Everything has its own place. Beasts are best in the wild, a saying goes, just as an infant is in its mother’s lap. It’s like that in society and the state too. There are certain ideologies and mindsets best suited for different entities and to which they should adhere.
If they don different guises, people can be duped. If the mainstream politics of a country is crippled, the lesser and secondary politics can never be healthy or normal. If a person’s biopsy report reveals the presence of carcinoma, it can’t be said that his right leg, knee down, is healthy. When the politics of the major three political parties of the country is not normal, what difference does it make if a lesser and publicly disliked party remains intact of breaks up into factions, or changes its policy and ideology?
People had almost forgotten about Jamaat-e-Islami, but the resignation letter of its assistant secretary who lives abroad, hit the headlines and revived the near-dead party. In a country where the political commentators do not bother about the politics of the main and the second largest party, they are now going overboard regarding the past, present and future of this party.
The intellectuals are saying that when in trouble, even the fiercest beast turns tame. So the clever leaders of a party that falls into critical times, take up a strategy of self-defence. Some move aside with the excuse of failing health, some go abroad, and some tactfully join a different party. During the last election when he assessed the outcome 20 days in advance, a BNP leader simply joined the other party, a party whose ideology and beliefs he had long castigated. When such things happen in mainstream politics, such things would not be surprising among the minor parties.
Throughout the night they analyse the country’s politics in minute detail. They are knowledgeable. But rather than explaining the political situation, they prefer spewing out rhetoric from their party position. When the resignation letter of a Jamaat leader living abroad arrived in Dhaka, there was a murmur of approval from many circles. It was as if good days had arrived for politics in the country. Those who opposed the independence movement, that is, the pro-Pakistanis, were now converting into a pro-independence force. Many of them were willing to apologise from the bloodshed of 1971.
I was asked by the media to comment on the resignation letter that day. I said that more important than the letter itself, is the time that the resignation was tendered in. Had BNP won the 30 December election and formed the government, would he have resigned?
The secular progressive quarters who worry so much about this particular party, only focus on its role in 1971. But it is not restricted to 1971 alone, it goes back to the Middle Ages. It is pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian, oriented towards the Middle East and the Middle Ages too. This is the modern age of democracy, but the party does not believe in the material world. And the party is not rooted in Bangladesh, it is just a branch here. It is an international party, with its branches reaching out all over the world where there is Muslim population. If any leader resigns or is expelled, the party’s ideological stance does not change.
After having sucked BNP dry, a certain barrister decides to resign. We had been thinking that an end had come to the conservative BNP of Zia and Khaleda and BNP, or with a changed name, might emerge like Bangabandhu’s progressive Awami League. Many Awami League leaders like to believe they were all one under the skin. The barrister himself perhaps wanted to be one of them too, as his words indicated, but he didn’t have the gumption to abandon his safari suit for a Mujib coat.
And simply apologising for the misdeeds of 1971 does not mean that the party’s reactionary character will change overnight. It is an ideology based party. If any leader has certain personal perceptions as an individual, that does not mean the party’s ideology and beliefs have changed. The party over which the spectre of Maulana Moududi looms large, will hardly respond to the appeal of this barrister. The resignation letter will just lie in the files.
I have heard pro-independence secular leaders saying that barrister Razzak is a good man. They have often met him at dinners hosted by the foreign diplomatic missions of the US, UK and EU, UNDP and so on. They may not meet up in public, but at these foreign embassy programmes, Awami League, BNP, Jatiya Party and Jamaat leaders enjoy a good camaraderie. And thus politics is where it is today.
Our western friends see Jamaat as a moderate Islamic democratic party which wants to come to power through elections. That is why the westerners take it into cognizance. They meet the Jamaat leaders. During the rule of prime minister Khaleda Zia, a western diplomat had quoted Barrister Razzak, saying that Jamaat was not looking to come to power immediately but in about 20 to 25 years, through the elections.
As for those who want to change Jamaat’s name and ideology, who want to apologise for 1971, they cannot be berated for the intentions in this regard, but their objectives cannot be supported. They want to win the support of Muslim voters by becoming like Turkey’s AK Parti or Tunisia’s Ennahda or Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party. Those countries are near Europe. Bangladesh is in a delta of Bengal. After 1975, Jamaat leaders formed the Islamic Democratic League under the leadership of Maulana Abdur Rahim and even won 20 seats in the second parliament formed in 1979. What benefit did that being for Bangladesh’s politics?
It is better to remain in one’s own skin where they can be recognised. A mask can fool the public. This will not bring any gain to the country or the people.
Rather than sweat over the welfare of the dying Jamaat, we should take initiative to bring mainstream politics back on track. More important than Jamaat’s reforms, are the reforms of national politics.
* Syed Abul Maksud is a writer and researcher. This piece appeared in the print version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten here in English by Ayesha Kabir