Opinion: Pahela Baishakh and Olama League’s Haram ‘fatwa’ | The Daily Star
02:40 PM, April 10, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:07 PM, April 10, 2016

Opinion: Pahela Baishakh and Olama League’s Haram ‘fatwa’

Bangladesh Awami Olama League has claimed Pahela Baishakh celebration is ‘Haram’.

So then, is our government upholding a ‘Haram’ culture as it is a public holiday? Are the 160 million Bangalis observing a Haram festival? How could one organisation openly declare this and walk away without any protest from any quarters or action from the government?

It seems Olama League, which has its office on a floor of ruling Awami League’s central office and is often joined in its meetings by AL leaders, can make any atrocious comment with impunity. It has taken on itself the right to declare any event Islamic and non-Islamic, just as the Taliban do in Afghanistan.

It can hurt religious sentiments of the Hindus or any other minority people as it has done this time just yesterday when it said “a Hindu chief justice in a country where 98 percent people are Muslims is hurting the sentiment of religious Muslims”. By saying this it wants to usurp the sentiment of the Muslims and make all of us look like communal fanatics. And still nobody objects and takes action, not even the court.

But Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country and we take pride in our religious harmony. We give equal opportunity to people of all religious faiths and we celebrate when any of them achieve any distinction in life.

The law is quite clear about religious hate speech. Propagating religious hatred is punishable under the section 295 A of the Penal code that says: “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feeling of any class of the citizens of Bangladesh, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults or attempts to insult the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

What they have said is also unconstitutional and violates Articles 27, 28 and 29 that say nobody can be discriminated against on the basis of their sex, religion and caste even in jobs.

What Olama League has been doing over the years is a crime. They are also misinterpreting Islam. Spreading this kind of sentiment is like poisoning the society. Thankfully, the people of this country that was the outcome of fights against such vicious minds have rejected Olama League’s call.

One may take relief in the fact that they have been rejected by the people. But such things are like cancerous cells. It’s a danger for us even if they can spoil a single mind. That mind may then become a terrorist. 

This Olama League is not only fanatic, it is also ignorant just as any other fanatics. Its leaders do not know the origin of Pahela Baishakh. They do not know that it was a Muslim Mughal emperor Akbar who introduced the tradition of celebrating Pahela Baishakh in relation to closing of the annual tax collection. It was his move to unify his empire. And Pahela Baishakh is still a unifying force for all of us no matter what cast, sex, religion or ethnicity we belong too. Trying to dislodge that unification is a crime.

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