Fundamentalism, Singularism and Secularism: A Bangladeshi Context

Many Bangladeshi bloggers and professionals, embroiled with many pots, keep sharing things on social media regarding ‘Secularism in Bangladesh’ with too narrow ideas. What is actually secularism? Secularism is the separation of Masjid (or Temple/Church) and state, or religion from government, not atheism or elimination of religion from the public discourse. Let’s start from the very beginning. British East India Company instituted separate laws for Hindus, Muslims and Christians. In doing so they laid the foundation for a civil code which remains largely unchanged to date. After the establishment of Pakistan, we faced immense discrimination and economic suffering and movement quickly geared momentum of cultural and linguistic nationalism that were inherently secular. In 1971 we irrespective of religion joined the fight for their freedom. After achieving victory, Bangladesh’s constitution, drafted in 1972, stated four state principles as the character of the new state, of course, which was guided by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. They were nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism. After 1975, Ziaur Rahman began using religion as a major factor in politics. He formed the ‘Bangladesh Nationalist Party’ that professed the more Islamic ‘Bangladeshi nationalism’ to replace the ‘Secular Bengali nationalism’. Finally in 1988, the country’s second military ruler Ershad declared Islam as the state religion in Bangladesh. In 2009, the AL government announced that it would amend the constitution and reintroduce the original four state principles. That’s the history.

The present situation is far different. In support of gender equality, human rights and civil liberties, a group of bloggers is doing battle with Islamists online. They call themselves bloggers, freethinkers and secular. But are they? One of them wrote: ‘‘The Islamists would write during Ramadan that fasting is very good for health, that it creates new brain cells, and I would write back, ‘This is ridiculous’“. It sounds really cool. But saying that doesn’t make him secular or a free thinker. That means he is only an atheist eloquently challenging the fundamentalism of Islam, a religion that is the identity of 85% people of this country. Questioning on religion’s fundamentalism is just like scrupling your unmarried sister’s virginity. Writing against some huge community is the easiest way to the fame. It’s like ‘defame Islam for fame’.Like our prime minister said-“It has become a fashion to speak against a religion.” Right it is. One of the so called secular bloggers said: ‘‘I say it was scientifically impossible for the Prophet Muhammad to ascend to heaven on a horse”. Ruefully, he never expensed some time on Hinduism. That religion is scientifically okay?

Vivid clumsiness, as well as improper education, unravels that this country doesn’t deserve to be called a Muslim country. Killing innocents, lusting after each girl on streets, using weed and alcohol and hoaxing people for money, for benefits make them anything but Muslim. People here debate on Islamic country and secularism with filthy body and mind. They only go to Masjid for using your branded Punjabi once in a week, to show others they too are Muslim. No, either they did not understand Islam or they are lying to themselves.

The concept of Secularism in Islam has been claimed to have Islamic support too. The Sahih Muslim, the second most authentic book on Hadith, contains a chapter headed as follows: “Whatever the Prophet (SM) has said in matters of religion must be followed, but this does not apply to worldly affairs.” The Hadith is as follows: “Once Prophet (SM) came across some people doing artificial pollination of palm trees. Due to some reason he disliked the idea and commented that it would be better not to do any artificial pollination at all. However for the following year the harvest was poor. When he came to know about this, he admitted his limitation of knowledge regarding secular affairs and said: “If a question relates to your worldly matters you would know better about it, but if it relates to your religion then to me it belongs.” The Quran and Sunnah have never obliged Muslims to establish such an Islamic government, but have taught them to use wisdom, justice, consultation, and innate human dignity to organize their collective lives and their society. In the addition, a verse from Quran- “For you is your religion and for me is my religion”. There is also a Hadith (Sahih Muslim): “If any Muslim kills an innocent non-Muslim for any reason, that Muslim will not be able to obtain even the smell of heaven.” Please, before questioning a religion, know it. Blame the misguided people, not the religion. Islam is secular.

Problems, of course which are not fragile, people are talking and writing about cannot be curtailed, altering two-three words in our constitution only. Neither, writing on social networks or blogs will do. That will only evoke strife, hatred and problems. For proper establishment of equality, judgement and secularism, we need worthy leaders and policymakers that we really lack of. Muslims once, with inimitable efficacy, thrived because of their surge of tolerance and deftness of good governance. For that, we need proper education as well as undismayed morality. We need the whole country to unite as a force. We are humans — we have to have patience. We do right. We do wrong. There’s a Chinese proverb, it says: “The person who has the solution and still doesn’t know it is just as lost as the person who never knew”. Good luck.