Bangladesh’s example: Give secularism, tolerance a chance, says new body

Published: April 20, 2012
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Religious intolerance and extremism need to be tackled.

Religious intolerance and extremism need to be tackled.

KARACHI: While militants and ultra-right wing terrorists around the world are connected to each other, liberal and secular proponents of society remain unaware of each other’s presence and work, observed speakers at the launch of the Pakistan chapter of the “International forum for secular Bangladesh […]” on Wednesday.

The movement, at present, has chapters in around 17 countries and Pakistan has become the 18th addition to the list. Each chapter works with the aim to unite likeminded secular and liberal people in creating a global pressure group to eradicate the menace of religious intolerance and extremism.

“I’d definitely compliment the people of Bangladesh who have been successful in all respects to get rid of terrorism and militancy that was sponsored by Pakistan at the behest of our establishment,” said former attorney general and federal minister Syed Iqbal Haider who was made president of the forum’s Pakistan chapter. He spoke at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.

“You are lucky that your Supreme Court repeatedly prohibited any pronouncement of a fatwa by any religious organisation and you are lucky that your founding father gave you four guiding principles incorporated in the Constitution:  secularism, socialism, nationalism and democracy,” said Haider while juxtaposing it with the situation in Pakistan which, according to him, has been marred by the curse of religious extremism, ethnicity and sectarianism.

Haider gave the example of the people of Bangladesh, saying that if they can follow the path of secularism without deviating from the basic principles of Islam, there is no reason why we should be shy of taking on secularism which involves greater respect and freedom for everyone to follow their beliefs.

The executive president of the forum, Shahriar Kabir, had arrived from Bangladesh. “After independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh drew up a constitution with secularism as a basic principle in 1972,” he said, adding that later General Ziaur Rahman tried to bulldoze it. This was what General Ziaul Haq of Pakistan also tried to do.

He added that the brand of Islam that had been preached by Sufis in this part of the world was by and large liberal and needs to be promoted. In contrast to this, said Kabir, the brand of Islam that has been preached by the Jamaat-e-Islami, following the model of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has nothing to do with the true spirit of Islam. He proposed the idea of an International Sufi Conference in Karachi which received nods of approval from his comrades.

Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo from Balochistan, Senator Afrasiyab Khattak from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Advocate Javed Qazi from Sindh, Advocate Zafar Malik from Punjab and Sheema Kermani from Karachi were declared the vice presidents of the chapter. Journalist Munazza Siddiqui was made general secretary. Prominent human rights activists IA Rehman, Tahira Mazhar Ali, BM Kutty, Naseem Akhtar, Karamat Ali and Professor Dr Tariq Rahman were included on the advisory committee.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Mirza
    Apr 20, 2012 - 9:24AM

    I am really happy at the progress that BD has made after their freedom. BD is becoming a shining example among poor Muslim countries in its democracy, secularism and economic progress in such a short time. Kudos to BD and its secularism, they could not have done that within Pakistan.

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  • M Ali Khan
    Apr 20, 2012 - 9:25AM

    Secularism is erroneously considered to be the same as Atheism here, thanks to decades of propaganda – Maulana Maududi being one of the first here to smear Secularism in his writings back in the early 1940s. And look where that has taken us since we made Maududi our ‘roohani peshwah’ with the 1949 Objectives Resolution…

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 20, 2012 - 9:36AM

    Hindus are increasingly having a hard time in Bangladesh too. Bangladesh is heading towards a 100% Muslim Secular state – a.k.a Turkey.

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  • Pollack
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:38AM

    It will be hard for Pakistan to be like Bangladesh as far as secularism is concerned. One important difference between these societies is is that Pakistan is significantly more arabized than Bangladesh, thanks to significant money flow from religious political groups in Saudi Arabia into Pakistan and also due to Zia. So there are many leaders in Pakistan who are beneficiaries of this money flow into Pakistan.They will never agree to dearabize Pakistan. The Bengalis have managed to retain their ancient culture despite efforts by many groups in Bangladesh to Arabize them. Dearabization is essential if you want to be secular. You can’t be a Wahhabi and a secular person at the same time. They are mutually exclusive.

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  • khan of quetta
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:56AM

    wether any body likes it or not pakistan is going to be islamic republic for everRecommend

  • z shams
    Apr 20, 2012 - 12:34PM

    @khan of quetta:

    My dear Khan Pakistan can become a secular country even by retaining her name tag as Islamic Republic of Pakistan for Islam teaches us to be respectful to other religion and caste. But the present Pakistan is unfortunately within the grasp of Western powers who have appointed rheir agents within and outside your country to give Islam a name which is not acceptable to followers of basic tenents of Islam through out the world.

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  • Apr 20, 2012 - 1:02PM

    @Arijit Sharma – You are absolutely wrong. Hindus live in peace side-by-side with the Muslims in Bangladesh apart from some rare and small incidents which have more to do with village politics rather than religious views. Can you mention a single instance of religious riots occurred in Bangladesh in the last 60 years? And then compare it with the same in India during the same time period. You will be overwhelmingly surprised.

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  • Apr 20, 2012 - 2:38PM

    Bangladesh is making progress in every field. They are lucky that they know very well the reasons which forced them to become independent, as such they are careful not to repeat those mistakes which Pakistan has made. Religion plus politics is the most lethal weapon of mass destruction. The only hope for Pakistan is in adopting secular values and policies.Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2012 - 9:54PM

    I am in the profession of journalism for last 50 years. Currently I am a full time poet and columnist.Would anybody kindly explain what is secularism. If you go by oxford dictionary, the meaning of secularim is non religious, worldly, not concerned about religion.The word originated in England. They had conflict between church and the state, king and the church. Is there any scope for a religious person to be secular?

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  • Apr 21, 2012 - 8:20AM

    I see most so called educated people do not know what is religion. In politics there are extreme people. Who forced muslims of India to go for an independent state out of India. Congress under the leadership of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel wanted to establish a hindu state under the leadershi of hindu leaders. So muslims opted for an independent state. If congress was a little bit tolerant there would have been no Pakistan and subsequently no Bangladesh. Why there should be a Hindu or muslim state? It should be only INDIA, and INDIA with hindu and muslims. This is possible when there will be no hindu and no muslims in state affairs. Now, please tell me who is responsible for partition of India?

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  • Apr 21, 2012 - 8:24AM

    Would you kindly explain what should be status of future Bangladesh? There is no doubt that Bangladesh is a muslim majority country as India is a hindu majority country.

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  • shamseena
    Apr 21, 2012 - 9:35AM

    @ Ershad Mazumder
    there is enough scope for religious people to secular!! all we have to do is be sure of our own values and respect the fact that there are other people who come from different backgrounds and faiths. there are a lot of beautiful things in our world. if we spend more time thinking about the welfare of people and the environment, and genuine education, we will see that religious differences will take a backseat. in India i have a lot of friends from different faiths and that includes uber religious christians and hindus, but i cant say we have ever clashed based on that. we do have discussions at times but then we leave it at the fact that differences are bound to stay! while we must observe our personal laws and should have religious education, it no way means that we have to hate others for being different! we cannot straightjacket this earth and whatever is wrong or right will be judged by God. we have no right to transgress our limits. and we can modify the western concept of secularism to suit our needs. seee India is a secular country and also a very religious one! and strifes do occur but we are 1021 million!

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  • observer
    Apr 22, 2012 - 9:54AM

    @Ershad Majumdar

    I am in the profession of journalism for last 50 years. Currently I am a full time poet and columnist.Would anybody kindly explain what is secularism.

    Yes, I will. It means that the State will not concern itself with the religious beliefs of its subjects. That the State will not discriminate between two citizens on the basis of their religious persuasion or the complete absence of it. That the protection and benefits of the state will be available to all irrespective of religion, race, colour, language,ethnicity etc etc.

    Is there any scope for a religious person to be secular?

    May be, May be not. However, the question is irrelevant as the duty to be ‘secular’ is imposed on the state and not on the individual.

    Congress under the leadership of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel wanted to establish a hindu state under the leadershi of hindu leaders.

    Did Jinnah and Suhrawardy ever claim that? Did not they say that Muslims are a separate nation. And do tell me, Did India actually become a Hindu State with prohibitions on Muslims and Islam?Or on Christians and Jews and Parsees and Agnostics and whatever else.
    And Why did BD come about?
    Wasn’t a question of Equality irrespective of colour and language involved. Was that not a ‘Secular’ demand?

    Would you kindly explain what should be status of future Bangladesh? There is no doubt that Bangladesh is a muslim majority country as India is a hindu majority country.

    Do you agree that more Bangladeshis migrate to Christian majority UK/US and Hindu majority India, than Muslim majority Pakistan. Ask yourself-WHY?
    The answer will also explain what should be status of future Bangladesh.

    Mr Journalist and Columnist write your next column on your findings.

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  • Apr 23, 2012 - 8:51AM

    Recently David Cameron, PM of Britain said that his country was a christian country. The word secularism has originated from Britain when conflict between state and the church arose. Now britain has abandoned this word secularism. Bangladesh is a muslim majority country. This position of demography has tremendous influence over the state and the government. Even politicians can not ignore majority people.An intellectual can be secular, he or she can write for secularism. India or Hindustan claims that it is a secular country when more that 1000 riots erupts every year. Read the book on Indian riots written by Indian secular writer. Have you forgotten the role Narendra Modi in Gujrat riot?

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  • s shah
    May 12, 2012 - 7:42AM

    @observer, @shamseena: Well said!

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  • Deb
    May 15, 2012 - 12:47AM

    @Ershad Mazumder

    ‘….more than 1000 riots erupt every year (in India)’

    i.e. 2.74 riots per day.Forget about Indian, name one Bangladeshi or Pakistani media that has reported this gem of a news.
    Also there is no such place on earth named Hindustan, it is known as India all over the world.
    Hindustan resides, only in the minds of few bigots of a very special kind.

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