Sunday, April 02, 2006

Anti-Islamist Rally Sounds Good to Me. But... 

Bangladeshi Muslim supporters of Islamic party, 'Islami Shasantantra Andolon', hold up their party symbol during a rally in Dhaka March 31,2006. The rally called for an immediate end to radical Islamism that contradicts religion and encourages extremism. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman
Sounds very good. I want to believe.

It's just that with the Reuters byline attached to the report, I feel this inexplicable urge to fact-check a little before fully buying in. What triggers my curiousity is that while the caption talks about the Islamic party, 'Islami Shasantantra Andolon,' all peaceful intentions are nevertheless attributed by the caption writer to the rally, not to the party. And while any call for "end to radical Islamism" sounds like a step in the right direction, it isn't clear which specific radical Islamism is opposed that "contradicts religion." Still, the call is a hopeful one, if in fact anyone was actually making that call, as opposed to simply churning out some convenient PR with a misleading message usefully overlaid.

Of course I wasn't there and speak even less Bangladeshi than Hebrew -- and even my Hebrew is barely enough to get a haircut without hurting myself. But we can always Google to see if this message is consistent with Islami Shasantantra Andolon's general direction:
Testimonies of arrested militants suggest that they are well funded and well equipped to carry out an 'Islamic revolution' in the country. They are staunch admirers of the Taliban, and many of their cadres reportedly fought in Afghanistan and also in Kashmir. Media reports suggest that a section of the Jamaat-e-Islami, IOJ and the Islami Shasantantra Andolon may be in league with some of these extremist groups, though these political fronts have all denied the charge.
Well at least they deny the charge.

How about this:

The leaders of Islami Shasantantra Andolon (ISA) yesterday protested the visit of Christina Rocca saying that United States of America wants to establish a military base in Bangladesh in the name of Bangladesh-USA Counter Terrorism Bureau.

They were speaking at a meeting on "Protest the imperialist conspiracy through Bangladesh-USA Counter Terrorism Bureau," organised by ISA at the North gate of Baitul Mukaram, national mosque in the city yesterday. [...]

ISA joint secretary general ATM Hemayet Uddin said that America wants to put their local collaborators in state power on the plea of stopping the rise of Islam in the country.
Well, we really owe them a pass on this one, since probably about half of Americans themselves believe America's anti-terror campaign is an imperialist conspiracy.

Ok then, does this shed any light:

Reply to question Principal Hamida Ali deplored the protest by the activists of Islami Shasantantra Andolon for banning women's soccer and swimming.
I think this is only really relevant if you think an Islamic opposition to female participation in sports calls into question one's "Anti-Islamist" credentials. And I'm not aware anyone is really checking credentials that closely, so let's ignore this one too.

So what about this:

Moulana Syed Fazlul Karim of Islami Shasantantra Andolon Monday questioned the government's Islamic values for providing compulsory appointment of 30 percent women teachers in Madrasas at a time when millions of educated youths remained unemployed.

The Peer also questioned the passage portrait hanging bill, saying "people want to know whether it is the model of Islamic values of the alliance government or a step to destroy Islam?"
Well, maybe Mr. Fazlul Karim wasn't actually present at this particular rally, and anyway, as a "Peer" he may not properly represent the party's anti-Islamist world-view as it's being so vigorously expressed by the rank-and-file at the rally.

By the way, what kind of slogans should we imagine the rally participants are chanting anyway?

Bangladeshi Muslims supporters of Islamic party, the 'Islami Shasantantra Andolon', chant slogans in Dhaka March 31,2006. The rally called for an immediate end to radical Islamism that contradicts religion and encourages extremism. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman
Hey, I'm probably just too cynical. I'd really like to believe he's simply screaming, "Death to the radicals!" or "Kill Those Who Kill Those Who Mock the Prophet!"

Much ado about nothing, I'm sure, like so much of what passes for commentary around here.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: