“Pakistani-Islam’s Global Ploy and Suppression of Bengali Genocide Tragedy”
by Jamal Hasan
The year 1971
was indeed a time of a catastrophic tragedy of disproportionate
magnitude in the South Asian region. It also inculcated a serious
message on the belief system on a number of God-fearing Bengalis. The
cruelty inflicted on a hapless population was so immense that many of
the traditional believers became disillusioned with the religion of
Islam, totally. A few of them even went to the extent of going on a
missionary zeal of being vocal critics of Islam. Conversely, the
defenders of Islam who did not side with the brutal regime would
endlessly argue the position of the neo-attackers of Islam. They would
say, "Look what the Pakistanis did was not manifestation of true Islam.
The Pakistani marauding soldiers even killed namazis in mosques all
across occupied Bangladesh."
When excesses are done in the name of religion, the people in the receivers' end often become disenchanted rather quickly. Iran could be a case in point. Many of the urban intelligentsia now comment that even in Shah's time people used to respect Islam. Now the mullahs made the religion very much an oppressive tool. No wonder, more and more people are losing respect for Islam in the country of Islamic Shangri-La.
A few weeks ago, Abul Kasem from Australia wrote a mind-boggling commentary in News from Bangladesh (Mindset of Pakistanis favouring 1971 Genocide, NFB Feature; Nov. 22, 2000) on the mindset of Pakistanis about the genocide of 1971. If we go back to 1971 once again and try to extrapolate the lifestyle of average Pakistani army man in the occupied Bangladesh, we may bring one possible scenario. As the soldiers plundered, looted and raped the masses, they suddenly did not become atheists or agnostics. Most of them were God-fearing Muslims. The keepers of the Razarbagh Police Line prison, where dozens of Bengali women were raped and assaulted on a daily basis, were in all likelihood practicing Muslims. Maybe, many of them did not miss the daily prayers. Or, how about the caretakers of those bunkers near the Tripura border and elsewhere in the erstwhile East Pakistan where unclothed and visibly shaken Bengali women were rescued immediately after liberation of the country? Maybe, during the month of Ramadan many of the rapists and assaulters fasted following the dictum of the Divine religion. The question is, why didn't the barbaric oppression not subdue because of the religious teaching? Is it because somehow the brutal forces could rationalize all the misdeeds keeping the broader guideline of scripture? Did they believe by heart whatever brutality they were committing was not against the spirit of Islamic ideal?
The critics of Islam would say that the problem of such barbarism lies in the inherently ambiguous scriptural texts of the religion. Defenders of faith sympathizing with Bengali cause may argue that all the brutality was perpetrated with a facade of a skewed interpretation resulting in misinterpretation of the scripture. I do not want to join the debate as I lack enough expertise on the intricacy of Islamic theology. I can only attempt to put the political agenda of the Pakistani brand of Islam in proper perspective as it relates to the events of 1971. As before, I am calling the manifestation of Islam a tool for oppression in occupied Bangladesh as Pakistani-Islam. I am not blaming Islam, per se, for the catastrophe. I would rather accuse the Pakistani oligarchy for smoothly pocketing a century-old religion to serve the narrow interest and racist agenda of the Punjabi ruling clique.
Almost all the Islamist parties in the Pakistan occupied Bangladesh sided with the oppressive military regime of Yahya Khan in 1971. Immediately after liberation, quite a few of the social outcasts experienced backlash from the victims -- the Bengali masses. Under such an unfavorable situation of post independent Bangladesh, the killer and collaborator mullahs went into hiding until the reformed Islam pasand dictator Ziaur Rahman became victorious in the political arena. During much of Zia and the other military ruler Ershad era, the hibernating killers and collaborators of the Pakistani-Islamic sector got a new lease of life. The paradigm was calculatively shifted by the conniving Bengali generals favoring Yahya Khan's position of 1971. In this backdrop, the heinous Islamist criminals of 1971 could, without much effort, recapture significant Islamic landmarks like Bait-ul Mukarram and the other leading mosques. The situation became so frustrating that many of the Bengali nationalists who were also believers in Islam had no option but to boycott the places of worship that put killers of 1971 in a clergy's role. The leading Bengali poetess Sufia Kamal's death bed wish was no Jamaati or a killer mullah would be allowed to do the needful during her funeral rites.
Turning back to Pakistani army juntas, let me reiterate that they used and abused the religion of Islam to serve their purposes. They were quite aware of the ground reality that their colonial interest could only be attained if they skillfully played the Islamic card. In fact, they succeeded to a great length not only yesterday, but also today. Islam's critics saw the ruthless Yahya army indiscriminately killed civilians, and religious minority in particular. From the night of 25th March there was a selective massacre in Hindu populated areas where even the little children were not spared. The critics of Islam would find a pattern of intolerance to non-believer from the dawn of Islamic civilization that goes contrary to humanistic ideals. According to their view, the concept of Jihad and killing of infidels mercilessly was nothing new in the history of Islamic civilization. And their view was reinforced as the great majority of the Muslim nations nakedly sided with the marauding Pakistani junta of 1971.
The terms like Umma or Islamic brotherhoods are uniquely common in the faith of Islam. These terms are definitely political. In other words, the politicized terminologies could wake some faithful who are half asleep. Unfortunately, the merchants of religion, the Pakistani oligarchy, till today are bent on using those words to subjugate the less viable populations of Sindh, NWFP or Balochistan. Whenever a minority ethnic group demands its right, the usual outcry in Islamabad would be, "Islam in danger!" The irony of the matter is Yahya's troop in 1971 did so much harm and long term damage to Islam that it won't be too easy to salvage. When a crime against humanity is committed in the name of religion, the incriminating evidence can hardly be hidden from the watchful eyes of the conscientious international community.
As the days go by, we are confronting with the sad past and are unearthing and documenting gory details of the monstrosity of those Muslims from a western land called Pakistan. Consider the most recent documentation of demolition of the Ramna Racecourse Hindu Temple call Kali BaDi. According to an eyewitness account the following chilling moments occurred in that historical big field located in the close proximity of the Dhaka University. On the fateful night of March 25, 1971, when the Pakistani soldiers cordoned off the area, they gathered a number of Hindu men, women and children from the vicinity. Before getting shot at, the high priest of the age-old temple was compelled to recite some Qura'nic verses. The men and children were put on the firing line and the women's lives were spared as they were whisked away to an unknown destination. These sorts of dark chapters gave the requisite ammo to the anti-Islamic crusaders to transpose their point of view. They have the opportunity to equate these grotesque situations with the snatching of the so-called war booties (captured women and children) from the defeating forces of the Pagan Arabs or the Quryash tribe in the late 7th century that had legitimization as per Islamic doctrine.
These days many Bengalis outside Bangladesh attempt to reinvent their identity. A good number of them try to become neo-Muslims. I have no qualm with it if it only confines to individual relationship to the divinity. But the problem arises when Pakistani-Islam comes into play. Unfortunately, in regard to 1971 episode, many Bengalis fall into the trap of selective amnesia, which is quite detestable. To them, loving Islam means loving the marauding Pakistani army of 1971. Ultimately, the crime and rape committed by those hordes become less condemnable. That is the winning situation for the Pakistani ruling elite. They successfully injected the opium of Pakistani-Islam into the veins of the Bengalis for 24 years, which did not go away with a tragedy of nine months. If the Pakistani soldiers were Hindus, Jewish or of Christian faith, we may witness those God-fearing Bengalis would never forget the crime inflicted on their own brothers or sisters. Probably those Islamist Bengalis would have been the greatest crusaders to rekindle the spirit of 1971, if the scenario was such. After all, in a politicized religious world, it is always an issue of us versus them.
Lest we forget, in the theological realm, Christianity got serious setback from within by the Protestant movement of yesteryear. After 1971, the Bengalis had a real chance to confront the world body of Islamic nations to extract a justifiable explanation for its overt antipathy toward Bengalis' struggle for national emancipation. Did the Bengalis utilize the opportune moment? Not at all. To add insults to the injury, the founding father of the emerging nation went to the Islamic summit in Lahore that was tantamount to kowtowing the Pakistani regime that could consequently legitimize the role of Pakistani-Islam in 1971. After that melodrama, as the Bengali leader went to the Saudi Arabia begging for
the nascent republic's recognition from the medieval sheikdom, he got a real taste of the Pakistani-Islam's over encompassing tentacle. The Saudi leader categorically said that he was in great pain to see the casualty of Pakistani Muslim soldiers in East Pakistan. Readers may now see that although the Pakistani soldiers raped and destroyed a peace-loving population, they were still perceived as the Saudi kingdom's brothers. That means even if half of the Bengali population were wiped out and all the Bengali women were raped by the "brotherly Pakistani army," it would not bring any second thought among the Saudi royalty. What a disgrace!
>Turning my eyes to modern day America to look at how my
Bengali compatriots faring with other Muslim Ummats I get the chill of my life. Here, quite a few expatriates Bengali Muslims endeavored to enhance their Muslim identity by joining such groups like Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, American Muslim Council or the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The groups are supposed to help the minority Muslim cause in a predominantly non-Muslim country like USA (or Canada). Pakistan traditionally has been a good patron for such groups. As a new member of the nuclear club Pakistan's influence and prestige have quadrupled in the comity of Islamic nations. They are the proverbial Big brother now. The ruling elite of Pakistan already have become a behind-the-scene agenda setter of many Islamic groups in non-Islamic countries. Not only that, a fundamentalist
party like Jamat-i-Islami has exerted considerable influence on a group like Islamic Circle of North America. One of this group's leaders is an alleged notorious war criminal who was accused of killing seven university teachers in Bangladesh in 1971. Any new member of either of the above-mentioned groups may come across political discourse on the misery and sufferings of a number of nationalities of Muslim faith. The plight of the Chechens, Kashmiris, Kosovars or Bosnians may inundate the web pages of such groups. Bangladesh genocide is history now. But do you think there is any room for the great human tragedy in the charters of those groups? Readers, please do not delude yourselves. These highly politicized groups are mouthpieces of quite a few vested interests and Pakistani oligarchy is one of them. If anything mentioned in any of the group's working paper regarding Bangladesh genocide that would be something like this, "In 1971 India attacked Pakistan and Pakistani soldiers fought against the attackers and ultimately India succeeded in splitting up the Islamic nation of Pakistan with the help of miscreants belonging to Awami League." Probably Bengali Muslim faithfuls who became part and parcel of the Pakistani-Islamic agenda do not care much when the question of their Pakistani brothers' crime against humanity is raised. And that attitude is definitely a great hindrance to upholding a nation's dignity. We should be reminded of this sad reality one more time.
Jamal Hasan writes from Washington, DC. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org