What is this? We have to be decent and polite. We need to know where to draw the line, and whatever we do has to make sense. But those who are religious don’t need to be sensible or rational. It’s not a problem if they are crude. They have the right to declare bounty on someone’s head. They have the right to be uncivilised, to be murderers. But we (by we I mean the non-believers) don’t have those rights. In every society, the believers get more advantages than the non-believers.
By now, everyone must already know exactly what the telecommunication and ICT minister, Latif Siddique, said in New York. He lost his ministry for saying what he said. Not only that, Muslim radicals started protesting on the streets against him. They are demanding his execution. A Tk5 lakh bounty has been declared on his head. He is receiving threats from different groups. Apparently, he won’t be allowed back in the country. The media has also humiliated him in different ways.
But what was his fault? It is true that after uttering the Prophet’s name, Latif Siddique did not say “peace be upon him.” Even if one does not utter those words, there is no reason for peace not to be upon the Prophet. Almighty Allah will give his soul peace nevertheless. He was the greatest friend of Allah, and He himself sent Prophet Muhammad. The problem is, most of the Bengali Muslims know very littile about the Qur’an and Hadith. They haven’t read much about the history of Islam either.
More than 90% of the Bangladeshi population is Muslim. Most of them are Muslims because their parents were Muslims. Some converted to Islam, either on their own or by force. Many of these Muslims claimed that Latif Siddique hurt the “religious sentiments of Muslims.” By Muslims, they meant all Muslims or the Muslim community as a whole. However, a group or community doesn’t have feelings, a person does. So, it can be said Latif Siddique’s words hurt some people’s sentiments.
A person doesn’t only have religious sentiments, they experience many kinds of feelings. When their other feelings are hurt, they don’t get so riled up. So it can be asked, are religious sentiments more fragile and dangerous than other feelings? Are they hurt so easily that when someone hurts religious sentiments, anyone can break the pillars of civilisation – democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech?
The Muslim countries might not make necessary arrangements to protect human rights, but each of those countries take measures to protect Islam. If anyone raises any question about Islam, then capital punishment, execution, getting slaughtered, life imprisonment, life in exile, harassment, etc are inevitable.
Muslim extremists stone women. They slaughter people brutally. They whip girls for wearing trousers and cane them for driving. People all over the world see these barbaric acts. At one time, there was barbarity all over the world, but such behaviour has been made illegal by the establishment of laws in almost all countries.
Whether someone admits it or not, it is true that the number of Muslim extremists and Muslim terrorists has increased critically in the last two decades. Large and small groups like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hezbollah, and ISIS have been formed. They are dreaming of turning the entire world into a “caliphate,” where only Muslims will live, no one else.
According to a report by Pew Research Centre, most of the Muslims of the world want Sharia law. Today, a sense of disgust has been created about Islam around the world. Hatred has been cultivated towards Muslims. Non-Muslims in many countries express their lack of interest in becoming friends with Muslims, giving them jobs, and maintaining professional and social relationships with them. A dreadful distrust has been developed towards Muslims.
But human rights laws in the West are so strong that Muslims can live their lives as they wish. No country has plans to drive them away by beating and killing them. The West stops racism in their countries on their own.
Democracy becomes pointless if people lose their right to express their opinions or freedom of speech. If we try to change society, various feelings of various people get hurt. A society cannot be changed if we want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. People’s religious sentiments get hurt even when you try to separate state from religion or get rid of laws against women.
Too many good deeds haven’t been done till now without hurting religious sentiments. When the clerical rule in Europe was stopped, the religious sentiments of numerous people were hurt too. The discoveries of Galileo and Darwin hurt people’s religious sentiments as well. Scientific advancements hurt the religious sentiments of superstitious people.
But if we stop expressing our opinions, ban scientific discoveries and usage, and stop the progression of civilisation in the fear that it’ll hurt them, then the society will be left as a puddle of water, it will never turn into a spontaneously-flowing stream. Many say that since the majority of the people of the country are Muslims, Latif Siddique should have talked sensibly, keeping that in mind.
If one has to say what other people want to hear, then there is no need for freedom of speech or one’s right to express opinions. Freedom of speech is for those whose opinions don’t correspond with the opinions of most others. Freedom of speech is saying what you don’t want to hear. Those whose opinions don’t hurt anyone’s feelings don’t need freedom of speech. When the government takes the side of people who are against freedom of speech, it brings about the ruin of its own country.
Nowadays, religious extremists are doing very good business by exploiting people’s religious sentiments. They have always profited from this business in Bangladesh. Every time they scream on the streets demanding someone’s execution for religious dissent and start burning public property, the government takes their side and starts oppressing the people who hold different opinions. This strengthens the power of religious exploiters a hundredfold, and takes the country back 100 years.
The government did exactly the same thing in my case. The friendship between the government and extremists has forever remained the same. Back then, if the Khaleda-led government had punished the Muslim radicals instead of taking their side, they wouldn’t be so powerful now. I could have stayed in my own country as well. There would have been freedom of speech in the country.
It’s not only the Muslim fundamentalists, even the government has deprived free-thinkers of their democratic rights for their own insignificant interests. If Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had not dismissed Latif Siddique from his ministerial post, then he could have returned to the country. The storm would have died down eventually.
The clever religious exploiters would have understood that the politics of religious sentiments would not work in this government’s tenure. The expulsion of Latif Siddique only added fuel to the fire of Muslim fundamentalists. This will strengthen their evil forces a hundredfold. The country will again move backwards a hundredfold.
Various details about Latif Siddique are being disclosed these days. Apparently, he was a horrible person. When the government goes against someone, the number of his friends goes down to zero. My situation was the same. I had to leave the country. My friends vanished. Limitless rumours were spread about me.
Latif Siddique probably did many horrible things. I am not saying that he is a very good person. All I am saying is that he has the right to express his own opinions. Just as I support Latif Siddique’s right to express himself, I similarly respect the rights of his opposers to share their opinions at an equal measure.
If you don’t like his opinion, write and talk against his views and use logic to refute his arguments. But declaring a bounty on his head, physically attacking him, talking about hanging, executing, killing, and beheading him – I am against these barbaric threats.