View from Bangladesh: The right kind of religious education

It is time to stop the exploitation of religion

The right kind of religious education

We can’t ignore them /RAJIB DHAR
We should not give into the demands of the madrasa-system, but rather, include them in the mainstream. Money certainly gives them power to disrupt the peaceful environment of the country. 

We need to open avenues for them to work other than in mosques and in conducting milads. We cannot close our eyes to the reality that they exist, and neither can we ignore the firm adhere to Islam of the overwhelming majority of the people. 

It is not possible to run the affairs of the state while keeping a group, differently educated, away from the mainstream job market. That would be discrimination — an undemocratic practice. 

Any discrimination and even perceived discrimination surely breeds frustration and consequently, undisciplined, unlawful activities. Current terrorist activities all over the world may easily find its roots in a neglected, unequally treated population.

Force alone cannot eliminate terrorist activity. Surveillance and monitoring would be an effective way to diffuse the tense situation. Why do so many young men from well-to-do families, educated in expensive, elite institutions, turn to terrorist activities? 

They must have suffered from a sense of deprivation somehow. In the madrasa system, the deprivation is financial, and in other cases, the absence of family ties. Children often suffer from a sense of neglect, and dearth of love and affection in the well-to-do scenarios. 

Faith is to be experienced, not to be scientifically proven through mechanical experiments. It is so deeply ingrained in the human psyche that it is hard to eradicate. 

Therefore, an idea can be presented in religious garb from an authority figure, and this idea is easily accepted into society. But when religion is used for the sole purpose of some worldly gain, it is exploitation. 

To talk, discuss, and use religion for the wellbeing of humanity is not exploitation of religion, because the sole purpose of religion is development and refinement of the human mind and soul, in accordance with the instructions of the creator. 

For the faithful to be guided by religion in all activities is necessary. And an overwhelming majority of the people are religious. 

Equality is the basis of all religion. It is a different issue that sometimes a lack of understanding between religions can cause problems, as we saw with the banning of beef. But since religion plays a primary role in human life, we cannot deny it and pretend it does not exist. 

Even the most democratic and liberal of nations have not done away with religion. In Britain, the monarch is also the head of the church. In the US, in the last presidential election, candidates vied with each other to prove their firm allegiance to religion. 

It was because, in spite of lax moral practices in those societies compared to ours, they are still ruled by a faith in God.

It is evident that we, as human beings, are unable to do without religion. What we can do is not to exploit religion. 

Exploitation is wearing a cap and beard and planning violence. Exploitation is saying, if so-and-so comes to power, mosques will be closed and there will be no call to prayers ever again in this country. Exploitation is doing everything un-Islamic, and then talking of Islam.

However, to integrate this isolated group is a lengthy and difficult process. This is a radicalized group that has been on the outskirts of society. We need to be cautious, alert, and move steadily, not carelessly. We cannot hope to undo everything with the stroke of a pen.

It is extremely urgent that we do everything possible to arrest the spread of terrorism with all our might. 

When religious zealots are misguided, they are extremely dangerous to deal with. 

We must have a very well-thought-out, well-planned, and well-defined strategy to assimilate a disgruntled section of the population. Keeping them out is not wise. 

Secularists are behaving as if anything that we touch even distantly related to religion will defile the constitution. They forget what the Father of the Nation said: “I am ready, I am a Bengali, I am a human being, I am a Muslim.” 

He was secular and he was a Muslim. We never fought, as many would say, to get rid of religion, but to get rid of exploitation in the name of religion. 

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, but it has vowed to treat all equally, irrespective of caste, creed, or gender. 

Mir Mahboob Ali is an author and fiction writer. He is a former senior executive at The Bangladesh Observer.

This article was first published on Dhaka Tribune



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