Written by : Noman Robin
Filmmaker, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Photo credit : Shutterstock.com
There seems to be a great deal of confusion surrounding the practice of real Islam in Bangladesh today. Taking the fact into account that almost all the mosques around the country are packed with people during prayers, it is expected that the practicing Muslims possess common courtesy, good manners, mutual respect and sense of honesty. But is it really the case? If not, what is the particular cause then? To begin with, I would repeat that Islam under political influence impacts the faith and liberal rights of individuals. As a consequence the religious practice turns into fanatical belief that slowly spread its influence on a large section of population in the society. In present day scenario, the majority of religious centres in Bangladesh have appeared serving exactly the opposite role to that they are supposed to do. For the very reason, the protection of lives of pious people is now threatened. Such has occurred during this Coronavirus crisis. We can assume that these religious fanatics can also put a negative impact on an already fragile economic structure our country in the post COVID-19 situation. But how?
Perhaps the term ‘Chinese Virus’ implied by President Donald Trump has caused lot of sensation in Bangladesh as there is a geopolitical and religious message hidden beneath this comical statement. It is reported that China is suppressing the civil rights of millions of Uyghur Muslims. That is why there was already a sentiment of anger against Chinese government among the Bangladeshi Muslims. Trump’s comment supplied fuel to the religious fanatics who could play with the epidemic situation to serve their interests that may now lead us to dangerous consequences.
Before the spread of coronavirus, what Muslim clerics used to do beside leading prayers? They used to teach Quran and give private lessons, conduct Milad and rituals during funerals, opening of shops etc. All their activities are now suspended. So what are they supposed to do now? How would they spend their time? Therefore a great number of them started talking loudly in public places and markets with the intent to grab the attention of the mass. They often ask passer-bys whether they believe in God or not? Do you believe that a leaf of a tree can’t move without his command? If yes, how can coronavirus affect you if you pray in mosque with other believers? He who has created Coronavirus if you worship him you will never get affected otherwise you are committing a great sin. They would be citing from various verses of the holy script. As I told you before these types of clerics depend on knowledge of Islam came from a third party. That means the local clerics always taken the advantages of the mass of not knowing Arabic and proper meaning of Islam. So whatever the clerics say is always considered true. They can always create a huge gathering in the mosques using various emotional techniques. Even those who don’t pray regularly in mosque are also gathering in mosque to get protection from coronavirus. The matter got so propagated that each and every mosque got packed up. The funniest part of the story is that these clerics talk about maintaining the social distance in every other place except the mosques. Along with the call for assembly, these clerics are simultaneously spreading hatred towards non-Muslim residents. As an example, they are preaching coronavirus as curse from Allah on Chinese population for persecuting Uyghur Muslims. Or the Jews being friends of Chinese are utilizing the virus to eliminate Muslims from this world. But Allah is very kind to Muslims. They themselves (non-Muslims and westerns) became victims of coronavirus.
When such speeches were delivered in mosques (since 6th March 2020), the coronavirus cases had just surfaced in Bangladesh, with four affected and one dead. Today, on the 13th of April 2020, 803 affected and 39 dead and the number of recovered cases stand at 42. Meanwhile the ministry of religious affairs published an order to end up gathering in mosques during the pandemic situation. But, uncontrolled gatherings all along the last month have already inflicted huge damage. Among the first of two of five corona affected patients were who attended prayers in the mosques. And now? What if the numbers of patients affected by corona increase by Geometric progression?
Although most of countries in the Middle East had already declared lockdown and they were appealing to people using loudspeakers of the mosques to pray at home. Even though the news was widely spread in social media, our clerics did not follow the rules. But why? Is it orthodoxy or something else?
The educated urban Muslims of Indian subcontinent are obsessed with the stories and glories of the scientists and inventors of the golden age of Islam. There were surgeons, scientists, chemists, philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, astronomers, architects such as Ibn al-Haytham, Alhazen, Zabir Ibne Haiyan, Ibne Sina, Zafar Al Sadik who were pioneers in their domain of work. And now?
Nowadays only a few Muslim names figure on the top of the fields like medicine, technology, space science or environmental protection. Not even in the field of philanthropy. A Saudi prince wanted to donate 100 million dollars to New York mayor after 9/11. On the other hand, rich Muslims have shown no empathy towards the people of Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Gaza where thousands and millions of civilians are starving and dying. They are busy making big mosques, increasing the number of religious practitioners and baby booming. They are obsessed with building new aesthetic cities in the desert and waging war among themselves. They have no obligations or responsibilities to the nature.
Why should we blame only Muslims? In 2020 the world has witnessed a great cock and bull story ; that you cure yourself from the attack of Coronavirus just by drinking Cow urine. The world had witnessed communal riots. The large number of Indians is fed up by the treacheries of Godmen and gurus. This is a huge profitable business. Even a section of educated people also gathered in temples just to get cured by drinking cow urine.
I want make a clear statement. Instead of criticizng other’s religion, as a Muslim, I do see an emerging excess of bigotry in my own community. That troubles me very very deeply and which I think we should take due consideration of. Let me give you an example of mental degradation of young Bengali Muslims. We are very proud of Indian superstar like Shahrukh Khan donating money during the crisis. But when we recall that Shahrukh married a Hindu woman Gouri and she continues practicing her own religion even after marriage, we become furious with him for not converting his wife to Islam. Why such hypocrisy? Why this double standard? Though it is said that if you pray regularly, you can overcome all your mental narrowness. But how? How come there are so much corruption, treachery, dishonesty, embezzlement, mean mildness and lonesomeness despite being practicing Muslims. We should have a positive society with the spread of practice of Islam in daily life, the best religion that we believe in, but why such thing didn’t really occur?
That means we don’t practice our religion in a proper manner. We’ve kept our religion limited between prayer and fasting. We pray regularly and ask for forgiveness to God. And after that we are again getting involved in sinful activities. We have a hope that Allah might forgive us again. Even anyone who has not committed any sin but does not pray or do rituals will be sinful. Is it something our religion even support?
In the meantime, the spread of coronavirus has weakened the world economy. 180 million people of Bangladesh have to work together with dignity, integrity and honesty to confront such pandemic situation. In such a condition we cannot live both in reality and life after life. If those clerics do not call for unity national after the pandemic rather call for ‘Life after life’, hatred towards non-Muslims and Islam’s past glories limited to narrow explanation of doctrines,then we have to realize they don’t work for the benefit of the society. They did not also work previously. They are just playing with the sentiment of believers by posing themselves before them as agents of God. As if they would guarantee us all the righteous blessings no matter how sinful we are. At the end they would ask for divine intervention for us just because we’ve build new mosques, prayed and observed fasting.
There is one specific thing to notice. In most cases, the mischievous people are always organized in groups. Just like teams of Hyena in the African jungle. In the past decades many progressive minded persons had written books, made movies and performed theatres to debunk the real faces of religious fundamentalists. Each of them had to face humiliation; some of them were brutally murdered. In this perspective, many other strong voices fall into silence. In the absence of strong opposition, the religious fundamentalists take the advantage of the fragility of women and ordinary people. These fanatics have destroyed the social and culture fabric and tradition of Bengali society existing since hundreds of years calling those Hindu practices. Based on these facts we just cannot allow these clerics to get control over mosques in post corona scenario. The relation between God and Human is plain and direct. There is no agent required in between. Then people have to pray to God from heart not by showing off to others. Let us make a beautiful and healthy environment for all. Remember such an environment is the only requirement to keep our society alive. We have to take such steps that our coming generations have the proper respect and affection for the nature and society.We just cannot hide anything from our upcoming generations. In this globalized world we just cannot hide knowledge. On the other side children are smarter than ever before. The problem would be if you learn anything wrong, you yourself have to be in big trouble. And the religious fanatics will be happy and their team will be stronger. Where is the guaranty that your own child would not join a terrorist organization? It might sound a joke that during the pandemic Doctor is the God and the religious leaders are in the queue in front of doctor’s chamber once in trouble. So let us learn the true knowledge and sense of religion while at home during the quarantine. After that you teach that to your children. Get prepared with a strong determination to build a better Bangladesh. If you don’t want to see another pandemic please read whatever I have written above and think again. Always remember your work is your religion. If your act is polluted then can you get purified faith? May peace prevail on earth.
(The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Multidimension’s editorial stance.)