Bouchery in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi freedom fighters capture Pakistani troops. Popular art holds bitter memories that politicians can't erase.
WHILE George Dubya Bush -or his scriptwriters - have learned to mouth clever phrases about "Islamo-facism", Asians opposing reactionary religious terror from whatever denomination are asking whether the West's pretended concern for "democracy" really applies to them.
Bush and his advisers reach for phrases to justify US aggression in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and Israel's blitz on Lebanon, a possible trial run for war on Iran. Evoking the glow of nostalgia for being the good guys of World War II heroism, the pro-war liberals and ne-cons will thank you not to mention how the Bush family did well doing business with Hitler. Nor must you join the game of comparisons by remembering how the Gestapo justified deportation and torture by saying it was combatting "terrorists".
But what about countries where reactionary Islamic regimes and parties suit the requirements of US empire? The most obvious case is the Saudi tyranny, which may not be submissive enough for the taste of some 'neo-cons', but has served the purpose of Western imperialism and oil interests long and well-enough.
The British Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman recently declared that his government's priorities are "freedom, justice and opportunity", adding: "We want all governments to be accountable to their people, and we want a strong international system based on the rule of law".
I don't know who the Saudi regime is accountable to, or how Israel's bombing in Lebanon, including cluster bombs which are still killing children, squares with international law. But having steadfastly resisted calls for a cease-fire in Lebanon, the Blair government has quietly approved a £10 billion deal to sell 72 British Aerospace Eurofighters to the Saudis. It is a continuation of the massive al-Yamamah contract from Thatcher's days, and whether or not the planes ever see action, or where, it is good for the directors of British Aerospace.
Getting a slice of the action in oil-rich Saudi Arabia is expected (we would not want those Saudis spending their billions on development and eradicating poverty in the Middle East). But what of poorer but perhaps strategic countries? Twenty five years ago, after suffering massacres and atrocities at the hands of the Pakistani Army, which was US-backed, the people of what had been called "East Pakistan" fought and established their poor but proud independent state, Bangladesh.
"Kill 3 million and the rest will eat out of your hands", Pakistani dictator General Yahya Khan was reported to have said; and Bangladeshis later estimated that three million of their people had been killed.
The Pakistani Army was helped by collaborators from the Jamaat e-Islami party, such as Matsur Rahman Nizami, who advocated total expulsion of the Hindu minority population as a solution to the country's problems. On December 14, 1971, the Rajakar militia created by these Islamicists took part in the massacre of university professors, writers, musicians and artists, so this day is still called Bhuddijibi Dibos, the Killing of Intellectuals day.
After the Liberation War, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared a general amnesty, and there has been no official trial or investigations of the Jamaat e-Islami for war crimes. The conditions of the amnesty barred them from politics, but military ruler Ziaur Rahman let them make a comeback. Today the Jama'st e Islami is in coalition with the ruling Bangladesh National Party, and Nizami is one of their ministers.
The Bangladesh Observer reported last month that US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher had given Jama'at e Islami a clean bill of health. ‘(Richard) Boucher also considered Jamaat-e-Islami as a democratic party and didn’t find any evidence of Jamaat being involved in bombing or connected to bombing.’ -The Bangladesh Observer report (5 August 2006)
Jahed Ahmed recalled that "prior to Mr. Boucher, Harry K. Thomas—the former US ambassador to Bangladesh—also gave similar testimony about Jamaat. Although many secularists and liberals of Bangladesh origin were perplexed to hear such certification of Jamaat coming from US officials, some nevertheless were not surprised and instead commented- expecting US paving a way to a democratic and secular Bangladesh is merely a day dream. America doesn’t, and need not care if a democratic and secular Bangladesh is established. So long as the ruling party in Bangladesh favors America’s imperialist and profit-only based foreign policies, US would continue being on their side. So what, even if that party happens to be as fascist as Jamaat! This is not any new invention, but a re-discovery of a bitter truth in the new light".
Just how little Jamaat e-Islami has moved from its Rajakar killing-the-intellectuals days might be judged the fact that its student wing, Islami Chatra Shibir, last month issued death threats to two eminent secular intellectuals, Hasan Azizul Haque, Professor of Philosophy at the Rajshahi University and Professor Zafar Iqbal at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. The two nastik-murtadas, or filthy atheists, were warned that their tongues would be cut out, that they would have their throats slit, that their bodies would be chopped up and thrown in the Bay of Bengal.
As Jahed Ahmed points out, these threatening letters and phone calls in Bangladesh are no joke.
" In the past, Jamaat gang had made successful use of this political tool to incite assaults, persecutions and violence against such dedicated secularist as (late) Prof. Ahmed Shariff, (late) Prof. Humayun Azad, author Taslima Nasrin, and poet Shamsur Rahman (recently passed away). We didn’t and cannot forget how Jamayat-Shibit (known as "Islami Chatra Songho" in ‘71) gang using same pretext killed some of the brightest secular minds of Bangladesh in 1971. History would also testify-how Maolana Moududi--Jamaat’s founder & guru--caused deaths of several thousands of minority Quadiyanis in the West Pakistan during Ayub Khan’s rule. The Pakistan Judiciary held Moududi responsible for the bloody riot and issued death sentence against Moududi in their verdict but Moududi was granted a pardon after then Saudi King Faisal sided with Moududi and personally called up military junta Ayub Khan. (my emphasis -CP)
"That’s Jamaat-e-Islam. Such a cowardly and hypocritical political party which didn’t make its voice vocal against recent US-supported Israeli invasion of Lebanon, massacre of hundreds of innocent Muslim men, women and children. Indeed, those raising voices against such barbaric act in Bangladesh were NOT so called Islamic Jamaat, but country’s progressive and secular forces! Why did Jamaat keep quite? One may wonder. I’d answer: Jamaat cannot afford to provoke US by any means, even if whole of Lebanese Muslims men-women were to be killed".
So long as Bangladesh's reactionary Islamicists keep in line with US policies why should Washington worry about them whipping up ignorant mobs to wage 'Black Hundred' style terror against leftwingers, secularists, and democratic intellectuals? Wasn't it just such Islamicist gangs that were used to massacre communists in Indonesia at the side of the CIA-backed military?
What should worry us in Britain is the extent to which the democratic, secular and progressive forces in Bangladesh are left to take their brave stand alone, ignored by so-called liberals and socialists here who have been taken in by those fronting for the Jamaat e-Islami.
Thanks to Awaaz-South Asia Watch
for drawing attention to this issue.
Other than quotes from Jahed Ahmed, opinions are my own.