Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Response to Islamophobia Watch.

with 6 comments

Bob Pitt’s Islamophobia Watch has a take on Bangladeshi secularism – and Tendance Coatesy’s “ultra-secularist” site. (here).

Regarding moves to reintroduce the secularist principle of the Bangladeshi Constitution he notes,

the government has shown little enthusiasm for such a change. Following a meeting last month between the ruling Awami League and its coalition partners, one of whom urged that the constitution should be amended along those lines, prime minister Sheikh Hasina stated firmly that the words “Bismillah-ar-Rahman-ar-Rahim” would be left unchanged in the constitution, as would the declaration that Islam is the state religion.

This is indeed the case. Not one to be celebrated either.

It is not difficult to identify the motive behind this decision. During the 2008 election campaign the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami accused the Awami League of hostility towards Islam, and Sheikh Hasina no doubt reasons that if her government were to abolish the religious elements in the constitution this would be exploited by the opposition. So an entirely justifiable change that would restore the secular principle to the constitution has been rejected on pragmatic, not to say opportunistic, political grounds.What, then, are the “secular foundations” of the 1972 constitution that the Bangladesh government wishes to restore? Well, crucially they want to reinstate a provision, subsequently removed, which declared that “no person shall have the right to form, or be a member or otherwise take part in the activities of, any communal or other association or union which in the name or on the basis of any religion has for its object, or pursues, a political purpose”.

Indeed, following the Supreme Court’s verdict, Shafique Ahmed was quoted as saying that all religion-based parties should “drop the name of Islam from their name and stop using religion during campaigning”, and he went on to announce that religion-based parties are going to be “banned”. In short, what the government of Bangladesh is planning to do is to amend the constitution in order to illegalise Jamaat-e-Islami.

Here we pause. The Jamaat – unnoticed in the UK where its supporters are free to run the East London Mosque – has engaged in systematic violence against leftists and secularists in Bangladesh. This continues on a daily basis. The latest outrages and their outcome (today) noted here.

Pitt continues,

What does this have to do with secularism? Nothing whatsoever. If a secular constitution required the suppression of faith-based political parties, then secularism in Germany would require a ban on the Christian Democrats. And nobody, not even a secularist ultra like Andrew Coates, is calling for that.

Quite a few constitutions ban political parties that based on religious, other communalist or racist  ideologies. There are provisions in, say the Turkish Constitution to that effect. The German Constitution bans the resurrection of the Nazi Party – and its laws are extremely harsh towards Holocaust Denial. Political Parties under the Grundgesetz must have “internal organisations that conform to democratic principles”. In general the idea of calling political parties by religious labels is not particularly democratic since it suggests that they have a special role in representing that religion rather than electors. German or other Christian Democrats face the problem that  in today’s  Europe  Christianity is not the only religion of its citizens, and that vast numbers of people are secular. In countries with a majority Moslem population this is particularly acute since it is usually synonymous with a call for Islam (and the Sharia) to be the basis of the Constitution and not democracy.

In that context, groups like the Jamaat seek to impose a narrow vision of Islam. Nor is this just a matter for Bangladesh. As Andrew Gilligan’s Channel Four documentary last night (here) demonstrated beyond controversy how the Islamic Forum of Europe is implementing its reactionary segregationalist agenda.  In this they are aided by generous State and local government subsidies. All the  better to throttle opposition and any Bangala culture – secular or religious – they dislike. That a land, which has one of the richest and most glorious cultural legacies in the world – Bengali –  is threatened by such thugs is of prime importance to progressives across the world.

One would wish to combat such parties – something Islamophobia Watch singularly fails to do.

In this case we would not accept that say the Jamaat should be banned but ought to be politically confronted. Something Respect, the SWP and Livingstone, because of their alliance with the Islamic Forum of Europe, will not do.

Abdul Hamid of the Spitoon notes that the Jamaat and its much larger ally, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), are at present denying the rights of the Pahari people. (Spitoon)

This is in a long line of their sponsorship of pogroms against non-Muslims, ‘tribals’, and secularists.

Something Bob Pitt fails to register.

We leave the last word to a Bangladeshi secularist, Rasel Pervez,

Awami League, as a political party, claims it upholds secularism, and most of the Awami inclined intellectuals simply wants Awami league to follow this secular path. All the intellectuals of Bangladesh wish and want Awami league to become a party that leads the fraction of Bangladesh population which supports secularist view; but, in essence, this particular party never moved further away from its roots and always in practice has nurtured the Muslim sentiments as its party policy.

In fact, Awami League has never really overcome their religious roots. In practice, it uses the religious sentiments of people to stay in power. And, this is precisely the point where it looses its idiosyncrasy from Jamaat e Islami and other non-secular parties.

Actually the spirit of 1972’s constitution was to establish a secular state which would have no state-religion, which aimed for the state not to patronize any religion and should not use religious sentiment of people politically. But Awami League is failing to follow that course of secularism and using the religious sentiment of people to justify its misdeeds. Instead of being called Awami League, we should at least recognize their effort of Islamizing this country by renaming it as “Allama Awami League” and also to respect the believes of  our countrymen start a political movement of having a Islamic name of our country.

(More Here)

Written by Andrew Coates

March 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

6 Responses

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  1. good posting … have you read this: http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/5581 (of cause similar to things happening to Adivasis in some areas of India’s “tribal belt”)


    March 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  2. Do you reckon this oeuvre will make it onto the Marxist Internet Archive?


    Lobby Ludd

    March 2, 2010 at 10:57 pm

  3. Thanks for your fine work. Islamophobia Watch is so bad that at first I thought it was a spoof but no, it is unfortunately real. It must be very unpleasant to be attacked by them.

    I appreciate that you seem to know a lot about Bangladesh politics. I often wish non-Bengali Respect supporters in Tower Hamlets would spend more time reading the English language Bangladeshi media – you can learn an awful lot by reading progressive and secular Bangladeshi news – much more interesting generally than much of the left-wing media here.

    Looking forward to the days when we in Tower Hamlets follow the lead of the Bangladeshis and reject god-based and communal politics.


    March 2, 2010 at 10:58 pm

  4. Rachel, the fight between me and Bob Pitt of IW goes back years!

    It’s important to know as much as possible about Bengali politics, both in Bangladesh and in West Bengal. Rather than rely on the misleading approaches of the Jamaat supporting groups.

    We can only try.

    Andrew Coates

    March 3, 2010 at 11:43 am

  5. […] Prayer Warriors of the New Apostolic Reformation Getting Some Exposure (Talk to Action) * Response to Islamophobia Watch (Tendance […]

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