The novelist Philip Hensher, writing in the Independent, frames the history of the birth of Bangladesh against the pain and fury of the hundreds of thousands of protesters of Shahbag Square, now demanding justice for the war criminals of Jamaat-e-Islam. Along the way he remarks on the genocide denial of Pakistan and the efforts a certain “historian” now based in Oxford. This is as comprehensive as it gets.
Since 5 February, Bangladesh has been transfixed by this ongoing, immense protest. Hundreds of thousands have occupied Shahbagh Square in protest at a verdict passed by the International Crimes Tribunal on war crimes committed during the genocide which preceded the founding of the country in 1971. One of those found guilty, Abdul Kalam Azad, was sentenced to death. Another, however, Abdul Quader Mollah, the assistant secretary general of a Muslim party which collaborated with the genocidaires, the Jamaat–e-Islami, was given life imprisonment. The protests which followed, and are still continuing, are led by intelligent and liberal people; they are, however, calling with great urgency for the death penalty to be passed on Mollah and other convicted war criminals.
A Day before the Pakistan Army surrendered to the Bangladesh Mukti Bahini and the Indian Armed Forces, they and their Jamaat-e-Islami collaborators carried out a slaughter of the most prominent Bangladeshi academics and intellectuals. Today’s protests in Dhaka are the cries for justice by the sons and daughters of those who were killed in the name of Islam and Pakistan that day and the three million who died in the genocide carried out by the Pakistan Army and its jihadi militiamen in the previous nine months.
Here is the New York Times report from the war zone, dated December 19, 1971. Every Pakistani must read this and hang their head in shame.
Nick Cohen with an excellent piece on how the Shahbag demonstrations formed the space for a battle between secular Bangladeshis and Jamaat-e-Islami supporters in a park in Whitechapel. And the ongoing story of how the establishment and Britain’s liberal Left continues to enable fascist streams in political Islam, in particular, Jamaat-e-Islam.
Do I hear you say that Bangladesh is far away and the genocide was long ago?
Not so far away. Not so long ago. And the agonies of Bangladeshi liberals are nothing in comparison to the contradictions of their British counterparts.
The conflict between the Shahbag and Jamaat has already reachedLondon. On 9 February, local supporters of the uprising demonstrated in Altab Ali Park, a rare patch of green space off the Whitechapel Road in London’s East End. They were met by Jamaatis. “They attacked our men with stones,” one of the protest’s organisers told me. “There were old people and women and children there, but they still attacked us.”
Pervez Hoodbhoy is one of the most thoughtful of dissenting voices speaking in Pakistan today. His latest piece is a comment on the reasons behind Pakistan’s wilful disinterest of the events of the Shahbag Uprising.
On February 5, the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) found Mullah guilty in five out of the six charges against him. Known as Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur) because of his atrocities against citizens in the Mirpur area of Dhaka, he was charged with beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and murdering 344 people. The ICT sentenced Mullah, presently assistant secretary general of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, to life in prison. For the protesters in Shahbag Square, this isn’t enough — they want Mullah hanged. On the other side, the Jamaat-e-Islami protested violently and also took out demonstrations. But its efforts to influence global opinion foundered in spite of a well-funded effort.
Rajib Haider who blogged under the name of ‘Thaba Baba’ was one of the blogger activists of the Shahbag youth uprising in Bangladesh. Yesterday came news that Rajib was slaughtered in Dhaka close to his home. His throat and wrists were slit, in signature Chaatra Shibir (Jamaat-e-Islam’s student wing) style, and he was left to die.
Ahmed Rajib Haider, 26, was an active participant of the ongoing nonstop demonstrations at Shahbagh demanding death sentences for all ‘war criminals’.
Officer-in-Charge of Pallabi Police Station Abdul Latif Sheikh told bdnews24.com that they recovered Shuvo’s body from Laalmatia’s Palashnagar around 9pm.
He said the face bore signs of slashes. A scarf was wrapped around the blogger’s throat, Sheikh added.
This was not a simple mugging case as police said the deceased’s laptop was found near the body of the architect.
Saad Z Hossain writes a piece which perfectly encapsulates the public sentiments regarding the fascist culture of Jamaat encroaching into public life and what the Youth Uprising at Shahbag think about it:
What do you expect the government to do? Shoot at unarmed women and children? Slaughter college kids and shopkeepers? The demands of Shahbagh and the AL overlap to some extent. That is not surprising given the universal hatred for Razakars this country once felt in ‘71. The fact that politicians have since seen fit to worm these men back into power does not mean they were ever rehabilitated in the eyes of the common people. The fact that most people in the country hate Razakars, including the sitting government, should not really detract from the legitimacy of the cause.
On the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Hecklers’, Gita Sahgal takes on the combined force of the Islamists Tahmina Saleem (Islamic Society Britain), Tariq Ramadan (freelance Islamist), Nazir Ahmed (House of Lords), Moazzam Begg (Cage Prisoners) and Daud Abdullah (Muslim Council of Britain)
Last week on CIF Martin Bright discussed possible grounds for engagement with non-violent Islamists. This was in response to a suggestion that the FCO needed to engage with non-violent Islamist parties like Hamas. A recent IPPR report also suggested that this type of engagement was the way forward. An important question to ask, however, is what kind of engagement is possible with non-violent Islamists?
It worries me when some commentators call for this kind of engagement. The problem with non-violent Islamists is that although they won’t commit violent actions themselves they believe the use of violence for political goals is justified. And is Hamas really a non-violent organisation? The European Union and United States have classified it as a terrorist organisation. Hamas’s original founding charter called for the destruction of the State of Israel. They have participated in suicide bombings that have killed innocent people, Israeli and Palestinians alike. Bearing all this in mind what kind of engagement can we expect to have with groups like Hamas?