[Reader-list] Talibanization of Cyberspace by Crypto-Islamists
aiindex at mnet.fr
Fri Dec 21 05:56:52 IST 2001
News from Bangladesh
Talibanization of Cyberspace by Crypto-Islamists
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
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
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
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,
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
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