[Reader-list] Talibanization of Cyberspace by Crypto-Islamists

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at mnet.fr
Fri Dec 21 05:56:52 IST 2001

News from Bangladesh
Talibanization of Cyberspace by Crypto-Islamists

Farida Majid

In the wake of the departure of George Harrison, I am full of 
memories of that electrifying Concert for Bangladesh at Madison 
Square Garden in 1971, which I had the great fortune to attend. 
Throughout the nine months of the liberation war I had traveled in 
the USA and Europe working ceaselessly for the cause of an 
independent Bangladesh and creating public opinion against the 
atrocities of Pakistani army on the innocent civilians of East 
Pakistan. The warmth, care and goodwill expressed at the Concert for 
Bangladesh were echoed all over the world.

To the utter consternation of Nixon, Kissinger and Yahya team, George 
Harrison's "Bangladesh" hit the top of the chart. It was a thrilling 
moment, in the midst of all the sad news emanating from the 
battlefront, because even the Western journalists covering the civil 
war in East Pakistan were not yet using the word "Bangladesh." I want 
to remind everyone that this country was born on the crest of not 
only Banglaee's dream of freedom, democracy and secularism, but the 
good wishes and cheers of all the world's freedom-loving people.
It is unfortunate, and all the sadder for that beginning, that 
Bangladesh failed to fulfill those dreams we fought for and for which 
the whole world had cheered. Through successive autocratic rulers, 
the country never had the graciousness to thank for or return that 
good will to the world. Let alone thanking George Harrison, no 
government of Bangladesh even acknowledged the patriotic efforts of 
the two of East Bangla's most precious gems of all times - Pandit 
Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan - both of whom were initiators 
of and performers at the Concert for Bangladesh.

Today we have a government that is made up of those very foes who 
opposed our right to claim our freedom. With the blood of innocent 
children, women and men of 1971 in their hands, two of the Jamaatis 
are ministers in Khaleda Zia's cabinet. Other Islamists hold various 
important portfolios. Reminders of the muktijuddha do not stir noble 
emotions in anyone any more. This is due mainly to the 
Awami-leaguers' false over-association of the liberation war with 

People are so fed-up of Awami mis-rule and "Zatir pita Bangabondu" 
that they frown, turn up their noses, roll their eyes or fling their 
wrists at the very mention of 1971. Islamists have now installed 
themselves in power with unprecedented confidence. Like the Cheshire 
Cat's in the Wonderland, the ear-to-ear grin of the Islamists hangs 
in the air of Bangladesh as it fills with the cries of pain and 
deprivation rising from the defenseless Hindu communities victimized 
by the Islamist criminals.

Not that there is no secular-minded BNP leader. Most of them, Khaleda 
Zia included, are not exactly devout Muslims as we well know. But 
they are installed in power by the Islamists, and hence are gagged 
and bound against making any comment on the atrocities committed by 
the Islamist goondas on the hapless Hindus. Without the Islamist 
support BNP is nothing but a dolled up woman in a chiffon sari. Too 
apparently, to maintain this vital support, she has to trundle off to 
Saudi Arabia every month to perform Umrah. Who knows what lurks 
behind the all too apparent!

Besides their firm clutch on the heads of the present administration, 
the Islamists have foot soldiers parading in two very disparate but 
well-coordinated fronts. One cache of cadres is unleashed across the 
nation to wreak unspeakable havoc of communal killing, raping and 
looting. Islamist leaders in Dhaka keep a straight face muttering 
patronizing platitudes about the duty to protect the 'jaan-maal' of 
the Hindus.
As long as we have Islamists in Bangladesh, Jehadists in Pakistan and 
the Hinduists in India, the dreaded specter of communalism as a 
potent political tool will continue to scourge the general populace 
of the subcontinent. Aiding and abetting the Islamists is this other, 
newer front presently operating in the cyberspace.
This lot of Islamist collaborators thinly covers up their poisonous 
activity of spreading the message of the Islamists in the curious 
form of Islam-bashing. Therefore, I call them crypto-Islamists. 
Mimicking the Islamist claim, crypto-Islamists define secularism to 
mean something doggedly anti-religious, virulently anti-Islamic. They 
call themselves "secular humanists," even though their pompous 
pronouncements contain not a smidgen of understanding of either 
secularism or humanism.

A couple of years ago, foolishly taking their self-description of 
"secular humanists" in good faith, I tried to point out that 
secularism means pluralism, peaceful coexistence of many religions, 
faiths and ethnic cultures, and according to that definition of 
secularism, Muslim Bengal had always been a secular place. At no 
point in Bengal's history Islam was declared a state religion. The 
group roundly blasted me for committing the crime of mentioning 
'culture' and 'history'.

There is no arguing with these crypto-Islamists. They are the ardent 
followers, the students (taliban) of the Bush-bin Laden School of 
Dogmatism - that "either you are with us or against us" variety. 
Violently allergic to the concepts of culture, history of any kind or 
of any place, evolution, civilization, art, music, social studies, 
grammar, rhetoric or logic, the crypto-Islamists would pounce upon 
anyone who broaches these topics with the wrath matching that of 
their Islamist bretheren upon the Hindus.

The ground-level Islamists at least have a political agenda behind 
their Islam-touting game. Scratch their Islamic surface, and you will 
discover that they really do not care much for their religion. The 
'Alem-samaaj' or the traditional religious establishment of 
Bangladesh have denounced the weird and un-Islamic ideology of the 
Islamists and have vigorously protested against the Jamaati antics in 
the name of religion. The crypto-Islamists of cyberspace, amidst all 
their Islam-bashing, oddly, never have a harsh word against the 
Jamaat. Perhaps in their vision of the world through a pinhole they 
cannot distinguish one from the other.

Or perhaps - and this possibility looms increasingly large - they are 
the undercover agents of the Islamists employed to spread the 
propaganda that Jamaat and Islam are one and the same. There is only 
one Islam - period - no ifs or buts or what-abouts.
Crypto-Islamists were conceived in 1993, and if one recalled the 
sequence of events, one can understand why the Islamists needed them. 
Under the able and valiant leadership of shahid-janani Jahanara Imam, 
Muktijuddher Chetana Bastabayan o Ghatok-Dalal Nirmul Committee had 
successfully launched a nation-wide and among the Diaspora 
Bangladeshis in London, New York and elsewhere demanding the trial of 
the Bangalee collaborators of Pakistani army and those who committed 
crimes against humanity in1971.

Wherever Jahanara Imam went she was greeted by huge jubilant crowds. 
Members of the Alem-samaaj joined our campaign and some of them 
toured the countryside going from mosque to mosque urging religious 
leaders to be vigilant against the pollution of religion with the 
dirty politics of the Moududibadi Jamaat. The enthusiasm of the 
people wanting the Dalals of 1971 to be brought to justice was truly 
fantastic and, looking back I can say, it was at an all time high. 
The fundamentalists brought out a procession or two protesting our 
movement, but it was clear that they were really feeling the pinch.
I had worked ceaselessly for the Nirmul Committee that time, 
traveling between New York, London and Dhaka. A chunk of my time was 
occupied also in joining and speaking at meetings and rallies held by 
an organization that we formed called Concerned South Asians. I also 
joined in the activities of our Indian colleagues of 
Samprodayikata-virodhi Andolon.

We marked the first anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid by 
mounting a giant exhibit by Sahmat, an anti-communalism group from 
India, and a two-day festival of music, dance and poetry readings at 
Columbia University. After two decades of hopelessness, I was 
beginning to nurse anew the hope of a closure of the wounds of 1971.

Just at this juncture Taslima Nasrin, flushed with her success as a 
column writer, decided that she wanted more limelight. I had liked 
her columns on women's rights, and actively supported her attack on 
Moksudul Momenin by writing a long scholarly article on the 
mistranslation of the Qur'anic verses pertaining to women.

However, I did not realize then that Nasrin was totally incapable of 
making the distinction between secondary religious literature and a 
primary religious text like the Qur'an. She just lumped Qur'an, 
Hadith, popular pulp religious literature and rolled them into 
something she called dharmo, which she then claimed in a loud voice 
was a very bad thing. Coming from a culturally unenlightened family, 
understandably, religion was a bit of a 'big deal' to her. Limited 
exposure to the more enlightened section of our society led her to 
believe that atheism was a novelty.

So attacking Islam seemed like a jolly good idea to earn some infamy 
accompanied by spotlight. She was going to be the first female 
Bangalee atheist the world ever saw! A Johnny-come-lately to the 
enlightened Muslim Bangalee society that she really never knew from 
her pinhole view of it..
She began attacking the Qur'an (or rather, the Bangla translation of 
it, which is all she could read) and got the spotlight she craved. 
Islam-bashing adds fuel to the fire of fundamentalism, re-energizes 
their zeal. You don't have to be a rocket-scientist to make that 
simple cause-and-effect connection. Nasrin was what the Islamists 
were craving for to get them out of their doldrums. She was their 
Savior incarnate sent for their deliverance by the almighty Allah. As 
a reward for this deliverance the Islamists elevated her to the 
status of Salman Rushdie. The triumphant Islamists have never looked 
back from that point to this. Now they are at the peak of their 
political success, thanks to the brilliant work of the 
crypto-Islamist Nasrin!

I cannot for the life of me fathom the degree of depravity that makes 
someone speak abusively of a particular religion, its scripture, its 
prophet, its 'tradition' its world-wide followers. It is so 
inherently inhuman, racist, and unspeakably stupid! I am loath to 
talk about my private life, but I must emphatically note here about 
my family's unflinching dedication to liberal principles and high 
idealism, whose inculcation in me would prevent me from engaging in 
this scurrilous activity of insulting a religion.

As a child I was happily a tomboy, free to romp in the fields and 
woods, climb trees and splash in those splendid community ponds of 
Narayanganj and swim to my heart's content. My father and my mamas 
were atheists, but we children were instructed not to speak ill of 
any religion. Such instructions were not actually specified, they 
were automatically implied.

We are a bi-communal family since my Boromami is a Hindu who never 
converted. Her family in Dumdum, and my family were always very close 
because we are culturally similar. Cultural affinity, not religion, 
is what makes the difference. I do not suppose the reason why I am 
not close to the families of my other two mamis is because they are 
Muslim. It is just that we don't quite match each other in our 
cultural outlooks or lifestyles.

My nana, Kabi Golam Mostafa, the author of Biswanabi, whom Awami 
Leaguers mischievously and anachronistically labeled as a "razakar," 
(poor guy died in 1964, for God's sake!) was in real life the most 
secular of men. Ever a loving and caring grandfather, he was more 
interested in the progress I was making in my classical singing 
lessons or the latest poem I wrote rather than my religious 
upbringing. His delightful letters to the two of us contained humor 
and playful but intelligent bantering, hardly any mention of 
Allah-rasul. (I can produce these letters, written in my nana's 
exquisite hand, as documents, as opposed to Nasrin;s undocumented, 
fictionalized autobiography).

By the age of ten I was well read in Bangla and English, and could 
look at a picture of a painting and tell whether it was by 
Michaelangelo, Raphael or Rembrandt, or whether it was by Gaugin, 
Matisse or van Gogh. If I did not know enough suras by heart to say a 
proper namaj, it was not an important failure. My extended family was 
pretty pleased with the direction their first born was heading. Being 
a Muslim female was never a problem for me. Islam never posed a 
threat of oppression to me, nor was it an impediment that stunted my 
intellectual and artistic growth.
So, when the opportunity came in my Graduate School days at New York 
University, I eagerly snatched it and took the courses in Arabic 
language which would enable me to at least read and understand the 
text of the Qur'an in the original. I hasten to add that this was not 
done as a 'born again Muslim' gesture. One compelling reason was that 
I got a Federal Govt. scholarship for studying Arabic.

The other reason was my desire to take on the offensive mullahs who 
spread unsubstantiated claims in the name of religion. I was bred by 
my family as a modern human being, a citizen of the world, so I had 
no trouble living either in the East or the West.

These few words about my personal life are necessitated by the false 
impression created by the endless personal life-story-telling by the 
crypto-Islamist Nasrin as if her life-story were the norm of every 
Bangalee Muslim home. No, not every woman in Bangladesh has had 
Nasrin's sordid, repressive life. And there is no telling whether she 
is telling the truth. She had been caught red-handed lying by many 
reporters. Who knows her family and who can testify to the repression 
that really occurred?

My family is less obscure than Nasrin's and hence I felt I don't have 
to prove anything by talking about my family life. But Nasrin has to 
prove something. Again and again, ad nausea, in Bangla and now in 
English, we are given an account of her life, an account of the 
'bhando peer' Amirullah to whose magic Nasrin's mother became 
Why couldn't she get her mother unspellbound from the Peer's magic 
sooner? I have chased a few 'bhando peers' out of my family's 
compound in my girlhood. Nasrin urges us, almost by clobbering on our 
heads, to believe that this fake religious man has everything to do 
with Islam. This is what Islam is all about and that is so because 
Islam is a religion like no other (notice the Islamist drift!).

It is a pity that she has remained the same ignorant snob to this 
day. Not a single lesson has been learned by her, no progress, no 
growth, no change whatsoever in her incommensurate pattern of 
thinking; in sum, nothing has been added to knowledge in the course 
of her life's ups and downs. She keeps repeating the story of peer 
Amirullah over and over again in exactly the same way she did ten, 
twelve, or fifteen years ago.

It just so happens that the 'bhando peer' Amirullah of Mymensingh has 
as much to do with Islam as the 'bhando' priest of Catholic Ireland 
has to do with Christianity, or the 'bhando' bishop in Protestant 
Germany or England has to do with Christianity, or the 'bhando' monk 
in Greece has to do with the Orthodox Church, or the 'bhando' rabbi 
in Israel has to do with Judaism, or the 'bhando' sadhu in Benares 
has to do with Hiinduism. I've known a few 'bhando' religious women 

The world literature abounds with the stories of their treachery and 
wily ways in the name of religion. Some of these stories are 
hilarious, tales in Kahlil wa Dimna, Panchatantra, Chaucer's 
Canterbury Tales, or Boccaccio's Decameron, - we laugh at them. We 
laugh; we celebrate the human ingenuity of these thugs, the same 
human spirit and imagination that created the edifices of these 
magnificent religions. Isn't there something seriously wrong when a 
group that calls itself "secular humanists" is completely blind to 
the very existence of humanity that comprises each religion?

Islam, without its living, breathing human followers, like any other 
religion, is simply an abstraction. In his novel, The Satanic Verses, 
Salman Rushdie wanted to bring out this human face of Islam. I like 
the novel for that reason, and wrote a long essay in its defense. 
Rushdie, whose life was infinitely more seriously threatened by the 
Islamists than Nasrin's ever was, has the common sense to 
discriminate the Islamists from Islam. Just the other day he reminded 
us that the world's 1.2 billion Muslims are not all 'Qur'an 
analysts', and that acts of terrorism are carried out by a crazed 
handful of backward-looking bunch who are against all forms of 

Crypto-Islamist Kamran Mirza strongly disagrees with such a 
statement. Every Muslim gets his or her Islamic teachings from Qur'an 
and Hadiths. Says who? Says Kamran Taliban Mirza. He takes a lot of 
pride in his self-proclaimed role of a Qur'an analyst. He is equipped 
with Allama Yusouf Ali's English translation published circa 1936 and 
a couple of Bangla translations of the Qur'an. This is the base that 
constitutes all his bombast, all his peremptory pronouncements 
against Islam. (I have about seven or eight English, at least three 
Bangla translations, one of which is by Girishchandra Sen, two in all 
Arabic and a shelf full of Arabic-English dictionaries, Arabic 
grammar books and sundry other Arabic language related materials.

There is also a shelf-full of secondary scholarly books. I do not 
call myself a Qur'an analyst even though I carefully consult all my 
resources when I'm required to make a reference to the Qur'an). 
Mirza's so called 'analysis' consists of kicking the Qur'an, spitting 
on the character of the Prophet, and tearing the text apart in a 
stupendously comical exhibition of ignorance, malice and egoism 
befitting the mannerism of a true Islamist. He is applauded for his 
heroics by a handful of faithful followers. I am reminded of the 
lines in "Chhayabaji" by my favorite poet, Sukumar Roy:

Ajgubi noi, Ajgubi noi, satyi e sob kathaa
Chhayar sathe juddha kore gaatre holo byathaa
Chhaya dhorar byabsaa kori, tao jano na bujhi
Roder chhaya, chander chhaya, harek rakom punji

Shamelessly, Kamran Taliban Mirza would then post the praises he has 
received from his sycophants for his comical 'chhayabaji' or 

The all-consuming obsession of the crypto-Islamists with Islam and 
the ensuing blindness and megalomania would put the one-eyed Mullah 
Omar and bin Laden to shame. Not a week goes by without them posting 
some infantile drivel on the Qur'an and Hadith. I wonder whether they 
read anything other then the Qur'an and Hadith.

Do they read an Englash language newspaper, or is it against their 
religion? Is reading a non-religious book against their religion? 
They don't really have the guts to talk against the real-life living 
and breathing Islamists like Motiur Rahman Nizami. It is getting 
increasingly clear that these crypto-Islamists work for their 
Islamist bosses whom they serve slavishly.

Of what use is Islam-bashing? It has only made the Islamists of 
Bangladesh proclaim themselves as the champions of Islam. 
Islam-bashers have only succeeded in endorsing this position of the 
Islamists. The over-zealot crypto-Islamists are now coming apart in 
the very exercise of their zealotary. They are stepping out of their 
closet, although they themselves are oblivious of the fact. Kamran 
Taliban Mirza's exhortation says it all.

Exactly like the Jamaat, and all other Islamists, he is the sole 
purveyor of the "real Islam" and according to him, our Bangalee 
"nani-dadi, bap-dada choudda purush" had it all wrong. He is going to 
set us right - teach us the real, fallacy-proof Islam. He then 
passionately declares, the one-eyed "Mullah Omar is doing everything 
to please Allah and nobody else" (NFB, Nov. 30, 2001).

Please, can our nerves be spared? Is it not enough that the 
crypto-Islamists efforts have helped install the Islamist govt. in 
power in Bangladesh? Do we now have to have the Mullah Omar agent, 
this Kamran Taliban Mirza sermonizing us on the cyberspace day in and 
day out?

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