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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"

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

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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)

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

World Hindu Congress, Hindu
Hindus don’t oppose anyone, don’t aspire to dominate: RSS chief

“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

Hindu, Mosque
Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)