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Bangladesh Crisis: The Wounds Are Still Green

What happened in the then East Pakistan in 1971 was shameful and what has been happening in 2013 in Bangladesh is painful. Forty-two years separate the two eras, but the wounds are still green and the desire to seek vengeance has not died. Some leaders of Jamat -e- Islami, Bangladesh, are facing the death penalty for their alleged role in crimes against the then citizens of Pakistan. The present leadership is protesting the court verdicts and organizing demonstrations all over the country. Some have resulted in violence causing deaths and destruction.

Is there any way to ease the tension and bring to a closure the sad chapter in the history of the people of Bangladesh? Will the hanging of a few individuals who are in their 80s and 90s healing the wounds of those who suffered during the war of independence? Does being Muslim mean anything to those who are involved in this conflict?

There is a precedent in the history of Islam where a conflict similar to the one Bangladesh is facing today was resolved in a peaceful and humane way. Perhaps a reference to that might help the people and leadership of Bangladesh to overcome their emotions in a rational way.

The Prophet Muhammad and those who accepted his message were persecuted in Makkah. They suffered torture, murder, exile, and aggression for almost 20 years. Their property was confiscated by the leaders of Makkah and their honor and dignity were defiled on a regular basis. The Makkans instigated local communities in Medina to foment trouble for the Muslim community. They even conspired to kill the Prophet and divide the community.

Yet, when Makkah finally opened itself to the Prophet and the people of Makkah accepted the leadership of the Prophet, he offered a general amnesty including those who were known for their crimes against Muslims.

The similarity is not in the nature of the two situations. One was driven by nationalistic motives while the other was more of the universal values. The similarity was more in actions to the ideas. It cannot be denied that the Pakistan army, crossed its own set rules in dealing with a population that was seeking better representation in matters that impact its life. It indulged in actions that can easily be described as anti-Islam and anti-divine.

Similarly, it is also true that the leadership of Jamat -e- Islam, rather than trying to bring about a truce among the fighting groups, was supportive of Pakistani military action in Bangladesh and many of its prominent members were involved in orchestrating violence against innocent men, women and children.

However, after the liberation of Bangladesh, they accepted the leadership and showed their commitment to the preservation of the newly emerged state with all their resources.

During the past 42 years, they have proven their loyalty to Bangladesh. Perhaps, those who are in power now should act in a more sensible manner by offering a general amnesty to all those who may be implicated in crimes against their fellow citizens. On the other hand, the Jamat-e-Islamic should also admit its wrongdoings in the war of independence and seek an apology from the nation for those unjustifiable acts that haunt the memory of those who suffered them.

The verdict against the Jamat leaders should not be used a license to violence. The violent demonstrations and unnecessary destruction of the people’s property and the killing of innocent individuals are acts that cannot be justified. The Jamat claims to be an organization built around Islamic values. Rather than resorting to street politics, they should enter into a dialogue with those who still view them as a party associated with the oppressors. The Jamat has a new leadership in Bangladesh that cannot be held responsible for the decisions of their predecessors. But the way its new leadership is reacting to the situation indicates that it has not yet learned the lessons from the mistakes of its past.

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