Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Long arm of the Bangladesh war, and blind eye of some British Leftists

CHOWDHURY MUEEN UDDIN (left) with Prince Charles, 
on visit to Leicester, in 2003

In December 2009  the Guardian had to publish the following in its Notes and Corrections:
 Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin: we apologise for publishing allegations that he was part of a group that abducted people in East Pakistan and was involved in the commission of genocide (Prosecute Bangladesh's war criminals, 7 October, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin has never been prosecuted, charged nor even arrested in connection with these events. Mr Mueen-Uddin has consistently denied the accusations made against him as utterly false. We are sorry for the distress our article caused him.

This week the Guardian and other newspapers report that "A UK-based Muslim leader has been sentenced to death for war crimes after a "farcical" trial in Bangladesh, his lawyer has said.
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, who lives in London, was sentenced in his absence at a special war crimes tribunal along with Ashrafuzzaman Khan, who lives in the US. Both were found guilty of abducting and murdering 18 people including nine university teachers, six journalists and three doctors in December 1971, during Bangladesh's fight for independence against Pakistan.

Mueen-Uddin's lawyer Toby Cadman said: "I would like to say I am shocked and appalled but this is pretty consistent with the way these trials have been managed over the past two years.
"There have been very bold statements by the prosecution and the [Bangladeshi] government about seeking his return so he can be executed, but no British court is ever going to send him back because of the death penalty and the fair trial concerns that have been raised.

"Receiving the death sentence after such a farcical trial is very difficult for him to deal with. If there was a credible process, he would have submitted himself to trial."

Neither the Home Office nor Scotland Yard could confirm whether an extradition request had been made for Mueen-Uddin. However, the Home Office does not extradite if the person faces the death penalty, unless the home secretary has been assured that the sentence will not be imposed.
A Home Office spokesman said: "As a matter of longstanding policy and practice the UK will neither confirm nor deny whether an extradition request has been made or received until such time as a person is arrested in relation to that request."

"During the 1971 war Mueen-Uddin and Khan were members of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is allied with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party headed by the former prime minister Khaleda Zia, a rival of the current PM, Sheikh Hasina. Hasina formed a special tribunal in 2010 to try war crimes suspects."

Whatever the problems of Bangladeshi justice, and concerns over whether it is going too far - with news today that 150 former border guards have been sentenced to death over a mutiny in 2009 - many Bangladeshis who remember the atrocities of 1971 have waited a long time for justice. If the authorities were only out to crush opposition, they point out, they would have found reasons to prosecute the main Bangladesh National Party rather than only pursuing the Jamatis.

It is many years now since a Bangladeshi socialist group in London complained that people wanted for major crimes during the Bangladesh war had found a safe haven in Britain, with the apparent connivance of the British government.

It named three men who had found positions at the East London mosque, one of them being Chowdhury Mueen Uddin.    

There was concern on the part of left-wing Bangladeshis that the Islamicists who had sided with Pakistan against their countrymen fighting for independence would use their positions here to miseducate youngsters about what happened in the war. There was also the suspicion that the British state might not be averse to Islamicist influence if it served to divide Asian youth and counteract left-wing tendencies.

As time went on it became evident that the Jamaat e-Islami party branch established in east London had become adept both at pulling strings in politics here and fundraising for the party back home. Though its vote had been going down in Bangladesh, its supporters have stepped up their aggression and violence as the war crimes prosecutions faced them.

 Mueen-Uddin, who heads the London organisation, known as Dawatul Islam, admits that he was supporting the Pakistan side in 1971, but insists he  was only a journalist, and denies any part in the militia which kidnapped and killed intellectuals.  As well as being vice-chairman of the East London mosque he helped set up the Muslim Council of Britain, and Muslim Aid, and is a former deputy director of the Islamic Foundation. He met the Prince of Wales during Charles's visit to the Markfield Islamic Foundation in January 2003.

Back in Bangladesh the Jamaat stands for an Islamic state, with sharia law, and calls for closer relations with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Supporters campaign against "un-Islamic" practices such as mixed dancing or indeed social mixing of any kind, and for strict punishments for "blasphemy". Jamaat has been accused of violence against Hindus and Buddhists, and against the Ahmadiyya community, which it wants denied recognition as Muslims, and treated as a conspiracy.
It might have dawned on even the thickest and most determinedly naive of British Lefts by now that this is not a progressive movement, whatever one thinks of the Bangladesh government. But that's not to reckon with the opportunism of the Socialist Workers Party, in or out of Galloway's Respect. The SWP might not have been interested in what Bangladeshi socialists and secularists had to say, but it knows a bandwagon, however dodgy or misdirected, and seeing that Jamaat supporters were marching in London against the war crimes prosecutions, it jumpe in to join them.

As Socialist Worker reported:
'Charlie Kimber, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, told the crowd, “The tide of revolution has swept through Tunisia and Egypt.
“Now the tide of revolution must sweep through Gaza, Syria and Bangladesh.”;

It will come as news to Tunisians continuing to fight for democracy and social justice that their heroic struggle is being lumped together with reactionaries who believe in neither, but we must assure them and anyone else, not least the Bangladeshi workers waging their own struggle, that internationalism in this country is not being entrusted to the Socialist Workers Party. 

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