Thoughtful and wise decisions are needed to fix Jamaat’s strategy under these circumstances.
One of the strategies is just to wait for the end and to see what is in store for Jamaat in future; to just continue and run the organisation as before. If the government terminates its activities against Jamaat then we shall see what we can do at that time. Otherwise, we should not ease our efforts and struggles.
Considering the total picture it is very important for Jamaat to change its strategy. This is because:
- The government has made Jamaat a political target
- Jamaat has been accused of serious allegations like war crimes and has been branded as the party of war criminals
- A section of our people have reservations, misconceptions and negative impressions of Jamaat
- The image of many Jamaat leaders has been shattered awfully, though they are very popular among party workers and well-wishers
- A section of our people show an extremely intolerant attitude towards Jamaat
- Most importantly, a considerable part of our population has faith in Jamaat and support Jamaat for its honesty, integrity and sincerity
A other option would be to let Jamaat continue its activities from its current position. However, now it is high time that we built a new political platform and a social movement to contest the orchestrated anti-religious [islamophobic] efforts.
Jamaat should form this party with the consent of its members. Otherwise it will not be acceptable to the workers and supporters of this organisation.
The third alternative is the retirement of those Jamaat leaders from politics who have been accused of war crimes committed during the Liberation War of 1971, and the reorganisation of Jamaat with entirely new leaders. The leadership of Jamaat should be handed over to the new generation. Since Jamaat has been enduring unjust torture and persecution since 1971, for the sake of the continued development of the country’s Islamic movement and for the purpose of increasing its dynamism if the present leadership step aside, then what will the Islamophobic quarters have to say? It is however true that whoever works for Islam will face no shortage of allegations from the anti-religious entities. It is mentionable here that Islami Chattra Shibir was only able to spread and reach its present respectable status due to its establishment under a new name. The organisation would not have been able to operate under any previous name. However, since Chattra Shibir is the primary recruiting centre for the Islamic movement, it has been made controversial by the non-religious forces as well. The parties most concerned by the rise of Shibir are the communist forces and the power hungry; hence the prevalence of a torrent of lies and falsehood against Shibir. The other student organisations that work amongst the students lack any viable moral based ideology. They are usually sister parties of the ruling party or other parties solely focused on going to power and based on following respective personalities. Such student outfits have little to offer for the nation and are usually deeply involved in corruption, tender grabbing, possession politics, admission business and seat business among others for their mere existence. If the nation is to be recovered from the politics of personality worship, there is no alternative to moral based ideology politics.
Besides reforming Jamaat, reform in the student’s wing is also necessary. Students should not work as a political tool and should be kept away from direct political activities. Importance should be given on seeking knowledge, debate, discussion, building character and sound physical and mental health. They must say no to party politics, addictions and narcotics.
I believe it would be wiser for Jamaat to take the second among the three alternative strategies I have mentioned here. Jamaat has been working in this country for more than 60 years and at least 10% of Bangladesh’s population support Jamaat. So they should not do anything or take any step that will ruin their image.
The fact is, the ground for Islamic politics that has been created in Bangladesh is actually an outcome of Jamaat’s movement and struggle. Jamaat has developed a passionate relationship with the people of Bangladesh and the senior leaders of Jamaat have contributed a lot to achieve this success. It is thanks to their honesty and sincerity that now Jamaat is the largest and most influential Islamic movement in Bangladesh. If Jamaat uses all of its strength to establish a political platform and tries to organise a social movement, then nobody will be able to directly attack that political platform.
Responding to the Changing Situation
The anti-religious quarter may run massive propaganda campaigns against Jamaat, but it will be a mistake for them to overlook Jamaat. In this extraordinary situation Jamaat has to take the decision of adopting an alternative strategy. Jamaat was established in 1941 when the Pakistan movement was at its peak, after the approval of the 1940 Lahore Resolution. At that time millions of Indian Muslims were dreaming of a separate state of their own. In 1947 even before Partition Jamaat
leaders gave directives on their working procedure in a divided India by holding several regional conferences. Although the founder of Jamaat [Maulana Maududi] with some of his followers moved to Pakistan, many of its workers and leaders stayed in India. They continued their activity there but in Pakistan Jamaat brought revolutionary changes to its movement and started open political activities.
At one point Jamaat did not allow lawyers to be party members [since many of the legal injunctions are not in accordance with Islamic principles of justice] but to cope with reality this criteria was changed and the lawyers were allowed to join Jamaat with full membership. Earlier Jamaat did not participate in general elections, even just to cast their vote. The Indian Jamaat still does not participate in the general elections. Members were allowed to cast their vote only once in its history: when Indira Gandhi imposed the state of emergency in India. In Kashmir, Jamaat is separate from the Hindustan Jamaat. They are independent and they take part in general elections. In the past Jamaat used to nominate only its senior members to participate in elections using their ticket. Now they have changed their mindset and have opened their nomination to their supporters and other workers also. They have decided to send female members to parliament and have even nominated them for elections.
In the last Upazila Elections (2009) Jamaat nominated 24 female candidates and 12 of them won the elections. Then Jamaat did not use photographs of candidates in their publicity materials such as on posters and banners. However, now they are using photographs. Jamaat has amended its constitution and opened party membership for non-Muslims so now a non-Muslim too can be a registered member of Jamaat-e-Islami. Female Jamaat members can be elected onto the party’s advisory council. All these reforms have been undertaken for the sake of the movement to meet the demands of the current situation.
Learning from Transnational Experiences
In today’s difficult and challenging situation, it is a demand of wisdom and vision that Jamaat should search for alternative strategies. It is not at all any kind of deviation. Rather it is a positive evolution, which is essential for any kind of political movement. We can take example from the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Without reviving the party, they are taking part in the general elections independently or under the banner of different political parties. The Brotherhood is ‘not there’ however its existence is everywhere. They have been working for years patiently and participating in the general elections. In Jordan, the Brotherhood have been maintaining a relationship of cooperation with the government and playing an important role in the country’s politics and elections; they have participated in the coalition government.
The Brotherhood in Algeria have separated itself from the original Brotherhood and been working as Islamic Front. In Yemen the have been working with traditional Islamic parties under the banner of Al Islah Party. Having been in a coalition government earlier on, now they have left the coalition. In Morocco the Brotherhood have been working as the Justice and Development Party. They are now the main opposition party and have the possibility to return better results in the coming elections. In Sudan Islamists have been working as the Islamic Movement of Sudan and alongside the government of General Hassan Al Bashir. However, there is a conflict with a senior leader and he is not in the government. His name is Dr Hassan Turabi, the former Prime Minister of Sudan.
The Islamic movement in Turkey has changed its name many times. After inter-party split following disagreement with former Prime Minister Nazmuddin Erbakan, a movement called The Justice and
Development Party (AKP) formed
and established government; they have been running the country successfully under the leadership of Abdullah Gul and Recep Tayyep Erdogan. They are empowered by the members and resources of the Nur Jamaat movement formed by Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. After winning the recent referendum, AKP leader and Premier Erdogan thanked Fethullah Gulen for his immense contribution [the author writes at a time prior to the AKP-Gulen split]. Fethullah Gulen was one of the leaders of the movements established by Bediüzzaman Said Nursî which has been pushing the Islamic movement of Turkey to a successful future. They have kept themselves behind the scenes. Islamic movements in Indonesia and Malaysia have adopted realistic strategies to cope with the current situation. Therefore under the current challenging circumstances it is high time for Bangladeshi leaders to take the movement to a new dimension by adopting realistic alternative strategies.
Seizing the Opportunity
There is an attempt to strangle the Islamic movement and eliminate it by bringing false allegations of war crimes and labelling it anti-liberation. We have failed to address or resolve this political conflict; many of us thought that this issue would resolve itself at one time anyway. This matter is being used as a burning issue against us, which was beyond many of our imaginations. The government is determined to do something in this regard. The image of the party and the leadership have been devastated by this issue and the people have developed a negative impression against the party and the leadership. For all these reasons it is now of utmost necessity to adopt a new strategy and a new political approach.
If we fail to adopt a new strategy, history will not forgive us. We shall be responsible to history because we had raised hopes among a large number of people. Hundreds and thousands of people have expressed their solidarity with us.
Many of our students and youth have sacrificed their entire life; they have embraced martyrdom, lost limbs and are still fighting for the sake of the movement.
Therefore if we take the first way and let the movement go as it is, we will prove ourselves a worthless party. We should be on alert beforehand. The third way is also not a solution. Not only the local anti-religious quarter, but the international entities with similarly aligned interests are also a major threat. They are also waiting to hinder our development. For this reason such an alternative strategy will not prove very helpful right now. Our adopted strategy should keep ensuring the faith and loyalty of the people at the fore.
The situation is critical. We should think neutrally and altruistically. We will not be able to obtain any solutions if we think only from our own point of view. It is not at all harmful if it looks like Jamaat has been broken apart. Rather we should take this path for organising a new movement for the sake of our deen [way of life].
Expanding on the Second Option
1. Considering the Constitution of Bangladesh, we should form an organisation that will not face any constitutional questions. Justice and good governance should be its motto. In this regard the organisation can be formed along the lines of the structure and manifesto of the AKP. However, their structure and manifesto are too repetitive and lengthy. For Bangladesh, it has to be brief and adapted for the conditions and demands of the Bangladeshi populace, and certain issues of public demand have to be highlighted.
2. The concept of a shadow cabinet has to be adopted with an equal number of departments formed corresponding to each ministry. A full member would have to
be the responsible person for each department and an associate member would assist them. A central committee would be formed with these members and a single member should not be given more than one role. The organisational structure should be more decentralised.
3. An advisory council would be established and senior citizens, experts and Islamic scholars would be its members.
4. A council of Islamic scholars, or a Shariah Board will exist which will conduct research on various issues and will draw solutions to various problems. There must be dedicated effort to ensure Islamic unity.
5. Nobody would remain as President or District President for more than three terms at a stretch. Bengali language has to be used for party titles and posts. Usage of information technology has to be ensured in all steps of the organisation.
6. Representatives from all professions would have to be included in the central committee and a definite manpower analysis has to be conducted in this regard. Manpower shortage in any particular sector in one year would have to be pre-determined.
7. There would be a secretariat that will observe the function of various departments but will not control their activities. They would coordinate but not enforce anything.
8. There would be a committee in every department. Those committees will run independently. Highest usage of technology would be ensured in the committees.
9. There will be a Legal Aid committee. Besides providing legal assistance, it will solve internal problems of the party and will also work as an arbitrary court on behalf of the centre.
The priority should be given to: a) Education b) Social Work c) Health d) Media e) Business and Commerce f) Student Movement
11. In elections, at first priority should be given to local government elections. Potential candidates should run their activities from now on to build personal capacity for the election.
12. Counselling campaigns should be organised at the district level for people of different professions such as lawyers, teachers, businessmen, etc.
13. Jamaat has already established an infrastructure. It has many associated organisations and these should be re-activated. They have been running dimly and now change is essential. They all have resources and gradually they have to be changed and made dynamic. There are many resourceful organisations and trusts at the district level. Educational institutions can be developed into world-class institutions. A plot owned by WAMY [World Association of Muslim Youth, of which Shibir is an affiliate] in Safipur can be utilised to establish an institution of global standards. Besides these the organisations that are working in divisional headquarters can be extended and reinforced. By establishing top quality schools and colleges in every district we can recruit the best manpower of our society.
The fact is if we can utilise our existing resources in the mentioned sectors, we will be able to reach a considerable stable stage in our movement within five or ten years. If necessary we will call back our expatriates to the country and when necessary we will export our resourceful manpower abroad.
14. Cricket, football and hockey teams should be formed under the youth department. Clubs for different sports can be formed.
15. A professional institute for international language training can be formed where students will be able to study different spoken languages such as English, Arabic, French, German, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, etc.
16. Activities of the University of Thought must continue under any circumstances. It has to be dynamic, extended and reinforced.
17. We can purchase the Daily Bhorer Dak newspaper and it can be converted successfully into a four page capital centred daily. A pool of journalists has to be developed and they would be designated to different media (print and electronic). A think tank has to be developed.
18. Children’s welfare activities and cultural activities can be run under the current structure but should be more dynamic.
19. A social and working relationship would be developed with the non-Muslim community. A band of highly dedicated workers is necessary in this sector. A group will work dedicatedly for welfare of the indigenous people.
20. A group has to be established immediately by and for the RMG [ready made garment sector] workers. It can be a huge employment opportunity; this sector will prove a lifeline for Bangladesh’s economy.
21. A campaign should be launched to drum up support for proportional voting. It is necessary to decentralise governance by dividing Bangladesh into several provinces. 160 million people face towards the capital and this is causing a severe problem for good governance. The movement should be more social than political.
Under these changed circumstances, discussion should be conducted among the members regarding accepting the new strategies. Wholehearted effort is necessary to reach a consensus in this regard.
Jamaat has taught us discipline and we must maintain this within the organisation. We should bring change to our organisation while maintaining this discipline. Our manpower is searching for an alternative strategy. Our country and the international community will welcome the new direction gladly.
Those without foresight or who want to maintain the organisational inertia might oppose the proposal, but they are also very sincere. Everybody should be counselled with patience. Under this crucial circumstance and at this historical turning point, adopting an alternative strategy by reaching a consensus or at least by the vote of the majority is now what the situation demands
On Being Captive
Here I am writing my feelings once again on my captive life; captivity under false charges, which are the results of political rivalry and the rise of anti-religious politics.
1. There is no possibility of my release until the current government moves from power, which is not at all possible in the near future.
2. There is no possibility that any movement will be able to free us. There is no possibility that any street movement or agitation will be able to overthrow the government.
3. In this tenure of the government some of us will face mock trials because this issue has reached the point of no return.
4. We will not get any justice from the so-called tribunal. It is a black law. The government will be able to do whatever it wants to do with us according to this black law.
5. Many countries may express their regret recognising that Jamaat’s leaders are being persecuted, but they will not do anything to support us.
6. The international community may raise questions on the transparency of the trial process but they will not be unhappy to see an Islamic party cornered and weakened by this process.
7. Even though Jamaat will not be banned, the image of its leadership will be destroyed after their trial on war crimes and sensitive issues like opposing the nation’s liberation.
8. Even if the government does not ban Jamaat, they will never permit Jamaat to work in comfort and will always keep the party under pressure.
9. Under these circumstances Jamaat will never be able to become a platform of the mass people; it will be impossible for them to form government by winning a landslide victory in the general election.
10. I can see no possibility for Jamaat to achieve good results in the next election after this term of the government.
11. Due to our love and emotion for the party we cannot think of anything without Jamaat. If anyone wants to do something bypassing the party, misunderstanding and vendetta will be inevitable. That will not be acceptable to our manpower.
We have become stunned at this point in time. Now the question is, what is actually in store for our future?
1. Let it be. We will remain as we are now. (Currently we are following this strategy)
2. Considering the changing circumstances, Jamaat will organise a new platform and remain behind the scenes. This organisation will tackle the anti-religious quarter with wisdom and determination.
3. Among us, those who have been convicted of war crimes will step down from leadership positions and hand over the party reigns to an entirely new leadership.
According to my understanding the first way is actually the act of foolishness and pessimism. A dynamic movement cannot take such an outdated strategy.
We could compromise with the third strategy if we could solve the issue of 1971 politically. However, the way Jamaat’s image has been destroyed in the media, in the textbooks and to our youth, it will not be able to revive its image even if it brings new leadership in its pavilion.
According to my thoughts the second strategy is the most pragmatic one. Other Islamic countries have become successful by following this strategy. We have a lot of examples in front of us like Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia and Jordan where the Islamic movement has adopted an alternative strategy.
Beside it we should also consider another point. In no other country have the leaders of an Islamic movement faced such sensitive allegations like war crimes and opposing the country’s struggle for independence. We must admit that though the Islamic movement in Bangladesh has the potential to become a successful movement, these allegations have produced a massive obstacle to achieve political success and acceptance. For the time being the opponents of the Islamic movement have succeeded.
We are being tried at present as we have failed to solve this issue politically. We did not lead Jamaat in 1971, and although Jamaat supported it politically, they were not involved with the Liberation War. Those of us who are facing allegations at this moment, we did not participate in war nor were we part of any military or
paramilitary body. It is out of the question that we committed crimes like rape, plundering and destruction. Today Jamaat is the victim of political vengeance for being politically active. The allegations against us are all false and fabricated. The government is spreading misconceptions against the Islamic movement by blaming us with false charges.
Therefore we should resign from our positions so that there will be no chance of confusion and misinterpretation.
If we take this kind of initiative, for the time being it may look like degradation for us but in the long run it will be considered as an icon of greatness and pragmatism. Many of us are now quite old too. How much can we contribute to the movement at this age?
Therefore we should think of the second strategy collectively. I pray and hope that Allah will enable us to take the right decision at the right time.
November 26, 2010
7 Cell (Bokul), Room No. 2
Dhaka Central Jail, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
To download original letter in Bengali please click here