Counter Movements, Propaganda, and Hate Speech (sometimes in disguise)

by Nadia Irumrukh


The Shahbag movement needs no introduction. But what does need an introduction is the various kinds of counter movements that have emerged, not just in Bangladesh but across the world. At first they seem like disparate, anti-Shahbag movements, but soon it becomes clear that it is not Shahbag that they intend to destabilize and/or marginalize, it is Bangladesh. The majority of the counter movements appear to be aligned, as suggested by their almost identical narrative: “The government is repressing Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and supporters in an effort to win the next elections. The repression is in the form of falsely charging Islamist leaders with war crimes and killing ‘Imaandar’ (religious) Muslims.”

This repression is somehow intended to usurp Islam in Bangladesh, and in some way, the Muslim majority is under threat. Using this rhetoric, they are trying to, or, have garnered support from the Muslim world, it seems – the Muslim world that has already shown disdain over Bangladesh’s efforts to tackle radical Islam, if we are to think about why Malaysia and a host of Middle Eastern countries have threatened to deport Bangladeshi laborers, and why the Turkish PM would want a dismissal of the charges against the known war criminals.

This fictitious narrative completely ignores what is happening in reality: that it was in response to the conviction of Sayeedi, that Jamaat-Shibir launched a violent movement of its own, which was later joined by BNP, as if, un-armed civilians are worth killing; as if people of the Hindu faith have something to do with Sayeedi’s conviction. The seemingly ‘pro-Islam’ movement would have you believe that newspapers and the media are concocting these stories; they would have you believe that what you see on your television screens are pre-recorded videos. And there are people who believe them: people who don’t know how to read for themselves, people who don’t have televisions, people whose belief in Islam is being exploited, people who are confused when they are fed these stories. And in a country where the majority of the population is poor and uneducated, it is not difficult to find these people.

Some of those reports suggesting that Jamaat-Shibir are behind those (and other) attacks as linked here:

And here are four examples of the counter movement that we have been talking about – unadulterated, pure.

ONE: ‘Talks’ at college campuses in the United States.

Here is a message that was circulated to the Muslim population in Los Angeles.

Note to the Muslim Community from Mr. Khatib. President of MCA

There will be a program to inform the Muslim community in general, the subcontinent-origin Muslim community in particular, and the Bangladeshi-origin Muslim community more particularly, about the escalating situation in Bangladesh. This program will be held at the MCA banquet hall on Sunday March 3 at 10:00 AM (till noon). The speaker is Professor Mohammed Abdul Auwal from Southern California. His brief bio is noted below. Also noted below is the abstract of his speech/presentation. Please circulate and forward to as many people as you can. The objective of the program is to bring awareness about the escalating situation in Bangladesh. The program is being arranged by a few concerned persons in the community.

Fouad Khatib

Event: Behind the Facade of War Crimes Trials: Shocking Repression of Islamic Movements in Bangladesh: A presentation by Mohammad A. Auwal, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Los Angeles

Where: MCA, Santa Clara, CA

When: March 3, 10:00-12:00 A.M.
Abstract: In the recent weeks or months, Bangladesh has been rocked by protests, counter-protests, repression, and violence over the issues of ‘war crimes’ trials in Bangladesh. The current government of Bangladesh put on trial the top Jamaati-e-Islami leaders for committing ‘crimes against humanity’ during the 1971 war. Violations of international norms of justice by the tribunals set for the trials and a massive scandal in which a leading justice of the tribunals had to quit have prompted massive protests throughout the country. In the meantime, the government crackdown of the protests have killed dozens, maimed hundreds, and imprisoned thousands of members of Bangladesh Jamaati-e-Islami and its student wing, Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir. The scenes of repression during the protests look like those in Gaza under the Israeli occupation. Civilians not associated with political groups have also become victims. Over the past two+ weeks, counter protests by the so-called Shahbag Movement, obviously led by the government supporters, have demanded simply death penalty, not fair trials, of the Jamaat leaders. But the blasphemous blogging of the atheist leaders of this movement—making fun of Allah and Prophet Muhammad in extremely offensive words—have enraged the ulema of the country. On March 22, 2013, after the juma prayer, protests have emerged from mosques all over the country. The police and loyalists of the ruling party attacks on the protests ended the day with several killed and 4,000 wounded. 

What is the reality of the war crimes trials? Are they really meant for seeking or doing justice? What is the repression of BJI like? Who are benefiting from this repression? What is at stake? What can we do to promote justice, peace, and security of Islam/Muslims in Bangladesh? These questions and more will be addressed in the presentation, which will be followed by a Q&A session.


TWO: Anti government weblogs without authors:

In a recent report titled ‘Ask Bangladesh to respect its women’, this blog reported:

In India, rape is devastating women. In Bangladesh, it is the government.

This is through its violations of women through arbitrary arrests, beatings, and detentions. Their crime: they are the relatives of Bangladesh’s Islamic opposition party.

How can the Prime Minister of Bangladesh tolerate its police abusing women, some pregnant and some elderly, simply because of their beliefs and those of their loved ones? 

The government’s security forces are completely out of control. This injustice has not gone unnoticed though. Human rights groups have been bringing it to the world’s attention for a while, yet the ignorance about these crimes remain.

First, Bangladeshi police officers arrested and jailed men from the opposition party without due process. Now, their women are being punished through social and sexual humiliation as part of an ongoing, Islamophobic war.

This is all connected to the country’s kangaroo war crime tribunal. Its chief judge was recently forced to resign amid the Economist magazine’s expose of allegations that someone from Brussels was really directing the so-called judicial process.

See the full Economist magazine report here: & Human Rights Watch:

THREE: Jamaat activism in London:

In a video documentary found on this site, a female narrator announces the following:

Bangladesh, where society is suffering from so many social diseases, corruption/crime…. many social problem. One pioneer came forward with light in the form of peace and tranquility…. He is now being victimized and suffering in the prison. Maulana Delwar Sayeedi, is not only popular among Muslims in Bangladesh but also non-Muslims. It is proved because he was selected as MP twice in areas where there are many non-Muslims. Isn’t that reflection of love to Sayeedi?

This, in addition to the scores of pro-Jamaat video documentaries and articles that contain information such as this:

In the name of international war crime tribunal, the AL government had created a caricature of medieval street justice of tyrant rulers but alas their monarchs could not last long, said Anas al Tikriti – Founding Member of British Muslim Initiative and Cordova Foundation; he asked the Muslim PM to act fairly or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

FOUR: Petition to the White House

Express concern against the International War Crime Tribunal and Mob Justice in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is descending into anarchy under Sheikh Hasina, a cabinet of totalitarian view turning the country to one party rule by silencing the opposing views. Extra-judicial killings, abduction, murder of journalists/politicians are rampant. Regime set up “International Crime Tribunal” (Amnesty Int., HRW, Ambassador-at-large Stephen Rapp all expressed serious concern). Instead of trying the true perpetrators for 1971 war crimes, this biased court is being used to silence the top leaders of opposition parties. Regime is organizing massive rallies chanting “Guillotine Justice” utilizing government apparatus to pressure judge for the death penalty while opposition rallies are being crashed. Your urgent support against this unjust tribunal and towards restoration of democracy is solicited.



Now take a moment to think about what you have just read. And think for yourself. You as an individual. Not you, the Awami Leaguer. Not you, the Jamaati. Not you, the BNP supporter. Not you, the student. Not you, the government official. Think for yourself, the person. Think about what is happening.

Now that you have taken a moment to think, it must be clear to you that you are at risk of being used as a pawn. You must now realize that there are factions that are trying to bring Bangladesh down, and with that they’re trying to bring you down. You must realize that they are using religion to play you, play the world. You must now understand that the escalating violence in Bangladesh against minorities and others will only put your life in danger, if not physically, emotionally. And you must realize that it must stop. And at the same time, you must be able to identify who is causing it. And why.


Source: Alal O dulal


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