On Wazed and Ciovacco

Posted in politics by mehomaan on April 27, 2009

The thrust of the article is towards preventing the “rise of Islamic Extremism” in Bangladesh. The paper sets out the danger to Bangladesh if it allows the rise of Islamic extremism, and lays out a five-step “secular renewal” plan to combat this extremism:

First, it must modernize the curriculum of the madrasses. Second, it must build proper, secular elementary schools and hospitals. Third, it should increase the recruitment of secular-minded students into the military from secular cadet academies. Fourth, it must attempt to rehabilitate known extremist clerics. Lastly, and perhaps the most abstract solution, it must push to vanquish Bangladeshi poverty and illiteracy that consistently ranks among the worst in the world.

It is worthwhile noting the factual inaccuracies present in this article. The greatest number of seats that Jamat Islami had ever garnered before the 2001 election is not three; they got eighteen seats in the 1991 election. Islamist does not translate to moulabadi in Bangla; the term loses any meaning if ported outside the current Global War on Terrorism paradigm, and moulabadi translates to fundamentalist. However, the slip is perhaps a telling window into the authors’ objectives: creating a world where every Islamist, whatever that term may mean, is also a fundamentalist by definition. The term Madrassa is used to lump together all Islamic parochial schools in Bangladesh, regardless of the great differences in objectives and standards that exist between them.

The claim that all madrassas are giving specific training to their students to pass the Army Entrance Exam is made without any evidence to back it up. Similarly, the fact that the number of student going into the Army from madarassas has gone from 5% to 35% is given without any evidence. Ambassador Waliur Rahman made a similar claim in Dhaka a couple of days ago; perhaps either he or the authors could provide the evidence for this claim. Until them, it cannot be substantiated. Finally, the claim that madrassas enjoy a “monopoly on education” is baffling.

This article sets up a strange dichotomy between secular and  Islamic/Islamist institutions. The first line of the article makes the bizarre claim that “Bangladesh has been a secular Muslim state since its independence.” Wordnet defines secular as “of or relating to the doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations.”  Moreover, given that this claim is being made about the Bangladeshi State, as opposed to the population of Bangladesh, this claim too is patently wrong, since Islam, constitutionally, remains the state religion of Bangladesh.

The wisdom of channeling students from “secular” schools to the Army does not conform to the idea of the Army as a national institution that is above partisan or political interests. The recommendation that Bangladesh treat any of its citizens, especially those expressing any sort of dissent, the way Egypt, a dictatorship, or Saudi Arabia, a totalitarian monarchy, does is shocking in both its evaluation of human rights and the recommendation that a democratic state (Bangladesh) look to actively curtail the freedom of speech and thought of its citizens.

The narrative of secularism/moderation vs. Islamism has become a rote one in Western academia by now. Given that one of the authors of this article is “an adviser to Sheikh Hasina, the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and President of the Awami League, the largest and oldest political party in Bangladesh” and has “been a key negotiator for the Awami League on several occasions, most recently in the negotiations for the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh with the[then]  present military government,” the article is surprisingly short on nuances.

Ultimately, this is the larger failing of articles such as these: they treat human beings as automatons who are either for us or against us, at the cost of individuality and free choice. A reader of this article will not gain any insight regarding the very real struggle Bangladesh must wage against extremism and obscurantism; unfortunately, one will gain all too much insight into the author’s view of Bangladesh and her people.

6 Responses

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  1. On Wazed and Ciovacco said, on April 27, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    […] Original post by mehomaan […]

  2. Bangladesh Jihad Watch said, on April 28, 2009 at 1:23 am

    […] On Wazed and Ciovacco […]

  3. […] On Wazed and Ciovacco […]

  4. Mehmud said, on May 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Here, ‘the secular renewal plan’ ___________

    “First, it must modernize the curriculum of the madrasses. Second, it must build proper, secular elementary schools and hospitals. Third, it should increase the recruitment of secular-minded students into the military from secular cadet academies.” (as you cited)

    Problem is that, the need of modernization of the curriculum of the Madrasahs is very acknowledged by the every persons who think about the education system, even now by the sole inner persons of the Madrasahs itself, but reason behind that is not what is contemplated by you. It is necessary only to serve for the betterment of the education, for the betterment of the persons who go to take study there, and to utilize their knowledge for the betterment of the country. They are very lagged behind in the sphere of modern knowledge, and consequently to secure a good job for them.

    Now the problem, which occurs after the expression of us like that, is what was happened in the liberation war by the belief of the Pakistani Army and that brutal expression on the Hindus. Again we can cite the example of the Hitler in regards the Jew, and consequential brutality. Always saying that the Madrasahs are the factory of the militant group is something very extreme saying.

    Question can be made, how many militants are hailed from the Madrasahs and how many from the others? Is their any solid and pure statistics of that? On which ground will we say that they are militant_________ just seeing beard like Mullah Omar?

    The Government and others like us who are much apprehended about the globalized militancy, have to be much careful as well as tactful to handle and tackle the situation. We have to go through the overall situation. Mere depending on the myth cannot provide us a good result, after all. Because who are in abroad now, especially in the western countries, know that how much painful to lead the life in the constant allegation and maltreatments for merely being Muslim. By saying this irrespectively, are we not creating another group of persons who suffer in the country as we suffer in the abroad?

  5. […] Our own Prince, Sajeeb Ahmed Digital Bangladesher probokta Wajed Joy, has a mere masters degree from Kennedy School.  But still, his intellectual output is nothing to scoff at.  Better bloggers than me have written approvingly of the great mind of Tungipara-Rangpur-Virginia here, here, here and here. […]

  6. On the Viqarunnisa scandal « Mukti said, on August 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    […] one thing when Sajeeb Wazed writes idiotic pieces.  It’s something else when Nahid, and his comrades, peddle the nonsense equating hijab with […]

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