Hefazat-e-Islam’s threat of civil war in Bangladesh: Political Islam is on the march, but where is the moderate Islamic narrative?
Based on the author's contribution as a panellist in the release of Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Frances Harrison’s Report "Political Islam and the Elections in Bangladesh" released at Senate Hall, University of London, on 30 September, 2013
By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
5 November 2013
According to news reports in Bangladesh press radical Islamist group Hefazat-e Islam has warned the country of a civil war if the government goes ahead with its plan to control Qaumi madrasas like state-funded Alia madrasas. “We won’t allow Qaumi madrasas to be controlled by the government. Lakhs of people will be killed if anyone tries to control Qaumi Madrasa,” Hefazat Ameer Shah Ahmed Shafi told a press conference in Chittagong on October 27. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina , however, said on November 4 that her government wants to finalise the Qaumi Madrasah Education Policy in consultation with all concerned, including Ulema-Mashayekh and Islamic scholars to make Qaumi Madrasah education more suited to the modern times.
Regardless of the merits of the case one gets a sense from Hefazat-e Islam threatening civil war in which "lakhs of people will be killed" as well as the events surrounding the "sudden" emergence of Hefazat that Political Islam is on the march in Bangladesh. A creeping radicalisation of the society is going on. Unimpeded. No organised effort is being made to check its growth in the only way it can be checked – with a counter-narrative of moderate, mainstream Islam. Bangladesh has the reputation of a moderate Islamic country which said NO to Two-Nation Theory and put its ethnic, linguistic identity above its religious one.
Spiritual, mystical side of Islam is not much in evidence, however, today, in Bangladesh as also in many other parts of the Muslim world.