Islam and Armed Revolt

A section of the politicians, elite and members of the civil society suspect that Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh, the oldest, most organized and resourceful Islamic political party of the country as is reflected in the massive turn up of people in its recent grand rally at Paltan Maidan, Dhaka, is behind all militant activities in the name of Islam throughout Bangladesh. One reason behind such suspicion is that those who have resorted to bombings are doing so in the name of Islam, like Jamaat raising the same slogan (implementation of God’s Law- Shariah) and some of them had link with the Jamaat in distant past. They also allege that of all the Islamic groups of the country only Jamaat has the highly motivated workforce to implement any program throughout the country.

The other reason behind the suspicion is that Jamaat, in 1971, took up arms by joining paramilitary forces like Razaker and tried to impose its will and agenda on the majority of people who are then fighting an all-out war for liberation. Jamaat is still a small and minor political pressure group, and has 18 directly elected MPs plus 3 women MPs in the Parliament, and a section of people suspect that Jamaat might again try, like 1971, to impose its agenda on the majority of people who during the last 35 years did not accept it as a political alternative.

Jamaat manpower study Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb’s book ‘Milestones’ (Bangla translation - Islami Samaj Biplaber Dhara). Western scholars believe, rightly or wrongly, that this book supports rebellion to overthrow Jahiliyyah government. Some people are raising eyebrow as to why this book is in the list of compulsory reading materials of the Jamaat’s manpower. This is another reason for suspecting Jamaat of involvement with militant activities.

The civil society members, not to speak of politicians, largely believe, which is also shared by western powers, that Jamaat’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir is heavily armed in Chittagong University and Rajshahi University, the two major public universities of the country, which is another reason for suspecting Jamaat of involvement with terrorist activity.  

Due to the propaganda of a large number of newspapers and political weeklies, a section of the people have become suspicious of Jamaat’s link with Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), its leader Sheakh Abdur Rahman and think that Jamaat is behind all recent militant activities and is engaged in a proxy war to impose its agenda on the people. Some newspaper columnists have also expressed their misgiving of Jamaat’s alleged link with the militants. This has given some credibility to the propaganda.

External forces who are affected, this way or that, by the four party alliance government actions identify Jamaat, not being able to manipulate Jamaat in favor of their interest, with the alleged militancy to discredit Jamaat for they think that Jamaat is the brain behind all actions of the government that went against their interest and harmed them.

Political players, who want to see the end of BNP-Jamaat four party alliance government, are creating confusion in the mind of the voters raising the tricky claim of Jamaat involvement with terrorism to diminish political prospect of the four party alliance government in the ensuing parliamentary elections. The objective of such propaganda is to isolate BNP from Jamaat and create political environment where fourteen party alliance led by Bangladesh Awami League could smoothly sail through the rough sea of upcoming parliamentary elections to be held on 2007. 

The natural question that arises: Does Jamaat believe in armed revolt? This is a question that needs to be addressed. It would be appropriate to quote Moulana Mawdudi, the Jamaat ideologue, to ascertain Jamaat viewpoint on capturing power through armed revolt.  Moulana Mawdudi in 1969 in an interview with Ziauddin Sardar published in The Muslim, the FOSIS magazine, reproduced in Radiance Views Weekly, Delhi, India in its issue of 31 July – 6 August 2005 rejected the idea of armed revolt. 

To a question: “Do you think that the Islamic state can be established by an armed revolt?” Moulana Mawdudi replied categorically: “I do not think this is the right road for us to pursue. Such a policy, instead of producing any good, may prove to be highly harmful.”

Moulana Mawdudi elaborated: “Even if yes- establish an Islamic state through armed revolution, it would not be possible to run the state and carry on its affairs in accordance with the Islamic way, for the simple reason that society and its different sections have not been properly prepared for the moral transformation that Islam wants. Armed revolution as a means to power is open to others as well - so there is a danger that Muslim countries will become ensnared in a vicious circle of revolutions and counter-revolutions and of conspiracies and counter-conspiracies. Moreover, to bring about an armed revolution, you have to organize your movement on the pattern of secret societies. These have a temperament of their own. They admit to no dissent and disagreement. The voice of criticism is silenced, and free, fair and frank discussions become conspicuous by their absence. Another demand of the inner logic of secret societies is to permit workers to resort to deceit, lies, forgeries, frauds, bloodshed and many other things, which are forbidden in Islam. It is also in the nature of revolutions brought about by the bullet that they can be maintained only through the bullet. This produces a climate where a peaceful switchover towards an Islamic order becomes virtually impossible”.

Moulana Mawdudi is the ideologue of Jamaat. Jamaat still mostly follows his line of thinking. It is, however, natural that difference might crop up in any ideological movement. Such split is common in any ideological movement as is seen in the national and international communist movement that split into many fractions due to differences. Jamaat’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir also split after the Iranian revolution due to strategic differences.

The West is not allowing democratic governments to flourish in the Muslim countries when such governments go against its interest (West attitude towards Hamas is an example) and failure of the corrupt pseudo democratic governments to solve the problems of the Muslim countries has encouraged frustrated utopian people, the seasonal birds in politics, to take up arms to establish government with the slogan of establishing Islam. 

In the backdrop of nine eleven and the U.S. appearing in the global scene as the lone superpower trying to impose its hegemony, split in the nationalist movements across the world as to how to face the imperialist power is a common phenomenon. Due to difference of strategy, people leaving one organization and forming new one is a common practice. Jamaat is also no exception. Some people having link with the Jamaat later leaving Jamaat and joining JMB, therefore, cannot be ruled out. The mainstream Jamaat, however, cannot be blamed for wrong committed by others.

It is high time to take a critical look to the agenda of the Jamaat, evaluate afresh its policy, program, manifesto and above all its vast literature. Islamic resurgence is a worldwide phenomenon, and the West and its local agents in the Third World Muslim countries oppose Islamic movements as they oppose the western interests. Leadership of the Islamic movement is committed to protect Muslim interest, political, military, economic and cultural, and nobody should confuse constitutional fight to protect national interest with militancy. It is high time to make distinction between terrorism and struggle for national liberation. Efforts to protect national interest should not and cannot be equated with terrorism.

Some civil society members think that Jamaat has not sufficiently explained its position vis a vis armed rebellion against established government and renouncing terrorism. Jamaat should, therefore, come out openly to explain its differences with other Islamic groups although it is clear from the views of its principal ideologue Moulana Mawdudi, quoted earlier, that Jamaat is committed to follow constitutional, democratic and peaceful means for any change over or transformation of the government and ascending to power.

The members of the civil society also feel that Jamaat has not sufficiently clarified its involvement with the Pakistan army in 1971, joining paramilitary forces and its alleged link with intellectual killing. The civil society members and thousands of independent Islamic workers, activists and da’iyah- the caller of Islam feel that Jamaat shall not be able to make headway in Bangladesh politics, shall never get single majority, not to speak of two thirds majority, in the parliament and shall remain a wayside minor force unless it be able to clear peoples mind of their mistrust about Jamaat of it taking part with Pakistan army in 1971 which is the reason of suspecting Jamaat of connection with recent militant activities throughout Bangladesh. Islamic activists in and outside Bangladesh raised a very pertinent question: How come Jamaat is so isolated from people and various Islamic groups that a militant organization like JMB could flourish in Bangladesh and Jamaat is not aware of it?

Article prepared on 9 March, 2006.