Islamists again kill a nonconformer in Bangladesh

Attackers wielding machetes have killed a village doctor and wounded his friend, a university tutor, in western Bangladesh, police say.
Mir Sanwar Rahman, known for offering villagers free homeopathic medicines, was hacked to death early on Friday in Kushtia district.
No group has said they carried out the attack.
There has been a spate of murders of religious minorities, secular activists and academics in Bangladesh recently.
Mr Rahman and tutor Mohammad Saifuzzaman were ambushed as they travelled on a motorbike in their village.

More than 20 people have been killed in attacks by suspected Islamists in the last three years.
An elderly Buddhist monk was hacked to death on Saturday while a Hindu priest, two prominent gay activists, a law student and a university professor were also murdered in recent months.
The killings have been blamed on various hardline groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS) and Ansar al-Islam, a Bangladeshi militant group affiliated to al-Qaeda.
The government has denied that IS is present in the country. Instead, it has blamed opposition parties and local Islamist groups, such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and Harkatul Jihad.
The opposition have denied any involvement and say the government’s accusations against them have hampered a credible investigation.

All those killed were nonconformers. They were not strict followers of Sunni Islam. The latest victim, Mir Sanwar Rahman was a follower of Lalon’s philosophy.

Lalon's only portrait, sketched during his lifetime by Jyotirindranath Tagore in 1889.From

Lalon’s only portrait, sketched during his lifetime by Jyotirindranath Tagore in 1889

Lalon Fokir ( also known as Lalon Fakir, Lalon Sha, Mahatma Lalon ) was a Bangla musician and philosopher of 19th century. He is considered as the most important exponent of the tradition of Baul , a very popular folk music tradition of Bangla speaking people.

The cultural roots of Baul philosophy is in the Bhakti movement of Hinduism which swept ancient India between 14th and 17th century. It has also close links with Sufi tradition of Islam and Shahajiya Buddhism. Baul community belonged to the impoverished margins of Bengal society. Lalon sang against division of humans on the basis of gender, religion, caste, nationality, race  and social positions. He was a humanist to the core.

Sectarian and communal identities or even indulgence in the politics of identity, are considered vices for essentially it is spiritual racism in different names and have been used as tools to divide communities. The issue is not with religions per se , but more to do with the implied superiorities of races,caste, creed etc that creeps in consequently and inevitably becomes the corepoints that leads to exploitation and degradation of human values. Valid and pointed discussions on religions and scripts are acceptable among the Bauls -what is not is any kind of provocations having communal/sectarian overtone or prevarications that seeks to damage harmony.

Lalon shrine at Kushtia

Lalon shrine at Kushtia

It is not surprising that Islamic fundamentalists hate Lalon’s ideology of humanism. In 2008, during the rule of Army backed care taker regime , they were able to force  the government to remove five statues of Baul singers including that of Lalon from Dhaka.

Terrorists had earlier hacked to death two professors, Shafiul Islam and Rezaul Karim, who were lovers and organisers of folk music including Baul.

Religious fascists are not only killing vocal atheists and secular activists. They are targeting all nonconformers to their version of Islam.

Bangladesh is losing secular people  to Islam’s machete every other day. The threat of religion to freethought is gravest in Bangladesh.

Why is the world just watching ?

Let me end this post with a Lalon song.

Everyone wonders, “What’s Lalon faith?”
Lalon says, “I’ve never ‘ seen’ the face
of Faith with these eyes of mine!”

Circumcision marks a Muslim man,
what then marks a Muslim woman?
A Brahmin I recognize by the Holy thread;
how do I recognize a Brahmin-woman?

Everyone wonders, “What’s Lalon faith?”

Some wear a garland and some the tasbi,
that’s what marks the Faiths apart.
But what marks them apart when
one is born or at the time of death?

Everyone wonders, “What’s Lalon faith?”

The whole world talks about Faith,
everyone displaying their pride!
Lalon says, “My Faith has capsized
in this Market of Desire….”


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