“Talibaner aar ek naam – hefazat-e-Islam!” (Another name for Taliban, Hefazat-e-Islam)
– Slogan raised at Shahbagh square
To such a degree has Religion fuelled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity. Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against Humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us, however, steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopted a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against Humanity.
(Wole Soyinka, Source: http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Religion-Against-Humanity)
The above quote was part of a long intervention made by Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, and the first one from Africa, as part of UNESCO International High Panel, in a Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence.(21 September 2012) . The immediate context for Soyinka’s speech – was the desecration and destruction of centuries old tombs of Muslim saints in Timbuktu, Mali by radical Islamist group Ansar-al Dime which had ‘discovered’ them to be unIslamic. There were rumours that the ‘invaluable library-treasures of Timbuktu may be next.’ on their agenda. Cautioning people about the fact that “[t]he science-fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s 007 credentials – License to Kill.” he urged leaders to “..[u]nderstand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. “
One was reminded of Soyinka’s words when one was witness to the march organised by the newly emergent group Hefazat-e-Islam ( can be loosely translated as ‘Defenders of Islam’) on the streets of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh and the consequent mayhem that followed. Continue reading Hefazat-e-Jamaat, Nothing Else : On the Recent Developments in Bangladesh