I used to go to Savar to visit the graves of my Khala and Khalu, I guess I passed the site of the building collapse, I think of it as a sad place of dokholocracy, where the MPs and criminals rain injustice and selfishness, with beards, mustaches and clean shaven impunity.

  • Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun
  • More than 200 people have been killed by callousness from the corrupt business-politics nexus in Bangladesh. Thats thousands of people affected, bereaved, orphaned and widowed. In the words of one of the seculib twat I read disregarding the police killings of young Islamists recently, 'thats less than a ferry accident'
  • Awami League leader Sohel Rana's Rana Plaza  in Savar wasn't built to Buliding Code and wasn't evacuated when BUET experts said it wasn't fit for use. The Bank (BRAC Bank) on the two lower floors didn't make its employees come into work on Wednesday, but the garments factories did, under threat of dismissal.
  • The distribution of distress (worker, bereaved, orphaned) and duress (architect-client, factory-buyer, factory-worker) is discussed with fervour in virtual, professional and business communities.
  • The Garments owners Association, the BGMEA, have offered 1 lakh Tk (less than £1000) for each of the dead and expelled the five factories.
  • People are doing what they can to clear rubble, rescue, offer free medical treatment,  donate blood and erm, retweet.
  • Leadership from the top is sorely lacking. This puts a dampener on the governments plan to use the garments workers against Hefazots rally, this makes an anti government, pro transform coalition more possible.
  • The deeper causes of the dangerous conditions are inherent to the interacting cultures of capitalism that make the garments and construction industries. Blaming Primark must not be a distraction from the politics of more-than-just-cleaning-up, and neither should protecting brand bangladesh, if there ever was such a thing.

I was mulling over the word hifz, which means protection, and the higher objectives, the maqasid, of the shariah, which I've often argued should shape Muslim societies, organisations and selves. They speak of protection and promotion of faith, life, dignity, lineage, intellect and property.

Now Begum Rokeya, Maulanas Bhashani and Madani might be credible moral authorities to invoke when we might imagine a cooperative movement called "Hefazat un Nisa" that secures safety, dignity, family friendliness and vertical mobility to the labour force, in the spirit with which Aminul Islam worked 

Far off right? deshi Islamism is pretty indistinguishable from neoliberalism, right? Maybe now, but was heartening to hear about Farida Akhter's engagement with Hefazat's demands.


Earth Day is Ecolonial Developmentia

Social and corporate media awash,
With depoliticising subcutaneous tosh,
They tell me the Earth of days just has one,
Per solar revolution, ya haqq, what clean fun!

In Zalzala, the Earthquake, we humans might learn,
The value of actions as fossil fuels burn,
See on the Day of His Judgement,  she'll speak of our deeds,
Without sponsors watching will we be on our knees?

Words make worlds and actions, contextual small,
They move in between us, burrowing through walls,
So which ones have meaning? and which ones are void,
Of gut clenching reality? which ones are just toys?

Developmentors and developmentees playing with time,
With Internships and nervous ticks they serve up moonshine,
Like "Keep Calm and Save the Earth"
That was vs in worth war 2 for what its worth.

So step away from that leaflet, that advert that graphic,
Atomic weights are what matter, make justice not traffic,
Have a go NGO, waft totemic incense,
I see who you are, I know your pair-rents.


The Zine Fair

The DIY Cultures Zine Fair was a townstorming hoot. 
Resistive love politics and craft in cahoots.
A marvellous antidote to consumable culture,
Well-marketed emptiness and corporate Thatcher.
From the bullied young hipsters expressing their self,
To hydroponic transfusions and sewing self-help,
Strangeways, Extradition, Unemployment as Freedom
Creative exchange blew the top off the kingdom.


[New Word] Boka Haram

Anti-inspired by some misled tool boys and frequently murderous brother-mines in Nigeria, Boka (stupid) Haram (unlawful) is valuable concept to prevent intellectual retardation upon newly adorning religiosity.

One of the higher objectives of the sharia, is the protection and promotion of intellect, without which stupidistans can only grow, courtesy of the salafi triangle, or pirisms of many a blend.


Creativity and repetition: Happy Boishakh bitchin and Ramadan revolution to you all

The Bangla New Year was sung in through Bangladesh, from Dhaka down, with a colourful ritual fervour and much drawing room chatter. In these post Shahbag times and in the last months of the present regime, Pohela Boishakh serves as agrarian symbolic relief for urbanites and a spectacle for cultural nationalist values to wrap around and express.

I guess that during Pakistan times, Boishakh in this form was an important space for opposition cultural forces. Therefore a lot of what we see is a hangover from that period turned into state cultural policy, normalised by much of the middle-class, denuded of meaning by consumerism and historical amnesia, and rejected by competing political frames.

The students of the Charukola Art establishment, as usual, worked hard to create a menagerie of beautiful floats and masks. Some, like the one pictured below kinda scare my pants off.  Alas, I should not be afraid, as these are not political aesthetics in translation, snakes are created beings with rights, community and a definitive symbolic roles to play in religious ecosystems.

Source: @danieltweetin
Directed dietary acts, singing, and creativity create a political self, they are important to understand and resculpt if we are to produce an active political and spiritual self.

All to often we can miss the point altogether. In the words of national treasure Hyder Husyn, a pious folk-rocker with social conscience, reflecting on  national independence in his wonderful song 30 Bochor (Years)
Does freedom mean eating slightly fermented rice and hilsa fish at Bangla New Year Fairs? 
Does freedom mean sitting under the banyan tree and singing Bangla New Year songs? 
Music isn't haram, especially this. 

My favourite, constructive contribution was the senior water sector engineer Inamul Haque's (re)call for the fiscal year to start and end around Bangla New Year. This single bureaucratic change would enable the success of all engineering works in Bangladesh, by scheduling expenditure and physical development works away from flood times and denying a whole lot of excuse-making. Peoples lives, homes and livelihoods would be better protected from river erosion, coastal erosion and flood, who knows the possible beneficial impacts on land making and other sectors.

Muhajirs from Boishakh?

Like many other calenders in the region that bear ethno taglines, the Bangla calender draws from King Akbar's solarisation of the lunar Hijri calender that marks RasulUllahs migration to Medina from the oppression of Makkah. Visiting the cities for Hajj last year it was like divine geological poetry that Makkah resembled a clenched fist and Medina an open palm.

I don't buy the universal pretensions of status quo Boishakh. From inside and outside of me I observe that it is aesthetically and politically alienating of differently Islamically inclined political subjects of the state, who annually chafe through the day like a haji in an ihram on a hot day with inadequate ventilation. Yet the 'Boishakh as Hindu Culture' pejorative, though understandable, doesn't generate any creative work and worse still distracts the Muslim from the cultural stagnancy of Islam in Bangladesh.

Its not that young folks aren't interested in Islah, more that there are insufficient socio-cultural guides, audiences and spiritual-political protections to enable the processes of self-discovery and awkward experimentation.

This morning I watched a few videos from the folks at ibana group, these were pretty cute and were produced well.  My heart screamed mashallah, my head retorted Salafi Triangle, but my practical sensibility respects how much this is relevant to the religious literacy issue in Bangladesh. The Maher Khan story depicts the journey of a middling heavy metal guitarist away from his music into a non musical 'more' Islamic present.  Personally, I am hungry for a re-imagined metal that thrashes the forces and structures of injustice, tyranny and consumer capitalism, and pray that we haven't heard the last of Maher bhai. Maybe I should stop living vicariously through the lives of others.

If you were wondering about The Salafi Triangle, it is a shorthand for why a lot of Islamic works have taken their present shape. The frame is intended to explain, not detain.

Source: The Developmentia Project, see also: neoliberal salafism

Pantha bhat is to Boishakh, what Piaju is to Ramadan

On the subject of analysis of the political and Islamic self, lets talk about Ramadan. This year Ramadan will arrive around 9th July and take us through to the beginning of August, as ever it is what we make of it and we'll be sorry to see it go.  This won't be a relevelation to some but, much of what has happened to Boishakh has happened to Ramadan, political reduction, consumerisation and mattabarisation.  It would appear that the middle-class probably has a lot to answer for. 

Boishakh: Pantha bhat, ilish mas and green chilli
Reclaiming Ramadan from the market, state and mislamist liberates the Muslim self, and makes fresh deeds and pieties possible. Taqwa and deeds make eachother, which is where grounded activism is critical and dynamic religion is so potent, which scares the pants off the seculib establishment. The month is a training ground for moral athletes, not a grounds for buffet, social inbreeding, and bureaucratic robotarawi.

Pretty words ey? What about results? It is very possible, as has been demonstrated over some years, to battle gluttony and the consumerisation of Islam together to establish a lightning rod for artistic, spiritual and socio-political creativity. Folks in Malaysia have taken up the idea I believe.

There is much meaning to make, after all Islamic Time flows though  Political Time. As the lunar calender cannot sit in one place, it tracks around the solar year in 30 year cycles, giving us a historical kaleidoscope onto our pasts which disrupts Political Partisan Time.

I love this game, the intermediary Pakistani state was declared on Layla tul Qadr, the Night of Power, and the Bangladesh War ran through a Ramadan in late October through to November 71. Do we know enough about practices and feelings in those times?

Labouring the point one last bit, we may balk at Boishakh but how hopening are we making the Ramadhan experience? After all, the Islamic or not Islamic character of the republic, is a reflection of the state of hearts of the people.


Lets talk about futures of political Islamisms in desh

As the Deoband-Madani oriented Hefazat ul Islam's points of contention and (intentionally) limited scope still ringing around society in Bangladesh, the place, potential, translation and movement of Islamic socio-political principles and shapes comes to attention.

With today's arrest of Amar Desh's editor and past BNP energy adviser Mahmudur Rahman, and the sealing of its press, the dissenting voice of 'Islamic forces' has been muzzled. I remember how Amar Desh broke the TribunalGate story in December that sent the War Crimes Tribunal into a headspin and magically began the corrosion of 42 years of powerful guilt tripping and rumour mongery that has made a self-mutilating laughing stock of the country.

That said, I don't think he is the Mahdi or the Sonar Bangla Bullet. I pray he is returned safely to his family ASAP (just like everyone else who is unjustly confined) and see this arrest as just one part of the actions of a despicable, dissent-crushing and murderous government. I just wanted to take the moment to ponder beyond dinosaurs, clones and religious tribalisers.

The more I think of the political autisms of Shahbag and and LongMarch the more I feel that we need to reconnect, critically, with the politics of Maulana Bhashani, the 80 day president Khondhokar Moshtaque Ahmed, and the erudition of Kamal Hossain. [The Kissinger Cables hyperlinked provide a one-click time machine to them]

It is sad that the country is probably not even hungry for a creative generation of Islamic thinkers, justice and serenity makers. The tail end batsmen can only last for so long, especially now that they have acquired a habit for self harm.


  1. A public sphere more inclusive of Islamic and other non secular contribution and social imagination.
  2. Hefazat-un-Nisa, a radical Islamist Begumhood dedicated to ensuring dignity and a living wage for garments workers, male and female and the vibrancy of the sector.
  3. The country's apparently Islamic types inspired by the work, talent and martyrdom of Shaheed-e-Kormi Aminul Islam .
  4. Political formations and actions that rupture the firewalls between rightist-Islamist and leftist-Atheist. 
  5. A Jamat happy to admit mistakes and nuance and Islamic alternatives.
  6. A left that is co-operative with political Islam.
  7. Greater dialogical relations between Islamic, social and physical sciences and scholars.
  8. A vibrant, Islamically moved creative class providing social yeast, not decoration or nostalgia.
  9. A world-class weekly publication to carry the conversation and raise the tone. 
  10. That the judiciary had integrity.
  11. That talents would be nurtured and given scope, not hamstrung, embittered and cleft asunder.
  12. In the coming years there are fewer blockheads in every camp.
  13. A new political grammar to supercede hartals, encampments, marches and naff renditions of whiteous indignation.
  14. Ecological politics, not confrontational politics.
  15. Bangladesh as an ummahtic destination for more than the Tabligh, Tawfique Chowdhury and Zakir Naik.
  16. Real, confident and credible engagement in the Asian regional scene.


Secularism and Relation between Religion and the State from the Perspective of the Nahdha Party by Rached Ghannouchi

Source: Facebook

Full Transcript of Rached Ghannouchi’s lecture on Secularism – 2 March 2012

Mr. Rached Ghannouchi, President of the Nahdha Party in Tunisia, gave an important and historic lecture at CSID-Tunisia last Friday, March 2nd, on « Secularism and Relation between Religion and the State from the Perspective of the Nahdha Party », which was then followed by a frank and open debate with leading scholars, activists, civil society leaders, and politicians from accross the full spectrum, as well as representatives of the Moroccan, Algerian, Egyptian, and American diplomatic missions.

The audience also included the Head of the Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Ja’afar, President of ALESCO Muhammad Al-’Aziz Ibn ‘Ashour, the Head of the Higher Committee for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Tunisia Noureddine Hachad, as well as the leaders of various political Parties such as Muhammad Goumani, Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Hani, Murad Ruissi, Muhammad Busairi Bouabdelli, and Khaled Traouli.

Transcript of Rached Ghannouchi’s speech:

In the name of God, prayers and peace be upon His Messenger, his household, companions, and supporters.

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters may God’s peace and blessings be upon you.

I thank the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy for giving me the opportunity this evening to speak to this distinguished elite of Tunisian men and women and those coming from abroad. I am not here to teach you anything, since the subject we are here to discuss has no set instructions to be delivered but rather only points of view to be deepened and efforts to reach a common ground that would enable our elite to reach a consensus or at least a quasi-consensus.

Our topic is quite problematic in the sense that it deals with the Islam’s relationship to secularism. Is this relationship one of conflict and discord or one of harmony and overlap? Related to this question are issues such as Islam’s relationship to governance, the relation between Islam and Law, which are all contentious matters.

It seems that when we speak of secularism and Islam, as if we are talking about evident and clear concepts. However, a non-negligible amount of ambiguity and multiplicity of understandings surround these concepts, in that we are not talking about ‘a’ secularism but rather a multitude of secularisms as is the case with Islam, by virtue of what is proposed in the arena, we are faced with various understandings of what it means.

Although secularism seems as if it was a philosophy and the fruit of philosophical reflections and meditations which came to fight idealist and religious outlooks, it is not so. Secularism appeared, evolved, and crystallized in the West as procedural solutions, and not as a philosophy or theory of existence, to problems that had been posed in the European context. Most of these problems emerged following the Protestant split in the West, which tore apart the consensus that had been dominant in the Catholic Church, and imposed the religious wars in the 16th and 17th century. It was thus that Secularism and/or secularization began.

This leads us to ask the following question: are we in need of secularism in its procedural aspect? Perhaps the most important idea in the ensemble of these procedures is the idea of the state’s neutrality i.e. towards religions and its abstention from interfering with people’s consciences. Whereas, the state’s scope or jurisdiction is limited to the ‘Public Domain’, religion’s scope extends to the ‘Private’. In the United States religious interference in the public domain is evident, despite the differentiation that exists there remains a significant religious influence. Their leaders’ speeches are laden with religious content and references, and religion is debated in all electoral campaigns where it manifests itself in issues such as prayer in schools and abortion. This in reality is due to the fact that America was founded by evangelical pilgrims fleeing with their religion from the Catholic Church’s persecution in Europe. It is for this reason that the U.S. is looked at as the Promised Land, the land of dreams mentioned in the Torah and Gospels.

As the Franco-American thinker Tocqueville once remarked that the Church is the most powerful party in the United States. This is by virtue of the huge influence that it enjoys, though this is not the case in Europe. Whereas the number of those who can lead prayer in the US exceeds 50%, in Europe it does not reach 5%.

In the European context, also, there are differences in the state’s relationship with religion between the French heritage and Anglo-Saxon one, whereby in the UK the Queen combines the temporal and the religious powers. The complete separation is the one that is associated with the French experience, which resulted from the clashes that took place in French history between the revolutionaries’ state and the Catholic Church. Even in Europe, therefore, we are not dealing with one experience in secularism, perhaps for our purposes, since our elite is influenced by the particular French perspective (particular even for Europeans) where religion is totally excluded from the public sphere and the state considers itself as the sole guardian of national identity. This exclusion of the religious and its symbols from the public domain is what lead France to be the only country that refused the covering of heads for Muslim women, while we don’t see such a crisis in any other European country over the issue of headscarves. This is exclusively due to the particular nature of the relationship between state and religion in France which was the result of a particular historical experience.

We in turn are not faced with one understanding; perhaps the most important procedure invented by the secular worldview on this level is the state’s neutrality. In other words, the state is the guarantor of all freedoms be them religious, political or otherwise. And the state should not interfere in favor of this or that party. We pose the following question now: Is Islam in need of such a procedure? i.e. the state’s neutrality towards the various religions.

Islam, since its inception, has always combined religion with politics, religion and state. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the founder of the religion as well as the state. The first pledge of allegiance made by the group of Madina who came to Mecca was a religious pledge to believe in Allah and his Messenger. But the second pledge was to protect the Muslims, even by sword, should al-Madina be attacked. Al-Madina, and this expression is of the utmost importance, used to be called Yathrib before becoming Al-Madina (The City) which implies that Islam is not merely a religion but also carries a civilizational meaning. It is a transferring of people from Bedouin life to urban/civilizational life. This is why ‘Bedouinization’ was considered a great sin once urbanization had been achieved. No wonder then that wherever Islam went it established cities and our country hosts the oldest city built by Arabs in North Africa. Therefore, The City founded by the Prophet (pbuh) is a clear indication that Islam is a religion of civilization, whereby it shifted those warring tribes from a Bedouin level to a civilized one and united them around a state.

The Prophet (pbuh) was a an imam in the religious sense as he lead prayers in mosques, and at the same time a political imam that arbitrated people’s disputes, lead armies, and signed various accords and treaties. Of relevance to us is the fact that upon his arrival to Medina he established a mosque and put in place a constitution that was called Al-Sahifah. You have precedents here Mustapha! [In reference to Mr Mustapha Ben Ja'afar, President of the Constituent Assembly, who was present in the audience]. This Sahifah, which is one of the oldest constitutions in the world, contained a bundle of covenants regulating the relations between Meccan immigrants and their hosts (these were considered as one nation) and the Jewish tribes of Madina (also considered a nation). Al-Sahifa considered these two religious nations as comprising one political nation and entity that is distinct from others. The most important concept offered by such scholars as Muhammad Salim Al ‘Awwa and Muhammad ‘Umar is the distinction between the religious and the political as corresponding to the separation between state and religion.

The distinction between that which is political and that which is religious is clear in the Sahifah in that Muslims are a religious nation (ummah) and the Jews another, but the combination of the two plus other polytheists made up a nation in the political sense. This distinction can be witnessed in the Prophet’s dealings even if the boundaries were not always clear. Whereas the religious is the sphere of observance and obligation, the political is the sphere of reason and Ijtihad. At times when the ambiguity confused the companions, they would ask the Prophet (pbuh) whether this is divine revelation (wahy) or a mere opinion. In the case of the former they would obey, and when it is the latter they may differ and offer alternatives. On more than one occasion did the companions differ with the Prophet (pbuh) in his capacity as the head of state, and Sheikh Tahar Ben Ashour has dealt in detail with the topic of what he called ‘Prophetic Statuses’.

One day the Prophet (pbuh) passed by a group in Medina cross-pollinating palm trees and said: ‘I do not see the benefit of doing so.’ The Medinan people thought that that was divine revelation and stopped treating their trees which made their harvest of that year of a lesser quality. They asked him why he ordered them to do so, and he replied: you are best placed to know what is beneficial for you in your worldly affaires. Therefore, it is not the duty of religion to teach us agricultural, industrial or even governing techniques, because reason is qualified to reach these truths through the accumulation of experiences. The role of religion, however, is to answer the big question for us, those relating to our existence, origins, destiny, and the purpose for which we were created, and to provide us with a system of values and principles that would guide our thinking, behaviour, and the regulations of the state to which we aspire.

So, Islam since its inception and throughout its history has not known this separation between state and religion in the sense of excluding religion from public life. And Muslims, to this day, have been influenced by Islam and inspired by its teachings and guidance in their civic life, with the distinction remaining clear. This distinction between the religious and the political is also clear in the thought of Islamic scholars/jurists. They have distinguished between the system of transactions/dealings (Mu’amalat) and that of worship (‘Ibadat). Whereas the latter is the domain of constancy and observance i.e. reason cannot reach the truth, the former is the domain of searching for the general interest, for Islam came to realize people’s interests as confirmed by such great jurists as Al-Shatibi and Ibn ‘Ashour. These scholars have agreed that the highest objective of all divine messages is to establish justice and realize people’s interests, and this is done through the use of reason in light of the guidelines, objectives, values, and principles provided by religion. Thus, there is a domain of transactions/dealings which is constantly evolving and represents the sphere of variables, and there is the domain of creed, values, and virtues which represents the sphere of constants.

Throughout Islamic history, the state has always been influenced by Islam in one way or another in its practices, and its laws were legislated for in light of the Islamic values as understood at that particular time and place. Despite this, states remained Islamic not in the sense that their laws and procedures were divinely revealed, but that they were human endeavours open to challenge and criticism. States have also practiced a degree of neutrality, and when they tried to interfere and impose one understanding on Muslims, as happened in the Abbasids state, it sparked revolution. It is mentioned that al-Mansour had become concerned with the multitude of religious views and interpretations emanating from the same religion and feared their divisive effect on the state. So he sent for Imam Malik and asked him to amalgamate all these in one to unify people’s outlooks. Imam Malik produced his famous book al-Muwatta’, with which al-Mansour was greatly pleased and wanted it to become a law that binds all Muslims. This horrified Imam Malik and asked for it not to be made so, because the Prophet’s companions have travelled to different lands and took with them much knowledge, so allow people to choose what they see fit. This is why we see that one school of thought is dominant in the Maghreb, while another is so in the Levant, and yet another in Egypt…etc

It is due to the absence of a church in Islam that what remains is the freedom of thought and interpretation. This will naturally lead to a diversity in interpretation, and there is no harm in that except when we need to legislate, at which time we are in need of a mechanism, and the best mechanism that mankind has come up with is the electoral and democratic one which produces representatives of the nation and makes these interpretations a collective as opposed to an individual effort. Again, in the absence of a church representing the sacred on earth and a spokesperson of the Qur’an, the nation is the only manifestation of divine will through its interactions and not any particular scholar, party, or state.

When al-Ma’moun (Abbassid Caliph) wanted to impose one interpretation of the Quran and one particular understanding of Islamic creed (that of the Mu’tazili school), Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal revolted and refused the state’s attempt to dominate religion. This lead to him being persecuted and tortured, but in the end he managed to turn public opinion against the state and force al-Ma’moun to cede.

While the problematique in the west revolved around ways of liberating the state from religion and lead to destructive wars, in our context the problem is one of liberating religion from the state and preventing it from dominating religion, and keeping the latter in the societal realm, open to all Muslims to read the Qur’an and understand it in the manner that they deem appropriate, and that there is no harm in the plurality that is combined with tolerance. But should Muslims be in need of laws, the democratic mechanism is the best embodiment of the Shura (consultation) value in Islam.

It is of the utmost importance that our heritage is devoid of a church. Maybe only our Shi’ah brothers hold the belief in a religious institution, but in the Sunni world there is no such a thing save for a council of scholars which are usually in disagreement and hold different views. For this reason, we are in need of scholars and intellectuals to debate and study our issues in a climate of freedom and accept that the legislative institution is the ultimate authority by virtue of being elected.

There is a debate that is currently ongoing in our country between secular currents which may be described as extremist and Islamist ones which may be described in like manner. One would like to impose their understanding of Islam from above using state tools and apparatuses and the other aspires to strip the state, educational curricula, and national culture of all Islamic influences. At a time when the whole world, including the Islamic world, is witnessing a religious awakening, and having seen the role played by the Catholic Church in the development of Eastern Europe, starting with the efforts of Pope John Paul II, and also the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the success of Putin’s presidential campaign. At such a junction in time, it is unreasonable to object to religious influence on the state’s cultural and educational policies. In fact, we do not need do impose Islam because it is the people’s religion and not the elite’s, and Islam has not endured for so long because of states’ influence but rather due to the large acceptance it enjoys among its adherents, in fact the state has often been a burden on religion.

As I said, many of those who belong to the Islamist current and others fear the religion’s emancipation from the state to be left as a societal matter. Why does the state train Imams? Why does it control mosques?

The issue of the state’s neutrality involves a great deal of risk and adventure. If what is meant by the separation between religion and state is that the state is a human product and religion a divine revelation as the distinction was made clear in the context of the early Muslims between the realm of revelation (wahy) and what was the realm of the political, then it is ok. But if what is mean is the separation in the French sense or in accordance with the Marxist experience then we may engage in a dangerous adventure that may harm both religion and state. The total stripping of the state from religion would turn the state into a mafia, and the world economic system into an exercise in plundering, and politics into deception and hypocrisy. And this is exactly what happened in the Western experience, despite there being some positive aspects. International politics became the preserve of a few financial brokers owning the biggest share of capital and by extension the media, through which they ultimately control politicians.

In this context, people are deeply in need of religion and its spiritual and moral guidance which would enable them to distinguish between right and wrong (halal and haram). And in the absence of a Church that monopolises the definition of what is halal and haram, this task is left to be debated by the elite of thinkers, the people and the media.

Should religion be entirely emancipated from the state and politics, this would also carry some risks whereby things would get out of control and social harmony would be endangered. The way to do it, therefore, is to find a balance that would guarantee people’s freedom and rights, because religion is here to do exactly that. To achieve this balance, we need to go back to the issue of distinguishing between religion and politics and adjust the parameters of what is constant in religion and that which is variable. We need our legislators to be well acquainted, educated and versed in religious values, so that when they are legislating they do not require the tutelage of religious scholars and authorities, and the same goes for politicians. There is no value to any religious observance that is motivated through coercion. It is of no use to turn those who are disobedient to God into hypocrites through the state’s coercive tools. People are created free and while it is possible to have control over their external aspects, it is impossible to do so over their inner selves and convictions.

This is exactly why we saw two models in dealing with issue of the headscarf/veil, the first is a veil that is dictated and imposed by the state and the second is a veil forbidden by it. Once I was in a Muslim country’s (in reference to Saudi Arabia?) airport where all women were covered, but as soon as the plane took off the veils flew away with it. This is a clear failure of that country’s educational system, which was unable to guarantee people’s religiosity except through coercive tools. In Ben Ali’s Tunisia, women were forbidden from wearing the veil and express themselves in whatever appearance they saw fit, also through the state’s coercive means. This was also a failure.

The primary orbit for religion is not the state’s apparatuses, but rather personal/individual convictions. The state’s duty, however, is to provide services to people before anything else, to create job opportunities, and to provide good health and education not to control people’s hearts and minds. For this reason, I have opposed the coercion of people in all its forms and manifestation and have dealt with such controversial topics such as al-Riddah (apostasy) and have defended the freedom of people to either adhere to or defect from a religious creed, based on the Qur’anic verse that says: ‘there is no compulsion in religion’.

There is no meaning in forcing people to become Muslims, the Muslim nation has in no need for hypocrites who manifest belief and conceal disbelief. Freedom is the primary value through which a person adheres to Islam, so he who announces his shahadatayn (‘I declare that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his final Messenger’) does so on the basis of free choice underpinned by awareness and conviction. In this manner, the state is Islamic insofar that it assures its actions are in accordance with Islam’s values without being subjected to the tutelage of any religious institution for there is no such a thing in Islam. Rather there is a people and a nation who are the decision makers through their institutions.

When the Meccan people objected to Muhammad’s religion, he asked them not to interfere with his preaching activities and to allow him the freedom to communicate his message to the people. Had the Meccans accorded the Prophet (pbuh) the freedom of expression, he would not have immigrated and left his homeland. But because his message was so powerful, they could not offer an alternative to counteract it. This is why Muslims consider Islam’s proof to be so powerful that there is no need to coerce people, and when the voice of Islam proclaims ‘Produce your proof if ye are truthful’ this challenge is being proposed at the heart of the political and intellectual conflict.

Thus, the greater part of the debate taking place nowadays in our country is a misunderstanding of such concept as secularism and Islam. We demonstrated that secularism is not an atheist philosophy but merely a set of procedural arrangements designed to safeguard the freedom of belief and thought as Abd al-Wahhab al-Masiri distinguished, in his writings, between partial and total secularisms. An example of the latter would be the Jacobin model in French history. In their war on priesthood, the Jacobins’ raised the following slogan: « strangle the last king with the entrails of the last priest. » This is a French specificity and not the absolute definition of secularism. There is also an ambiguity regarding Islam, for there are those who believe that Islam can only be victorious by confiscating people’s freedom and imposing prayers, fasting, and the veil through force. This would be far from being a success, for Allah Almighty had considered hypocrisy to be the greatest crime, and the hellfire to be the eternal abode of Hypocrites.

The fact that our revolution has succeeded in toppling a dictator, we ought to accept the principle of citizenship, and that this country does not belong to one party or another but rather to all of its citizens regardless of their religion, sex, or any other consideration. Islam has bestowed on them the right to be citizens enjoying equal rights, and to believe in whatever they desire within the framework of mutual respect, and observance of the law which is legislated for by their representatives in parliament.

This is my understanding of things, and my view with regards to Islam’s relation to secularism. I hope that I have touched on the main issues, and I thank you profusely for your attention.

Transcribed and translated by: Brahim Rouabah/CSID

An (op)Press Release from Musty Cathedral of Bumsuckers on the occasion of the passing of Margaret Thatcher into the afterlife

We would like to express
And stand to attention
To the press corps
with a smattering of Tory pretension.


The Long March to Dhaka: The Rise of Hathazari and 13 points to consider

This coming Saturday Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi, an elder respected Islamic scholar, rector of the Hathazari Institution (Chittagong), keeper of the Madani-Deobandi learning tradition, will march to Dhaka with gazillions of fellow protesters. I saw 5 million written somewhere, but to apply the Bangladesh number function, perhaps 200 000 might be a suitably boring speculation.  Efforts are being made by organisers to train  protesters to resist any provocations from political parties  and police. If attacked they are to respond by calling on the names of Allah. Last Friday's demonstrative jumma on the streets of Dhaka, from a different end of the Islamic Establishment could be thought of as a dress rehearsal.

Glorified is My Lord, The Magnificent: An image of last Friday's congregational prayer on the streets of Dhaka. Islami Andolon Bangladesh gathered in the capital to protest corruption and nepotism as well as demand restoration of the caretaker government system for political transition and new legal protections against religious defamation
From the looks of things (thursday night) the government is using pet qaumi leaders, coercion of transport operators and its political supporters to prevent protesters arriving in Dhaka. The guardians of the liberation war narrative ( Sector Commanders and Nirmul Committee) will be striking (what exactly?) from after jumma and the language of jamaati infiltration has been used from the highest level to create suspicions and leave the door open to ruthless suppression.

Meanwhile tweeters in London, as if they are trying to demonstrate the bangladesh governments point, and in true isoc dokhol reterritorialisation mode, continue to paint jamati and misunderstood bhashanian stripes over the long march with twee imagery illustrated below, drawing on the cultural resources of blitz spirit (lie) and #stopkony2012 propaganda with absolutely no irony.

These troubled and challenging times remain an opportunity for jamat to transform, not return to form.

Anyway, back to where this is coming from.

Boro Who?

 Alternatively known as Boro Huzur (big respected Islamic teacher) this is the leader who basically stopped Dr Imran H Sarkar of Shahbag from entering Chittagong last month and making a mess.

With the people of Dhaka generally sick and tired of Shahbag and educated youth organising things like pro-lungi walks against the outrageously snobby folks of the Baridhara Society, Bangladesh observers have been scratching their heads over the rise of this Boro Hujur, who has caused the Awami League to offer sacrificial bloggers in an attempt to buy him off. This betrayal of youngish bloggers has struck realism into some previously deluded people and apparently changed the political chemistry.

Where did that come from?

People are scratching their heads (and arses) because they do not recognise the political formation and have been dwelling in their own bubbles too long. Its like a new mathematical function that performs nebulous magic, only we don't really know how it works. Deoband doesn't go for political power, it makes assertions on occasion, often fruity, it doesn't do the NGO dance, nor does it seek approval from the seculib establishment. Its primarily interested in Islamic education as it sees it. A second-hand account goes so far as to say that political publications are banned from the campus.

But now, functionally it appears like a previous generation of religious revival is saving the arse of its errant young cousin islamists, to understand this we need to drop the year zero 1971ism and reconnect with the History of Muslim Education in occupied India.

Deoband and Alighar were established around the same time, after the failure of the Independence war of 1857 to kick the British invaders out of India. Alighar set a modernist track and went for institutional funding, while Deoband's epistemic politics was to develop the traditional system, stay with the people and reject funds from corrupt princes and corporates.  They set up in East Bengal soon after with variable impact and resilience of mission. Here's my cartoon of the two approaches.

Dhaka University was the Aligharian's Bengal Muslim project set up in 1921 as compensation to Bengal Muslims (upper-middle class ones) after the British bowed to Swadeshi terrorism objecting to their partition of Bengal. Hathazari Madrassa was established in 1896.  Both are older traditions than Bangladesh itself. Dhaka University nurtured, amongst others, Muslim Leaguers, Awami Muslim Leaguers, Awami Leaguers and now by popular perception Nutters & Nasthiks .

Its important to note that Deoband's Shah Ahmad Madani proposed Composite Nationalism in opposition to the League's two-nation theory and was well respected by the Indian Congress. The Madanite tradition is political is a non partisan sense, I see them as offering a nuanced, unpretentious non-jamaat, Islamic and human position on Bangladesh today as evidenced in this video.

Bangladesh Government getting a good bollocking

Awami Leaguers supporters are generally religious people, but the current environment makes it hard for them to reconcile their faith with what their party is doing. Shooting Jamati bogeymen on sight is ok, they have a back story for that which demonises them as rapists, murderers and tendon cutters, but the charges of atheist promotion, as well as the scholar killings and persecution provoked the usually quiet and non-attention seeking religious establishment to assert itself.

The government should have thought about the consequences when firing and killing religious worshippers across the country on 22nd February. Most pitiful at the time was the corporate, yellow and self-serving media's spinning of the story of the day being about journalists, not the members of the public being brutalised.

The most amusing indignation was a friend on facebook, who has never even returned a salam to me expressing rage at protesters setting fire to prayer rugs in mosques. I hope he is still my friend. Most ironic was that 22nd February is a day after 21st February, 'International Mother Language Day' one of the important dates in the cultural nationalist calender.

Boro Hujur's 13 demands.

Talukdar Saheb, a forthright and articulate Islamic-forces blogger in Bangladesh, translated Boro Hujur's 13 points as raised with an assembly of Islamic scholars early last month. They are translated from a Naya Diganta account. I found them much food for thought, and at times problematic, yet these are legitimate demands from a legitimate theological quarter that need to be met with a public dialogue and understanding, not sharpened knives. An ecological (not confrontational) politics of Bangladeshness isn't threatened by them and starts with salam.

I suspect these demands will be mischievously portrayed to titillate anti-terror taste buds, but this is real Bangladesh, not an NGO fantasy representation of smiling subaltern suckers.

1)  Reinstatement of ‘Absolute trust and faith in Allah’ in the constitution of Bangladesh and abolishment of all laws which are in conflict with the values of the Quran and Sunnah.

This is a minimal Government do-no-harm commitment that the pre-war Awami League would have no problem with. But its just words at the end of the day, in elite documentation. If only we lived in the names and with the names of Allah, rather than exploiting them as badges and enchantments.

2)  Enactment of (anti-defamation) law at the parliament keeping death penalty as the highest form of punishment to prevent defamation of Allah, Muhammad (S.A.W) and Islam, and prevent spreading hate against Muslims (highest penalty prevalent for defamation is 2 years).

This is a good discussion point, might also add something about making sh!t up about people defaming islam like the false-accusation of adultery. Its a debate that needs to be opened up to include the non-secular majority and recognise how rules are so easily exploited by gutter politics. I dont think that a death penalty is congruous with the higher objectives of the Sharia ( protection of faith, life, intellect, dignity, property).  Also a libel law is needed to restrain wild talk and media liararchy.

3) Immediate end to the negative propaganda by all atheist bloggers in a leading role in the so called Shahbag movement who have defamed Allah, Mohammad (S.A.W), and Islam and their exemplary punishment.

Relatively specific, doesnt appear to typecast all bloggers or shahbaggers, nor call for their deaths. I would also add the get-out-clause for apology and the seeking forgiveness. Many Shahbaggers and Awami Leagers have cornered themselves and are looking for an exit strategy.

4) End to all alien cultural practices like immodesty, lewdness, misconduct, culture of free mixing of the sexes, candle lighting in the name of personal freedom and free speech.

I love this too much to adequately put into words. its like getting a bollocking from a grandfather. Vintage Deoband and totally feeling the naffness of candle4executions.

5) Abolishment of the anti-Islamic inheritance law and the ungodly education policy. Making Islamic education compulsory in all levels from primary to higher secondary.

Contemporary policies and laws from which their voice has been excluded. Compulsory education stuff is good, esp with a focus on akhlaq. They are not the first to point this our nor will they be the last or only islamic perspective on inheritance and soulful education.

6) Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims by the government and put a stop to their negative and conspirational activities.

Fossil from previous govt movement. Better framed as Ahmedis as citizens with right to life et al, even if they dont let the rest of us into their prayer halls. Islam has the right to define what it isn't.

7) Stop instating more statues in the name of sculpture at road intersections and educational institutions to save Dhaka the city of mosques, from becoming the city of statues.

This is about political aesthetics, a challenge to the artistic community and the soviet looking statues everywhere.

8) Remove all the hassles and obstructions at Baitul Mokarram and all mosques in Bangladesh which prevent Musallis from offering prayer. Also stop creating obstruction for people to attend religious sermons and other religious gatherings.

Right to assemble, worship and learn. no brainer, but lots of social bias these days.

9) Stop the spread of Islamophobia among the youth through depiction of negative characters on TV plays & movies in religious attire and painting negative stereotypes of the beard, cap and Islamic practices on various media.

I agree with this sentiment. Its important to raise the point otherwise seculibs and trash culture will carry on relentless and unresisted.

10)Stop anti-Islamic activities at Chittagong propagated by several NGO’s and Christian missionaries under guise of religious conversion.

local issue. clearly he's got problems with his local developmenshire

11) End to the massacre, indiscriminate firing and attacks on the prophet loving Muslim scholars, madrassah students and the general public.

On 22nd february they ate bullets. hatefull bullets meant for dehumanised jamatis. This we must agree with.

12)End to all threats against Islamic scholars, madrassah students and Imams and Muslim clerics of mosques throughout the country.

Ulama getting shot shocked us all the other day. This is a typical union-type demand. The consequences of razakarology on the whole society have been terrible. systematic evidence gathering should be encouraged to make this explicit to stupid people.

13)Immediate and unconditional release of all detained Islamic scholars, madrassah students and members of the general public and withdrawal of all false cases filed against them. Compensation to families of all injured and deceased and exemplary punishment to all those responsible.

same as 12. I think Shayk Nouri Hamidi has been released now. who knows who else they have locked up. Deobandis, who should know all about fidelity of reporting events given their hadith expertise, haven't been good record keepers/makers in recent weeks.