Bangladesh’s largest airport, Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, formerly Zia/Dhaka International Airport, perhaps epitomizes the long Sufi tradition that Bangladesh boasts. Bengali Muslims owe this to the great saint Khwaja Enayetpuri, whose family lineage traced back to Baghdad, but later on migrated to Delhi.
Khwaja Enayetpuri said that man has the potentiality to achieve ‘tajalli’, the divine illumination through which he can awaken his latent soul and control his egocentric nafs (self) so as to attain the compassion of Allah – a silent revolution of peace and progress and morality in the greater sphere of life.
Sharfuddin Abu Tawwamah (R) and Hazrat Shah Ali Bagdadi (Mirpur) are a couple of other strongly entrenched symbols of sufi-ism in Bangladesh.
But what one perceives and hears while being in capital Dhaka hardly reflects the sufi tradition. In fact, the conduct of certain segments of the politically polarized society in Bangladesh essentially seems to run counter to the Sufi principles of compassion, peace, forgiveness and selflessness.
On the face of it, the green color – symbolic of Islam and sufi tradition — remains very much alive in Bangladesh. The green in the national flag, the green national sports’ kit, the green passport inter alia, are all symbols of the past, including the relationship with the then West Pakistan.
Hasina Wajid, the prime minister, told a gathering of religious scholars at the 39th founding anniversary of the Islamic Foundation at Bangabandhu, Dhaka on 23rd March that “the government would stick to the Meesaqe Madina (The Madina Charter), and said that “those engaged in killing, terrorism and militancy did not have any religion.”
As usual, Wajid once again brought in the issue of “war crimes of 1971” and said: the government has already executed one of the verdicts (Abdual Quader Mollah’s execution), and that “due to the evils of some people in 1971, beautiful Islamic names like Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams had turned into “swear words.”
This sounded quite self-righteous pontification by a prime minister whose party, the Awami League, is ostensibly determined to keep using the 1971 as the political staple for its followers. The party hardly spares any opportunity to sully the name “Pakistan or Pakistani” by invoking the “bitter 1971 tragedy.”
The knee-jerk reaction to the support of the Pakistani cricket team by some Bangladeshi fans i.e. ban on waving of foreign flags clearly denied the spirit of sufi teachings. Though the ban was withdrawn a day later, it exposed the deep-seated inherent dislike, if not hatred, of anything associated with Pakistan, particularly among the Awami League members, activists as well as those sympathetic to the party in the business and bureaucracy.
Just recall what the Awami League leadership allowed on Dec 22, 2013, when Ganajagaran Mancha activists practically marched on to the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka, almost besieged it, as police found themselves constrained by political orders “not to be too hard on protestors.” The protest had been organized in response to a seemingly unnecessary resolution that Pakistan’s National Assembly had passed protesting Jamaate Islami’s Assistant Secretary General Abdual Quader Mollah’s execution following his conviction by a Dhaka Court for crimes against humanity, including the charge of collaborating with Pakistani forces to kill 369 others in 1971 during Bangladesh’s war of independence.
Ganajagaran Mancha has been demanding the maximum punishment for all 1971 war criminals itself denies the spirit of sufi-ism and exemplifies those wanting revenge at all costs.
Ganajagaran Mancha protestors had provided a 20-hour ultimatum to Bangladesh’s government to sever ties with Pakistan as a reply to the resolution. When the deadline passed on Thursday, they began to move toward the embassy in Dhaka’s Gulshan diplomatic zone.
Ostensible ruling party’s patronage for this movement and the conscious attempt to keep alive the “terrible echoes of 1971” through the war crime trials also contradicts the spirit of the April 9, 1974 Indo-Pakistan-Bangladesh Delhi Agreement.
The Article 14 of the agreement, for instance, says: The prime minister of Bangladesh had declared with regard to the atrocities and destruction committed in Bangladesh in 1971 that he wanted the people to forget the past and to make a fresh start, stating that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive. The article 15, quoting the foreign minister of Bangladesh, states that his government “had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency. It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war may be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in the process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement.”
This agreement – signed by three respective foreign ministers, amounted to “burying the hatchet” and was supposed to have been a forward-looking step, but the anti-Pakistan acrimony that keeps resonating in the Bangladeshi print and electronic media even today is quite shocking and bespeaks volumes about how sections of the Bengali political elite remains frozen in history, refusing to even head the Father of Nation’s commitment in the 1974 Delhi Agreement. This fixation on 1971 only underscores an attempt to stoke anti-Pakistan sentiment and thus gain political mileage.
One must, however, caution that – based on conversations in the Gulf and Europe with Bengali political and intellectual elites – it’s quite obvious that the other side of the political divide led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia remains compassionate and inclined towards moving on as far as Pakistan is concerned. Unfortunately, though, Begum Zia remains on the fringe, at least for the time being. And that means most of the civil society, led by the media, either remains silent or openly laps up the Awami League narrative on Pakistan, thereby underlining that Bengalis have lost the sufi spirit to politically expedient and officially patronized anti-Pakistan sentiment.
By Imtiaz Gul, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, April 07, 2014