01/22/2014, 00.00
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The "war of hatred" suffocating Bangladesh

by Piero Gheddo
The continuing strikes and demonstrations that often degenerate into violence, are crippling the economy and reducing the people to starvation. The conflicts between Islamists and secularists are still today attributable to the war for independence from Pakistan in 1971. Meanwhile , the oil rich nations continue to fund fundamentalist parties, in the silence of the international community .

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - For a little under two years now, Bangladesh , the third most populous Muslim nation after Indonesia and Pakistan, is in the throes of a "war of hatred " (as it has been termed) that suffocating the economy and civil life . It is not a war of armies, but a succession of strikes and often violent demonstrations, which block transport and paralyze the economy. General strikes that can last from 6 to 18 days, and during which any vehicles that move are in danger of being burned, commuters beaten or killed.

Bangladesh is one of the most unfortunate and poorest countries of the world : 160 million inhabitants in an area encompassing less than half of Italy , with an average income per capita of 678 dollars a year (36,250 in Italy ) . Two years of strikes (hartal) and clashes are reducing the people to hunger and many companies have had to close because they can no longer sell their products. Every day dairies throw away approximately 500,000 liters of unsold milk , fruits and vegetables are rotting on the trees or in the fields, the pharmacies do not have medicines, foreign businesses can not export and are leaving the country. The very survival of a people is in danger!

It all stems from the war for the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 , led by the Awami League ( AL) - moderate , secular and socialist - whose leader Mujibur Rahman became the first President, with people cheering him on and united against the oppression of Pakistani . The West hailed the first Islamic nation with political, religious and the press freedom. In 1975 Mujibur Rahman was killed and long years of military dictatorships followed, which promoted Islam and the arrival on the scene of Islamist parties. The BNP (Bangladesh National Party) in opposition welcomed them, especially the Jamaat -Islam , so that the people are opposed to secularism and forms of modernity and freedom, not in line with Islamic tradition. Thus two coalitions of parties are formed: the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina (daughter of the Father of the Nation Mjibur Rahman ) and the BNP led by Begum Khaleda Zia (daughter of former military dictator Zia- ur Rahman ), two women who have been facing each other for twenty years or more , and diehard enemies ( "they cordially hate each other" people say ) .

The elections of 1991 enshrine the return to constitutional legality and the coalitions of BNP and Awami League alternate in power. Meanwhile , abundant and continuous funding flows into the country from the oil wealthy nations (Saudi , Kuwait, Qatar , etc.). Small mosques sprout up in every corner of the country and in every street of every town , Koranic schools mushroom, the imams who lead the Friday prayer hammer home the concept that the only solution to the crisis is a return to pure and hard Islam, like in the times of Muhammad, with the costumes of the time: stoning , cutting off of hands , flogging , the status of women, which today is unacceptable.

In 2008, the AL coalition wins the election hands down, and three-quarters of the seats in parliament. Years of undisturbed rule and a rampant occupation of political, administrative, judicial and economic places by the AL and its allies follow. A fundamental error : the AL government starts begins legal proceedings against high profile Islamic figures, accused of crimes in the war of 1971, all Jamaat -Islam leaders and some big BNP personalities end up in prison; the death sentence is proposed; the most popular Jamaat preacher is sentenced to life imprisonment . The Islamist parties organize demonstrations and strikes in protest, the government cracks down.  It sets out to ban Islamic parties and change the Constitution and the electoral timetable in its favor . The BNP follows the drift of Jamaat and other Islamist parties in the coalition, pointing to corruption among the AL leadership.

This stand off takes place primarily in the cities, people in rural areas are affected but, living in poverty and illiteracy (43 % of Bangladeshis ) , are ready to follow the Islamic current, imams are of decisive importance in the villages, young people only know what they have learned in the madrassas . The moderates - students, intellectuals and middle class - also organize their protests and strikes , demanding the death sentence for all war criminals, the banning of Jamaat and other Islamist parties , the restoration of the Constitution with which Bangladesh was born, according to which Bangla is a secular country that enjoys freedom of religion and politics. The Islamic parties calling for the death sentence of the "atheists" that go against Islam.

Since spring 2013 this tug of war between secularists and Islamists continues, the military so far have not intervened and Bangladesh is becoming a country that is increasingly unlivable for everyone. The elections of January 5, 2014 registered a victory by a wide margin for the Awami League already in the government, but the BNP coalition had withdrawn and the vote was attended by approximately 18 % of those eligible, because the Islamists had threatened anyone who went to vote. There are reports of Catholics and Hindus beaten or killed as they went to vote, among the victims , the brother of a bishop; villages attacked, houses and religious buildings burned.

The situation in Bangladesh is dramatic and symptomatic of the situation in which the Islamic communities in a globalized world find themselves and poses three questions. First, should they return to the pure and hard Islam of the times of Muhammad, or agree to read and interpret the Koran and " Hadith " of Mohammed to apply a great religion to the modern world ? Second, is it acceptable that the immense, incalculable capital that comes from oil continues to guide the policies of almost all the thirty or more Islamic nations and also Islamic minority communities in other countries? Third, why are these issues are virtually taboo in the international media ?


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