The partition of India and Pakistan resulted in hundreds of thousands of people losing their lives. After this chaos; disturbances emerged between East Pakistan and West Pakistan again leading to the further division of Pakistan and Bangladesh with thousands of bloodsheds. While India emerged as a secular state and a multi-religious nation, Pakistan and Bangladesh witnessed gradual Islamization of the societies. Although, Bangladesh was born as a secular country but now it is gradually transforming itself into an Islamic state and this can be proved with the fact that in 1947, the Hindus population was around 31% which has now tumbled to just 8%.
India is a secular state providing every citizen the basic human rights including the right to speech. Unlike India, atheist bloggers, critics of Islam and intellectuals are being killed in Bangladesh. And surprisingly, not even one killer has been punished yet.
Taslima Nasreen is a renowned writer and a secular humanist and human rights activist who has won hearts of many people with her powerful writings on women oppression and unflinching criticism of religion. A senior assistant editor with Times of India, Aarti Tikoo Singh, spoke to Taslima Nasreen about a hardliner-politician nexus murdering free thinkers in Bangladesh, religious violence in Pakistan, secularism in India – and India’s liberals.
Here are the excerpts and the highlights of the Interview:
People of religious minorities in Bangladesh are not only facing discrimination but also many of them are killed and tortured. Talking about those killings in Bangladesh, Taslima said, “Jihadists have been silencing or threatening voices of sanity because democracy and pluralism are anathema to them. All they want is to establish a theocracy. They want to create Darul Islam, the land of Islam in Bangladesh. They want no law but Sharia, no women’s rights, and no freedom of speech. They want group loyalty perforce, which has no space for freedom of thought.”
She told that there are around 148 jihadi training camps in Bangladesh and also, the jihadis are financially advocated and encouraged by Jamat-e-Islami, 132 Islamic terrorist organizations including Ansarullah Bangla team and 231 fundamentalist institutions including ‘Islami bank’.
“In the last 40 years, almost 40 thousand crores takas have been used for the military training of Jihadists in Bangladesh. It is only 20% of total profits that was earned from the Islamic fundamentalists’ economy. It is well established that the Islami bank has been financing terrorism”, she said.
She orated about the conditions of Hindus in Bangladesh and notified that they are being harassed and oppressed in a way not even Pakistan does. Hindus can expect at least some justice in Pakistan but not in Bangladesh as it has become a safe haven for Islamists. Hindu girls are being raped, and the lands owned by Hindus are forcibly taken by Hindu-hating Muslims. Hindus are frequently told to leave the country.
Taslima told Aarti, “Even Syria and Iraq are not as accommodating of Islamic fanatics as Bangladesh. No air raid or drone attacks disturb Bangladeshi jihadists. The government of Bangladesh is providing them with protection and has warned atheists and free thinker bloggers to quit writing about atheism and secularism and stop hurting religious feelings. Atheists are getting arrested under 57 ICT acts, a new law which was created to fight free thought”.
When asked about the actions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina against these religious fundamentalists, she said, “Instead of proclaiming she is actually a secular person, she says she is a deeply religious person. There is a competition among political leaders as to who is more religious. Politicians use religion to get votes from the ignorant masses. Sheikh Hasina created the Ulema League in her party, the Awami League. The Ulema League is the organization of Islamic fundamentalists. Members of this organization are not different from the Jamat-e-Islami goons. They support the killing of freethinkers and atheist bloggers in the country”.
She Opined on Indian Liberals by saying that she has always been critical of far right politics and also of Indian liberals and leftists. She said that Islamic fanatics are against human rights, women’s rights, free speech and democracy and hence they have distorted the concept of secularism and equality.
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Confronting the statement that criticism of religion is unnecessarily provoking even moderate religionists to take hardliner positions, she said, “Freethinkers, rationalists, atheists, humanists are a minority in most societies. Moderate religionists do not need criticism of religion to become hardliners. They have political reasons to become hardliners. Criticism of religion should hopefully provoke people to think rationally and give up irrational blind faith. We must not forget that without criticism of religion no society has evolved and no state becomes secular. Critical scrutiny of religion is necessary for a healthy society. No religion should be protected from critical scrutiny, from questioning unethical aspects of its doctrines. Criticism encourages people to become secular humanists.
Hardliners have been killing atheists and rationalists in Bangladesh. They became hardliners because they were indoctrinated with Islam from a very early age, and they sorely need to be exposed to a rational and tolerant worldview”.
Prepared By Pashchiema Bhatia. Twitter: @pashchiema