Shahbag is a new Tahrir Square


After Arab Spring, Tahrir revolution, and the victory of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in Egypt, I am not impressed by the crowd. Bangladesh’s Shahbag is now like a tiny Tahrir Square. Facebook and Twitter generation gathered at Shahbag to demand death penalty for Abdul Kader Mullah, the war criminal. He raped and killed people during Bangladesh liberation war in 1971, more than 40 years ago. The war criminal gets life imprisonment, but the Shahbag crowd is not happy, wants death penalty for him. As more people join the crowd, Shahbag starts asking death penalty for all war criminals. The fact is, all war criminals are Islamists. They did not want to be separated from Pakistan, a country based on Islam.

The Shahbag crowd is desperate to execute an old war-criminal-Islamist. What would they do to the millions of growing young Islamists in Bangladesh? I questioned. The crowd has made it clear that they are not against Islam or Islamists, they are against criminals, rapists, and murderers of 1971. The Tahrir crowd was against Mubarak but not against Islamists. The Shahbag crowd is quite similar to the Tahrir crowd. The Shahbag crowd is against war criminals but not against Islamists.

Four hundred thousand Islamists gathered in the streets demanded my execution by hanging in Bangladesh in 1994, much bigger than today’s Shahbag crowd. In 20 years, Islamists have gained their strength quite a lot. The Bangladesh government filed a case against me on the charges of hurting religious feelings and threw me out of the country. No government has shown courage yet to allow me to enter the country since then. Since then no people, no organization, no media protested against the heinous crime committed by the fundamentalists and the state against an innocent writer.

I believe if Islamists now want to have a public meeting in Bangladesh, they will be able to make 100 times bigger crowd than the Shahbag crowd. More people go to Madrasas than to facebook or twitter or blogs. More people are brainwashed to be Islamists than to be non-Islamists, more people are conservative, religious than progressive and enlightened. Much more women are veiled now than before. Now much more men go to mosques to pray than before. I lost hopes I had for Bangladesh many years ago. I probably should have new hopes, because young people at least are fighting against war criminals, a bunch of rapists and mass murderers, who have been forgiven, given opportunities, adored, respected, empowered by the worthless politicians and military since the independence of Bangladesh. I sympathize with young people at Shahbag, I can show my solidarity, but I can not support capital punishment for anymore, not even for the biggest enemy of mine, for whatever crimes they commit, not even for my assassin. I strongly believe everyone has the right to live. Bad ruling systems, bad societal systems, bad education or lack of education make people bad, corrupt, criminal, extremists.

I asked a Shahbag revolutionary, ‘Abdul Kader Mullah is now 64. He will die in prison while serving life sentence. Why are you asking for his execution?’
He said, ‘He will be freed by the next government.’
I said, ‘Then you should start protesting again the way you are protesting now. There will be second Shahbag!’
He did not like my arguments, so he called me bad names.

If those war criminals or Islamists want to kill a person, that is me, not the Shahbag crowd. They know very well who their real enemy is. They hounded me for decades. I am against all kinds of religious fundamentalists, against Islamists, against war criminals, but I am also against the death penalty. People in an uncivilized corrupt country drowned in Islamism get crazy to hang an old man. By killing Abdul Kader Mullah along with all war criminals, you will not be able to get rid of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, patriarchy, misogyny, corruption, Islamism – your real enemies. Until you fight your real enemies, none of your revolution is a real revolution.