Bangladesh has faced a terrible terrorist attack on the first day of July in Dhaka city. A group of seven men stormed into an upmarket artisan café and butchered twenty people to death. In the ensuing gun battle between the terrorists and the security services, two police officers were killed and six out of the seven terrorists were shot dead. This was a dreadful act of barbarity and savagery perpetrated, again, in the name of Islam with responsibility claimed by the criminals of DAESH (ISIS). They have posted on the Internet the gruesome pictures of the killings of foreigners, whose throats were slit by the savages. The scale of the attack was unprecedented and threatens to take Bangladesh down an unanticipated route of destiny very different to that planned by the country's political elite.
What is most disturbing about this attack is that it happened during the most sacred days of Ramadan - around the 27th night of Ramadan when most genuine Muslims around the world are immersed in worshipping God, seeking God's forgiveness, grace and salvation and imploring peace and stability for the world. At a time when world peace is at the forefront of every genuine Muslim, these savages carried out the most barbaric attack on innocent people simply because their victims were not Muslim. Their sick mind and heinous acts are in total contradiction to Islam in general but against the spirit of Ramadan - a month of mercy and forgiveness. Every true Muslim apart from the abominations of DAESH would tell you that.
While there is no doubt in the hearts and mind of genuine Muslims about the unislamic nature of these acts, it cannot be denied that this atrocity has been perpetrated by some fanatical Muslims and in the name of Islam. I am afraid the spotlight falls, yet again, sharply on Muslims and Islam. Let me make it clear though that I do not need to apologise for their behaviour, just as no Christian is expected to apologise for the behaviour of Klu Klux Klan.
In the case of Bangladesh something more menacing has been gripping the country and terrorising its ordinary citizens for the past few years. Only recently, at the order of the current Prime Minister Hasina, more than 14000 people have been arrested and put behind bars for alleged links and connections to terrorist organisations. Even after the mass incarceration of such a large number of people could not have been prevented the terror attack on July 1, 2016. The reason is blatantly obvious - those who have been arrested are mainly innocent people and members of the opposition political parties. The real terrorists remain free and roaming the streets of Bangladesh.
Despite all the state sponsored public relations (PR) exercises and carefully choreographed briefings of the foreign press, the real terrorists have not yet been unmasked, for they are the current governing party and the security agencies of Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi media are also part of the grand corrupt alliance of crook and criminals, their true motive is to loot Bangladesh of its natural resources and amass as much personal fortune as possible. This regime and its cronies have their snout in the troughs of every corrupt pot of Bangladeshi politics. Government stooges own the media agencies and only report in favour of the governing party. Islam has been brutally suppressed in Bangladesh in broad day light by the secular fundamentalists and fascist political elite utilising the power of the police, army, rapid action brigade (RAB) and other security agencies; the media machine remains complicit and deathly silent on such matters.
The country has witnessed an unprecedented level of violence at every level - from the current governing party's street gangs who wield weapons of war to members of the opposition parties who riot increasingly, from the security services grotesque brutality to vigilante mafia style atrocities, and from even the Prime Minister's own blood curdling vindictive and systematic destruction of the opposition parties to the judiciary's unlawful execution of innocent people. There have been shockingly brutal attacks against secular bloggers by some religious bigots as the bloggers hide behind the protective layers of the state security apparatus, spreading hatred, insults and mockery against the religious sentiments of the 90% of the population. Sadly, the cycle of violence and counter violence thus continues in Bangladesh.
Inevitable, the result is total and utter pandemonium in the country. A nation of 170 million Muslims, the second largest Muslim population on Earth yet its ruling elite brutally supresses any religious, social or political movement from taking part in the public life of Bangladesh. Unfortunately the consequences of such injustice are all too predictable. DEASH was created and proliferated in Iraq after an illegal occupation by the West and after a genocide of 300,000 Syrian civilians that had been witnessed by an international community that failed to respond adequately. DAESH and other more mutant and virulent terrorist groups sprung up in the Middle East when the hope of the Arab spring was extinguished by the military junta at the behest of Western powers who feared the ascendancy of political parties that espoused Islamic values.
History attests to the severe consequences that follow any suppression of a democracy and civil liberties; the consequences always follow just as night follows day. The current Bangladeshi government justifies its hold on to power using a bogus mandate it claims to have received from a recent farcical election, where it took more than half the parliamentary seats without a single vote cast by the local electorate; and it further excuses its grip on Bangladesh through abuse of power as well as the patronage it receives from neighbouring Indian government.
It uses the security apparatus to arbitrarily arrest people and carry out brutal torture in custody that leaves many permanently maimed and disabled for life. It makes people disappear through kidnap and many of their dead bodies are found scattered in different parts of the country. There have been cases where the police forces have been found to have run systematically organised criminal syndicates that blackmail local people and rob them of their hard earned money. Judicial blackmailing is almost considered normal. State administrative staff and civil servants make regular demands for money from the poor and openly accept bribes. Life is made extremely difficult for those not complying with their corruption.
It is unnatural to expect a Muslim majority country to be ruled by secular fundamentalists who not only brutalise religious political groups but also shun religion altogether, with no attempts made at all to consider the religious sensitivities of the populations they govern. And all the while the devout Muslim majority is expected submit to the whims of these fascist regimes. Sadly Bangladesh is yet another example of how such a scenario is failing humanity. What Muslim nations around the world need is freedom and fair democratic elections. They need to determine their own future without anyone from the West or East interfering in their affairs.
Of course terrorism is wrong and violence is evil, of course double standard is totally unacceptable and fascism is criminal, we all agree with these lofty slogans! However, the real challenge is to be true, fair and consistent in our demands for change and reform. For, so long as Bangladesh remains in the cycle of state sponsored violence, executions, religious suppression, deprivations of basic civil liberties, subversions of the rule of law and systematic destruction of multi-party democracy, it will never see peace and prosperity. Bangladesh needs to be freed from the political elite who consider the nation as their personal fiefdom giving scant regard to the concerns and basic needs of the masses.
The terror attack is a sad way to end this blessed month of Ramadan for the people of Bangladesh. It is a terrible end of so many innocent lives. I feel intensely distressed by these massacres. As an Imam I offer my sincere prayers and condolences for those who have lost their lives in these atrocities. Bangladesh, may God grant you true freedom and shelter from tyranny. May God make you a great nation again.