Thursday February 27, 2020
Home India Bangladesh de...

Bangladesh denunciates religious extremism and attacks on minorities

"Let us join our hands to resist such anti-Islamic activities. They must be punished so that others would not dare to do the same"

0
//
A Muslim imam and a Hindu priest shake hands during the first-ever religious harmony conference in Dhaka, April 28, 2016. Source: Benarnews

The heads of major religions in Bangladesh on Thursday told the country’s first conference on inter-faith harmony that they would carry on a dialogue to stop religious extremism and attacks on minorities by zealots.

Describing a spate of machete-killings “unacceptable,” speakers representing the majority Sunni Muslim and minority Shiite Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist communities said militants had to be eliminated from Bangladesh where a “marriage of all faiths” was a thousand-year tradition.

Convened by police and government officials, the conference in Dhaka sought to mobilize inter-faith support for secular writers, teachers, Christians, Hindus, Shiites and LGBT activists whose communities have been targeted in deadly attacks by suspected Islamic extremists over the past year.

In April, five people were killed in machete attacks carried out by suspected militants. The latest killings involved a double-homicide on Monday that claimed the lives of Xulhas Mannan, editor of the country’s first magazine devoted to coverage of LGBT issues, and dramatist K. Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.

“This first-ever religious harmony conference passes a strong message to the extremists that the militants have no place in Bangladesh. We will hold such conferences at the division, district and the upazila levels to counter the threat of the militants,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the conference at the Krishibid Institution auditorium.

Related: India, Bangladesh have set example of building relationship: PM Modi

He said Islam prohibited killings, lootings, destruction and torture.

“We will protect all citizens, irrespective of faiths,” said Khan, a top official in the government that has faced widespread criticism for failing to do enough to shield religious minorities, intellectuals, and secular activists from extremist attacks.

Radicalization blamed

Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Haque, who presided over conference, told attendees that the perpetrators of 80 percent of the militant attacks had been arrested.

“And in most of the cases, the attackers confessed that they were brainwashed by the leaders. They are repentant now. We need your support to spread the peaceful message of Islam,” he said.

Speaker Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, an Islamic scholar, said those who radicalize followers should be blamed for the spate of machete attacks.

“An ordinary person is sure to kill anyone if I, as a religious leader, tell him that ‘you will go to heaven if you kill him.’ So, they are not the problem. The problem is those who radicalize them through misinterpretation of Islam,” Masud said.

He said that a campaign was under way to collect signatures of 100,000 Muslim scholars who denounce extremism, violence and attack on minorities.

“They are the greatest enemy of Islam. They have portrayed Islam as a religion of terror and barbarism. We have been nourishing religious harmony for thousands of years. It must be protected at any cost,” Masud said.

Different faiths, same beliefs

Satya Ranjan Baroi, president of International Society for Krishna Consciousness, told the audience that the Bangladeshi people should come forward to challenge violence against minorities.

For his part, Catholic Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario said the majority of Bangladeshis were peaceful and the recent attacks on minorities were like a “tiny black spot on a white sheet.”

“Everybody talks about the black spot without considering that the rest of sheet is white. And this is our problem. We have [had] strong religious harmony for thousands of years. We have to protect it,” D’Rozario said.

The archbishop recalled how he visited his home village 25 years ago and saw gates that had been erected within a two-mile stretch of the road leading to it.

“No Christian lived within those two miles,” D’Rozario said. “Who erected the gates for me? My Muslim brothers did it, my Hindu brothers did it.”

He added that more inter-faith dialogue at the grassroots would help maintain religious harmony.

Another speaker, Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero, echoed the archbishop’s call.

“We have to save the religious harmony we have been nurturing for thousands of years,” said Shudhananda, president of the Bangladesh Buddhist Kristi Prachar Federation.

“Let us talk among ourselves and then the distance will go,” he said, adding that all religions preached love, not hatred or violence.

Shiite leader Syed Ibrahim Khalil Razavi said the militants who carried out bomb attacks on a Shiite procession and Shiite mosque last year had tarnished the country’s image.

“Let us join our hands to resist such anti-Islamic activities. They must be punished so that others would not dare to do the same,” Razavi said. (Benarnews)

Next Story

Here’s How Informal Education Is Helping Rohingya Refugee Children

Informal Education Brings Hope to Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh

0
Rohingya Education
A child reads a book in a makeshift school run by Rohingya teachers in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

By Tahira Kibria, Rikar Hussein

Dozens of sprawling informal education centers across refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar are providing a glimmer of hope for thousands of Rohingya refugee children who survived a massacre in their home country of Myanmar in 2017.

Across makeshift camps in refugee city of Kutupalong, hundreds of informal learning centers have been set up by international agencies and Rohingya community leaders to give the refugee children access to education. The opportunity to learn and improve skills is something the youngsters were never offered back in Myanmar.

Sharmeen Noor, a mathematics teacher at Kutupalong Primary School, told VOA that their programs ensure the Rohingya children do not fall behind in their education despite the absence of formal schooling. The centers can also create a positive impact to help those traumatized by the Burmese army’s 2017 crackdown that forced nearly 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh.

“Those who have seen violence think about it all the time,” said Noor. “They pay very little attention in class. As teachers, we are working on this matter. We are trying our best to bring them into normal life. God willing we will do it.”

About 350 Rohingya children are currently enrolled at Kutupalong Primary School, which provides basic informal education from preprimary through fifth grade.  The children are taught subjects such as general science, mathematical, English, Burmese, and Bengali.

Noor said many of their teaching activities focus on play-based learning to provide education and at the same time give the children a chance to forget the daily struggles they face in the overcrowded camps. Particular attention is given to children who are mentally challenged.

Rohingya Education
Rohingya refugee boys who study in an Islamic school smile as they react to the camera at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

“We put these children in between two good students so that the kids can follow their example … It is challenging, all kids are not similar.  To understand them we have to rely on their mental ability.  We make a list of pupils who are behind.   To bring them to a normal level,  we try to provide something they like, such as games,” Noor added.

2017 Crackdown

More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya people fled their homes in Rakhine province of neighboring Myanmar in the summer of 2017 due to a crackdown by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist militias. The UN has described the army’s campaign in Rakhine province as “textbook ethnic cleansing”, and has charged that the Rohingya people suffered killings, rape, and mass destruction of their homes by the army and Buddhist militias.

Most of those who fled to neighboring Bangladesh have been placed in Kutupalong, making it the largest refugee settlement complex in the world.

An estimated 400,000 of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children. Human rights organizations say only one-third of them have access to education. Lack of basic services and health care have also put many children at the risk of malnutrition and infectious diseases.

In a December report, Human Rights Watch said authorities in Bangladesh were deliberately preventing aid groups from providing education in the camps and banning Rohingya children from enrolling in schools outside the camps.

“Bangladesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want the Rohingya to remain indefinitely, but depriving children of education just compounds the harm to the children and won’t resolve the refugees’ plight any faster,” said Bill Van Esveld, the watchdog’s associate children’s rights director.

“The government of Bangladesh saved countless lives by opening its borders and providing refuge to the Rohingya, but it needs to end its misguided policy of blocking education for Rohingya children,” he added.

Informal learning centers

The Bangladesh government, however, announced in January that it was working with the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF to provide formal education to the children. UNICEF described the move as “a major new phase” for education of the refugee children that initially targets 10,000 Rohingya students from grades six to nine and will later be expanded to other grades.

Through a program called the Learning Competency Framework and Approach, the UNICEF currently provides informal education to 220,000 Rohingya children between aged four to 14. An estimated 315,000 children and adults are getting education in over 3,200 learning centers supported by the UNICEF and other agencies.

Many Rohingya refugees, however, say the learning centers are not enough to empower their children and equip them with needed skills.

Rohingya Education
Across makeshift camps in refugee city of Kutupalong, hundreds of informal learning centers have been set up by international agencies and Rohingya community leaders to give the refugee children access to education. VOA

Religious studies

Across the camps, religious leaders have volunteered to provide religious teaching in mosques and makeshift centers known as Madrasas. The children in the Madrasas mainly focus on Islamic studies and Arabic.

Teacher Abdus Sobhan told VOA that 15 volunteer instructors were working with him at a Madrasa hosting 93 students. The children in his classes are taught to recite Quran and learn Arabic.

“It is important to teach children religion, so that they refrain from bad actions and devote themselves to God,” Sobhan told VOA.

Hafez Idris, another Rohingya teacher based in Kutupalong lambashia I2 B3 camp, is working with four other teachers to help orphaned kids learn how to recite the Quran. The learning center, Nurani Yetim Khana and Hafez Khana, hosts as many as 250 Rohingya orphans who are put into religious studies as well as math, Burmese and English.

“We don’t take any money from students or people from our block, but if anyone willingly wants to contribute, then we accept the money.   We run this Madrasa to save our religion and to educate our young generation about religious studies,” he told VOA.

According to Hafiz Ullah, another teacher at Hafez Khana, by providing children with education, even if informal, the community hopes to preserve their culture from being lost after being uprooted from Rakhine state.

Also Read- Coronavirus Derails Significant Tech Summit in Silicon Valley

Ullah said it was essential that the children learn what their community went through in Myanmar, particularly because many of them grow up in camps with no memory of their homeland.

“Our situation was very bad. We could not even wear our religious dress, and we just came to Bangladesh with one lungi, one t-shirt, and a cap,” he told VOA. (VOA)