Jamaat-i-Islami In Bangladesh

09 Sep 2013


On August 1, the Bangladesh High Court ruled that the registration of the Jamaat-i-Islami as a political party conflicted with the secular constitution of the country.

 The court’s order means that this party, which views democracy as an      unIslamic system and is not willing to accept non-Muslims as equal citizens in a Muslim country, can’t take part in national elections.  The protesting Jamaat has approached the Supreme Court.


The High Court’s order has come amid the trial of 12 Jamaat men by a tribunal for war crimes during Bangladesh’s war of liberation from Pakistan in 1971.  The Jamaat ran and manned Pakistan Army’s auxiliary forces including the Razakars, Al Badr, Al Shams and peace committees.


The tribunal has so far convicted six Jamaat’s men for crimes of murder, rape and kidnapping of Bengali freedom fighters as associates of the Pakistani Army. Four of the convicted persons have been given death sentence.  The convicted include Ghulam Azam who as the head of the Jamaat in 1971 had planned the killing of Bengalis.  He had fled to Pakistan after the liberation of Bangladesh where the Jamaat members, chose a very low profile for themselves.  In view of his old age the tribunal did not sentence Azam to death.  Instead, he was given a 90 year jail term.


 The  Jamaat bounced back to Bangladesh’s political scene on the bandwagon of Bangladesh National Party (BNP) of Begum Khaleda Zia, who badly needed support of a party with street power, that the Jamaat was, against the Sheikh Hasina-led secular Awami League.  The Jamaat needed a party like BNP through which it could promote its own brand of Islam.


 To understand the Jamaat one must look at its history.  It was set up by Maulana Abu Ala Maudoodi in 1941, i.e., within less than a year of the adoption of Muslim League’s Lahore Resolutions of 1940 in which League’s Chief Mohammad Jinnah propounded his two-nation theory and made it the basis of partition of India.  Maulana Maudoodi was against the League’s demand for partition of India.  Some political thinkers say the Jamaat was launched to oppose Muslim League’s demand.


The party started as a non-political organisation - a movement that covered all aspects of human life including spiritual, culture, economy and personal and social matters.  But partition transfigured the Jamaat.  Its founder Maudoodi shifted to Pakistan and re-wrote its constitution to make it a politico-religious party.  The new constitution came in 1952 and in 1953 the party jumped into anti-Ahmediyya bloody riots in Lahore which Maudoodi had chosen for the party’s headquarters.


 For his role in the anti-Ahmediyya riots, Maudoodi was sentenced to death by a Martial Law Court in 1954.  (Lahore was under Martial Law then because of the anti-Ahmediyya riots).  The sentence was later commuted to imprisonment.  The Ayub regime had declared the Jamaat unlawful. The Jamaat would never forgive Ayub for this.


 The ideology the Jamaat chose for itself in 1952 was religio-political which meant that sovereignty of Allah could not be established without capturing political power.  It considered democracy the best ladder to reach this goal although at times it publicly described this system as un-Islamic.


The Jamaat was allowed to exist in Pakistan as a political party although its ideology and activities militated against all the constitutions of Pakistan-past and current.


During the hearing of the anti-Ahmediyya riot case, the Jamaat leaders clearly told the Muhammad Munir Commission that non-Muslims could not be given equal rights with Muslims if Pakistan was founded on the ideology of Jamaat.  In his reaction to Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, in which he had said Muslims and non-Muslims would have equal rights in the state of Pakistan, leader of Jamaat-i-Islami Mian Tufail Mohammad said he accepted the principle “except that non-Muslim, cannot be taken in the Army or the Judiciary or be appointed as Ministers or to other posts involving the reposing of confidence”.


Jamaat’s founder Maudoodi said in reply to question if Hindus were declared Zimmis (conquered non-Muslims) would you permit them to have their own constitution, he gave shocking reply.  He said “certainly,  I should have no objection even if the Muslims of India are treated in that form of Government as shudras and Malishes and Manau’s laws are applied to them depriving them of all share in the Government and the rights of a citizen”.


The people in Pakistan and Bangladesh may support the Jamaat but they don’t waste their vote in it.  Thus election have been frustrating for it.  In the December 1970 elections, the party could get only four of the 300 seats in United Pakistan.  In Pakistan it shared power at the centre in 1990 with the blessings of the Army.  Before that the party was a part of the military Government of Ziaul Haq in 1978.  In 2002 it got some seats in the National Assembly as a constituent of the MMA which was formed with the blessings of the Army.


In the 1993 elections the Jamaat fought for all the National seats but won only three.  A frustrated Amir of the Party, Qazi Hussain Ahmed called democracy unislamic.


In Bangladesh, it supported the Khaleda Zia Government with only 17 seats.  But Begum Zia felt secure with Jamaat’s support because of its street power.


The ban on the Jamaat will go a long way in cleansing of the social and political system in Bangladesh.

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