeit grossly mistaken and they are determined to strive to impose their radical demands. The uneasy Bangladeshi government is resorting to harsh measures as a riposte; the execution of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla was the result of this alarm in the face of radical groups and fanaticism.
The fanatics’ demands and actions are not only wrong, they are also diametrically opposed to the essence of Islam. However, it is also a mistake for the government to adopt harsh measures toward them. Measures that violate human rights, oppression, violence and policies of repression accomplish nothing except cause radicalism to grow further.
It is impossible to obtain results against fanatics through violence. They imagine they are doing right, and they will not change because of violence. The errors in their minds need to be corrected through education. They need to be told of the true Islam and the moral values of the Qur’an, tirelessly, with love and affection.
The poor, humble and innocent Muslims of Bangladesh are waiting for help. Their problems are in fact the result of Muslims living across the world not abiding by the moral values of the Qur’an. The solution, one that looks so hard, is in fact very easy, by Allah’s leave, but for that to happen, Islamic countries need to unite in love and brotherhood and abide by the commandments of the Qur’an. There is no other way ahead for Bangladesh. Persisting in the failed policies of repression that have been used for so many years will simply end in Bangladesh sinking further into the swamp.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Weekly Blitz: