Jamaat-e-Islam’s “Bangladesh in Crisis” Rally

This is a guest post by Ashik

Last night I went along to a political rally organised by the Bangladesh Crisis Group which is an offshoot of the British Jamaat-e-Islam front, Islamic Forum Europe. I arrived at the Water Lily Centre which was the advertised venue to be told that the event had been moved to the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel. It was later expressed in the rally that the meeting had been moved because of “political pressure”. My guess is that the Water Lily Centre, which is controlled by Awami League supporters, decided not to host any political lobby involving Toby Cadman in case it irritated their leaders in Awami League HQ in Dhaka.

I thought that it was fitting that the rally had been moved back to London Muslim Centre, the nerve centre of the Jamaat-e-Islam in the UK. After all, it was the DCLG which correctly observed that the ELM/LMC is the base for Jamaat-e-Islami in the UK.

The attendance was very good, with more than 350 people in the “men’s section” alone and more upstairs in the “lady’s section” in the LMC. The rally kicked off just after the sunset prayer, with a reading of an apology from Kemal Helbawy, the chair of the Bangladesh Crisis Group, who excused himself for his absence because he was in Cairo. Helbawy is a member of the Egyptian franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood and has advocated the justification for killing children. It is, therefore, worthwhile to note that the Jamaat-Ikhwan alliance here and also the incongruity of having someone with his views proffering advice on human rights.

There were a total of 17 speakers from the initial advertised roster of 21.

The first to speak was Bob Lambert of the European Muslim Research Centre. Lambert was good enough to confess at the onset that he had never been to Bangladesh and had limited knowledge of the facts in Bangladesh first hand. He used the opportunity to discuss the “failures of the War on Terror” and to plug his new book.

Next was Moazzam Begg, who needs no introduction to those concerned with counter-terrorism in this country, who had nothing specific to say about the situation in Bangladesh but instead spoke about his “work in Libya”. He set forth a polemical rant about “oppression of the Muslims” which had everyone in the room cheering enthusiastically.

“What you’re seeing happening in Bangladesh are the birth pangs. You can see that the most demonised organisations of the world are the Muslim organisations. Everywhere you go, east, west, Islamic countries or not. And here you see in Bangladesh, the Jamaat-e-Islami, that is being demonised, that its activists are being imprisoned. Why? The reason is the same reason why Ben Ali captured, tortured and beat the people from the An-Nahda party. The same reason why Ghaddafi captured and tortured the people from the Islamic groups there. The same reason why Hosni Mubarak tortured and imprisoned the people from the Islamic groups there. For fear of legitimate opposition that had tangible abilities to challenge the status quo, i.e. they are afraid.”

Next to speak was Toby Cadman, and it is his speech that I waited to hear with interest. Cadman is the British barrister representing the five leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islam charged by the War Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh. I wanted to know why a barrister was appearing at a political rally with Islamists and the supporters of war criminals. He stressed early on that he was not opposed to the Tribunal but had deep misgivings that his clients may not be receiving a fair trial in Dhaka.

“As the other speakers have said, Bangladesh is entering a very, very dangerous period. It’s not just the Tribunal. Now I’m just here to speak about the wider political issues because that’s not what I’m instructed to do. My job is to represent those currently detained and those facing allegations and, as I said, I will continue to do that. But that also involves discussing the wider political issues. The complete breakdown in democracy, the barring of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

Now the wider political issues, that falls under the responsibility of a large number of international organisations. That’s not for me to get into as a lawyer. And what I’ve been doing is calling on these organisations to engage on a diplomatic level with Bangladesh to resolve these problems before it transcends into a humanitarian crisis. I think we’re on the brink of that right now. Some of the other speakers have already mentioned that. But as I say, those are the issues that need to be addressed by the international community. This government in particular, my government needs to step up and recognise that there is a serious problem.”

As Jamaat-e-Islam’s barrister, Toby Cadman is right to draw out any failures in due process and judicial norms by the War Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh. However, here in London, he is sharing a platform with political groups who have been involved with crimes against humanity, sectarian violence, terrorism and human rights abuses of their own in Bangladesh and elsewhere. It is correct that people should speak out against the use of special security forces used by successive governments of Bangladesh which has led to various humanitarian abuses. But for an international barrister to point out these political and human rights abuses in Bangladesh, which are legion, and to conflate them with the due process obligations of the Tribunal is politicking and simply disgraceful.

Next to speak was Oliver McTernan, who spoke about the human rights abuses in Bangladesh in the most abstract terms and admitted that he had only educated himself on the issues prior to attending the rally, from the internet.

Farooq Murad of the MCB spoke next. Murad’s father, Khurram Murad, was the vice-Amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan and, as you would expect from the MCB, used arresting phrases to suggest that the whole matter was an international religious struggle against the oppression of Muslims:

“What is happening in Bangladesh now is an insult to the Ummah”

Imam Hazim Fazlic who is from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and is an imam in Birmingham, was next to speak. One of the points he made was that he hoped that Bangladesh would be the subject of some kind of humanitarian intervention by the international community, similar to Bosnia. This was not met with a very enthusiastic response from the audience.

Walid Saffour, of the Syrian Human Rights Committee, ended his speech with these words:

“May God protect our Maulana Delwar Hussein Sayeedi!”

This caused a full-throated cheer from the ELM audience, a response which made me sick to my stomach. Delwar Hussein Sayeedi stands accused in Bangladesh charged with looting, plundering, arson and rape of members of the Hindu minority. A full account of his crimes and the evidence brought to the Tribunal can be found here.

Other speakers who also addressed the LMC last night were Jonathan Fryer and Dr Noureddin Meladi. Fryer mentioned the human rights abuses in Bangladesh perpetrated by the Rapid Action Battalion, an elite crime force which has been responsible for many extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh.

Next to speak was Mahidur Rahman, who is the ‘Chief Coordinator’ of the UK chapter of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) in the UK. For some reason, Mahidur Rahman failed to mention that it was his party, the BNP, which was responsible for the creation of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). It was under the BNP government that RAB had become a “government death squad” in 2006, which a US human rights group accused of being responsible for killing 350 suspects in custody.

Mahidur Rahman made no mention of this, choosing instead to lay the blame of the RAB’s human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings firmly and in gross partisan manner on the Awami League instead.

We next had Noureddin Miladi, a Tunisian who suggested this little Islamist nugget of wisdom:

“[Democracy] as has been going for the last forty years on Bangladesh, has been something imposed from above. And all the rulers have, in a way, sustained by western powers because they serve their agenda of the western powers”

Musleh Faradhi the leader of the IFE spoke next. In addition to suggesting that the War Crimes Tribunal is some kind of Neocon conspiracy ordained by George Bush, he dishonestly mangled an historical fact:

“They found something special for Bangladesh and that is war crimes and war criminals. Because they know, because their gurus told them the bigger the issue that you raise, the young people of Bangladesh will become very emotional. They would think ‘How can these people be the enemy of the country, how can a group of people work against the independence of the country?’

Therefore they have found an issue and they have tried to make an issue of something that was not an issue. Because Bangladesh reconciled with what happened in 1971. People who were criminals, they were tried and the people who were not criminals were forgiven by the founder of the nation. But why it has come up after forty years? Only because they want to suppress opposition”

This is a blatant lie made here by Faradhi. It is his assertion that criminals were tried in 1971. But war criminals have not faced judicial proceedings until now. Perhaps he should have listened to his colleage, Toby Cadman, who had just previously said on the same platform:

“It’s important that Bangladesh, as a nation, brings an end to this particular chapter and brings an end to impunity. It has an obligation under international law to do this. It also has an obligation under international law to do it properly.”

And that is exactly what should be done. And it would be advisable that the Jamaat-e-Islami activists of the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum Europe and their various friends who all spoke at the meeting yesterday accept that justice be served by supporting the judicial processes in Bangladesh under the War Crimes Tribunal.

It is also imperative that the War Crimes Tribunal itself comply to all international judicial process and norms so that the accused can get a fair trial.

This entry was posted in 1971 War, Human Rights, Islamism. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

24 Comments

  1. Mo
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    Excellent post. Thanks for this.

  2. fred
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 3:18 PM | Permalink

    “Lambert was good enough to confess at the onset that he had never been to Bangladesh and had limited knowledge of the facts in Bangladesh first hand”

    Like Spittoon when it talks about Arab countries and I/P you mean….

  3. Ashik
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    Actually Fred, none of the non-Bangladeshi speakers, with the exception of Toby Cadman, have ever visited Bangladesh and all had limited knowledge of the facts in Bangladesh first hand. Including the chair of the ‘Bangladesh Crisis Group’, Kemal Helbawy.

  4. dawood
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

    The chair of this group is Kemal Helbawy!? This is the same Kemal Helbawy who mourned the death of Osama Bin Laden!

    It is utterly surreal that a British barrister should be speaking at a rally organised by a group whose chair is Kamel Helbawy should also be lobbying for the human rights of genocidaires and war criminals. It’s beyond belief.

  5. Muhammad
    Posted October 4, 2011 at 11:21 PM | Permalink

    While it is important to demand trial of war criminals ,it is equally important
    To maintain due process and fairness on the trial. Whe criticising Toby
    Or we should not loose our reasoning and fair attitude of mind. To build a tolerant
    And democratic society we need to sit together though we may have different
    Views and attitudes.

  6. Muhammad Rahman
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 1:06 AM | Permalink

    The Tribunal set up by fascist govt. of Bangladesh, is nothing but a “Kangaroo Court”. I feel pity for the writer of this blog since he himself knows very well that the cahrges brought against Saidee and others are blatant lies. They gave money to poor people and some Hindu political thugs of Awami League to file cases against the respected Islamic leaders after almost 40 years!! what is happening in Bangaldesh is a disgrace of the judicial system. All three member judge panel belongs to Awami League party men so this “Kangaroo Court” will do whatever thier master has decided and the FOX like Awami League media will act as the loudspeakers. Media Trial is done – now the actual drama by fascist Awami League in order to annihilate all the opposition political parties is going on same way they did in 1975 by banning all political parties and all medias except four of their own.

  7. Rasel
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    There is no doubt that the war crimes trial should be done with fairness! But how ‘fair’ can it be at the hands of Bangladesh Awami League?? They have so far proven that there is not an iota of hope for its fairness in the trial by appointing all politically motivated and politically active judges in the tribunal!! Besides, the judgements are almost all ‘pre-determined’ by the ‘authority’!

    The accused had no complaints against them until the last few years. The current ruling regime, Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) had coalition with them in order to get hold of power in 1996! Where was the issue of war crimes then?! They were the same people who were in the coalition!!

    Why is Maulana Sayedee being accused with lies?? Where were his war crimes when he held tafsir programs in public immediately after the independence in 1971-72, where many muktijoddhas and Awami League leaders regularly attended!! All these with other proofs clearly show that the whole issue of war crimes is a ‘drama’ being staged, and it will not be resolved until 2021 as the current regime has no other major ‘issue’ to unite the people other than this!

  8. Asha
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    If all these ‘naive’ speakers assembled in a Jamat rally at the heart of London to take on Bangladesh’s Delhi-led government then there may be some hope for Bangladesh. The country is under the boot of a vengeful party who parade its oppositon political leaders with shackles like criminals. Sooner they leave better for Bangladeshi people.

  9. Bangladeshi
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for your partisan post.
    looks like you were there with a made up mind and hate filled heart.
    please visit http://bangladeshwarcrimes.blogspot.com/ by David Bergman. He lives in BD, and neither a defense lawyer, nor a Jamaat sympathesizer. in fact he is the son in law of Kamal Hossein. Unless your mind is closed and your conscience dead, you will easily notice the shams going on in the name of war crimes trial.

    please do care to learn a bit of history and fact…

  10. Hasan
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    Who is Kamal Hossein?

  11. muhammad
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    kamal hossain is the renowned lawyer of bangladesh and ex foreign minister of bangladesh

  12. Ashik
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    I’m glad to see most of the commenters here are all supportive of the Tribunal’s judicial function and it’s obligation to ensure that its enforcement of due process stands up to national and international scrutiny.

    I have not cricised Toby Cadman’s professional integrity nor his commitment to international norms. I have simply cricised his decision to share platform with dubious and partisan political forces.

    I am also in agreement with some of Cadman’s critcisms of the Tribunal’s failures and the partisan influence exerted upon by the Awami Leagure and the highly partisan nature of this influence. This is bad news for the strict impartiality that the Tribunal must adhere to.

    As others have mentioned here, it is worth continuing to monitor the regular write-ups of the daily proceedings of the Tribunal by David Bergman. The latest decision of the Tribunal for citing him with contempt of court is shameful and does not bode well. But I hope these decisions can be improved.

  13. Muhammad Rahman
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 7:09 PM | Permalink

    To Mr. Ashik, When you say that Mr. Cadman share platform with dubious and partisan political forces – you yourself is no different. Unless you are completely supportive and blind supporter of fascist regime of Bangladesh Awami League it is not possible for you to write this blog. International Crime Tribunal is nothing but a Kangaroo Court set-up by the fascist regime whose bias, intimidation to defended and their families, defence lawyers are coming out in the press every day – yet your blind eyes can’t see it!!

    If you had a shred of decency you would not termed many of the internationally acclaimed figures as dubious. However, I don’t expect any decency from any Awami League sypathizers.

  14. Mahruz Abdullah
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 7:27 PM | Permalink

    I dont really get it, what are you advocating here? Are you saying that the demands of the speakers are not justified? Or, are you saying that the speakers do not have any right to raise these issues. As a new generation Bangladeshi, I want the war criminals to be caught and punished, but, I do nt want the current government to play politics with this. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know the procedure and methods in the war crime tribunal in Bangladesh are completely flawed and directly against all international norms. I personally feel that the whole things is designed to punish opposition.

  15. Ashik
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 9:20 PM | Permalink

    I have already criticised the Awami League’s constant interference and politicisation of the War Crimes Tribunal, so my views can hardly be called “partisan”. My criticism of AL includes it’s shocking record of harrasment of the 5 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders who are accused of the crimes against humanity. And I go along with David Bergman’s opinion that it has so far been poorly executed.

    Look, I want to see a fair and proper trial because that would be in the interest in Bangladesh. And I agree with Toby Cadman when he said, at the political rally:

    “Bangladesh as a nation is required to do this by intenational law. It is required to do this in compliance with international norms and international practices. ”

    But I am not sure what led Cadman to take the decision to share platform with Islamists and supporters of al-Qaeda, such Kemal Helbawy, Moazzam Begg and Musleh Faredhi et al. Now Cadman is in no position to criticise the WCT of politicisation after Monday night’s shenanigans with the entire firmament of the ‘League of British Extremist Muslims’ at the London Muslim Centre.

    All sensible people want to see proper and fair trials which comply to international judicial norms. But Cadman showboated with a group of people who want to shut it down completely.

  16. bhashkar
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 9:43 PM | Permalink

    “I personally feel that the whole things is designed to punish opposition.”

    Doubtful. The trial is of specifically 5 alleged war criminals who committed crimes against humanity, not the entire population of the Bangladeshi opposition.

  17. Mazhar
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 12:54 AM | Permalink

    Thanks those who have demonstrated in London against “Bangladesh government’s State terrorism ” and suppression to opposition parties. I believe in justice and liberty. I support human rights and individual dignity. Bangladeshi current government may stay longer period in power by this suppression but can’t stay forever. They should love the country and its citizen, by creating this kind of unjust, barbaric laws and order will achieve nothing but very sad end for them and harming the country. Please, stop all of these atrocities and inhuman behavior to the opposition parties , specially, to Jamaat. Don’t forget your destiny in this world and the destiny in here after…..save Bangladesh from misrule and crisis

  18. Muhammad
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 1:13 AM | Permalink

    To mr ashik
    Donor be so unreasonable about toby. Sitting with jamati speaker
    Toby was neutral in his speech, he did not echo with any pro jamati speaker.
    Mr ashik do not act line awamileaguer of Bangladesh where they do not
    Attend a seminar if any pro amati speaker attends there though awamileagures and jamatis sat and hugged each other during movement against bnp . Shame on the hypocrisy of awamileagures.

  19. frk
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 1:13 AM | Permalink

    Don’t worry Bangladesh,

    Tarek Rahman – General Zia’s son and the man who stole many billions of dollars from your economy to become one of Asia’s youngest billionaires, will be back next election to save Jamaat’s human rights, and save you from misrule and crisis.

  20. Toby
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    Ordinarily I would not respond to such discussions, but this has sparked an interesting debate. I have been criticised for not what I said, but rather the forum in which I said it. That is a legitimate comment and Ashik is perfectly entitled to voice his opinion. That actually is one of the main points I have sought to address in the past, open debate on this subject is absolutely essential if Bangladesh wants to consider itself a truly democratic nation. Suppressing opposition comment or criticism of the Government is not the hallmark of democracy. The other point I would like to make is that Ashik has quite rightly pointed out that there are legitimate concerns with the Tribunal. However, that seems to be somewhat overlooked by the conclusions drawn as to the guilt of those about to stand trial. The point I made, and will continue to make, is that no-one has been convicted of any offence and those awaiting trial, whatever their political opinions, have the right to expect to be presumed innocent unless and until convicted by an independent and impartial tribunal displaying the hallmarks of a fair trial. That is the absolute minimum that one should expect.

  21. Commentator
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

    As an opponent of Jamaat-e-Islami’s politics, and of the institutions that they control in the United Kingdom, I couldn’t agree with Toby’s response more.

    I doubt that Toby Cadman knew anything about the Jamaat and Ikhwani network in the United Kingdom before agreeing to speak at this meeting. Perhaps he wouldn’t have agreed to do so, if he’d been in the picture.

    That said, those accused of crimes have a perfect right to the best representation they can muster. There are very serious concerns about the constitution and conduct of the Tribunal, which absolutely must be addressed. The exclusion of Toby Cadman from Bangladeshi is (excuse my French) a fucking outrage.

    But it is pretty galling – must have been shocking to him – to have given a straight speech on the rule of law, to be followed up by another speech by the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, whose late father was reportedly a war criminal and genocidaire, describing the existence of the Tribunal as an attack on the “Ummah”.

    To give a parallel: during the 1980s, legislation was introduced which allowed Nazi war criminals to be tried. There were some concerns that such legislation was retrospective in nature, and therefore offended against the rule of law. That was a perfectly respectable argument to make.

    However, if a barrister objecting on constitutional grounds to the UK War Crimes legislation had been toured round by the Friends of the Wehrmacht and various neo Nazi groups, where he’d made speeches to baying audiences of Sieg Heillers: that would be a pretty shocking thing.

    I think that’s essentially where Toby Cadman found himself, this week. I doubt he was aware of the situation before he agreed to speak, and I hope he’ll be more careful about the audiences he addresses in the future.

  22. Ashraf
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

    This is excellent comment and writings. Now you can see Water lily is burst… this kind of politics is only for facist Awami league…

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