Future of Bangladesh under Khelafat Majlish: A Sample Analysis

                                               Jahed Ahmed

“Women leadership is ‘haram’ (illegitimate) in Islam. Women must go back behind the wall once we establish the Islamic rule in this country.” The comment*1 comes from none but a nominated candidate of Awami League (AL) led Mohajut (great alliance) from the Sylhet-6 constituency (Beanibazar-Golapganj)—Maolana Habibur Rahman. This statement may serve as a good testimony to the concerns raised by many that by signing the controversial deal with the radical Islamic party Khelafat Majlish, Awami League leadership has indeed nailed the last coffin of secularism in Bangladesh. When asked why his party allied itself with Awami League led by a woman, Maolana Habibur replied: “I am firmly committed to my (sharia-based) ideals. To make a gain, you got to lose something.” *2 “For personal or ideological reasons, I am NOT in favor of listening to or playing Sheikh Mujib’s speech or for that matter, the national anthem,” said the Maolana, also known as Bulbuli in Sylhet. “I just pray on that day. I am steadfast to my ideals and shall remain so.” Readers may recall, this is the same Maolana who came to limelight for the first time by declaring a big bounty for feminist author Taslima Nasrin’s head after her novel “Lojja” (Shame) was published in Bangladesh. He further proposed to marry Taslima to show her the light (read ‘fire’) of Islam. In the past, he boasted publicly for having participated as a Mujahid in Afghanistan against Soviet forces. With that experience he’s authored a Bangla book titled “Afghanistan Ami Allahke Jevabe Dekhechi” (As I saw Allah in Afghanistan). Such is the leadership of the party with which our secular, democratic and liberal Awami League has signed contract with the assurances such as they would legalize fatwa, shall not allow any critical discussion of Islam, Prophet Muhammad and his associates; will make it a punishable crime for those who will commit it if they come to power. 

      Awami League’s controversial (mis)deed with Majlish has created strong protests at all levels among most of the secular, progressive supporters and well wishers of Awami League. Some die-hard supporters, however, are defending AL’s decision in somewhat interesting ways. They, for example, are saying AL’s deal is an effective and timely pre-election strategy to prevent BNP-Jamayat unholy alliance from re-capturing power. Some are even saying the deed would increase credibility of AL among the Maolanas, Madrassa students and Islamic minded people. To appease the angry party activists AL leadership lately has once again expressed their commitment to non-communal and secular causes. In the meanwhile, a press release issued by the Khelaft Majlish explaining the terms of the deed has created quite a good humor among the Bangladeshi newspaper readers at home and abroad. In the said press release, Majlish termed AL as a party with deep commitments to Islamic causes, ideals and considered AL Chief Sheikh Hasina and her farther Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as “good” Muslims. So that’s what the so called ideals of politics are all about. Everything is legal when it serves my purpose. And no stand is permanent.  

     The person who was expected to be nominated earlier from Sylhet-6 constituency as a 14-party alliance candidate was Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid. Readers may check out Dr. Zafar Iqbal’s column*3 in today’s Prothom Alo to understand the contrasts between the two candidates although Zafar Iqbal made just an allusion of Nahid in the article. Nahid came to AL from CPB (former Bangladesh Communist Party, of which he was the last general secretary before it was spited in early ‘90s). Among all the pro-democracy and secular students/activists of ‘60s during Pakistan period and in post independent Bangladesh, Nurul Islam Nahid was a well known face. He was also a pivotal figure in creating the draft of “egaro dofa chhatro andolon” (student movement based on 11 points during Ayub period). He was the AL candidate in ’91 election from Sylhet-6 but lost with a marginal difference. Nahid was elected to the parliament in ’96 election and served as a chairman to the parliamentary education committee. Currently he is AL central committee member and also serving as the education secretary of the party. In 2001 election, he lost to Syed Makbul Hussain, a man long known for his smuggling scandals and (ill) record of influencing voters with the flow of cash money prior to the election weeks. Prothom Alo*4 reported, several women leaders and activists from Sylhet-6 constituency have strongly opposed Maolana Habibur’s nomination and candidacy from AL led “mohajut” saying they cannot vote a man who believes women must not come out of the home except for emergency situation. Many are frustrated the reason being party chief is a woman herself.

      Has Sheikh Hasina made a smart decision by signing the contract? Only time will answer. But one thing is true for sure. Khelafat Majlish made no mistake in their calculation. And that’s why so confidently they declare themselves “steadfast” to their ideologies, to their dreams of an Islamic republic.  


 New York
 December 28, 2006

*1,2,4 http://www.prothom-alo.org/index.news.details.php?nid=MjY3MQ==
*3 http://www.prothom-alo.org/mcat.news.details.php?nid=MTg5MTc=&mid=Mw==


About the author: Jahed Ahmed is the co-moderator and editorial board member of  www.mukto-mona.com,  an online network of South Asian Humanists.