Religious tolerance

Publish: 9:51 PM, October 16, 2021 | Update: 9:51:PM, October 16, 2021

Vandalism at Puja venues in Comilla and similar scatted acts in a few other places in the country could not mar the overwhelmingly spontaneous and happy celebration of the Durga Puja in Bangladesh as a whole. This was singularly the positive aspect of the celebration of the Durga Puja which is the most widely awaited and celebrated religious event of the Hindu community in Bangladesh.

The happy celebration of the Puja was possible because it had the support and unstinted cooperation of all other communities in Bangladesh including the dominant Muslims, the people in general, the government and law enforcement bodies.

Thus, despite the malevolent intentions of a small minority quarter to spark off tensions and violence centering on the observance of the Puja, the same was foiled completely and exemplified again the glorious spirit of religious tolerance that is shared by the greatest number of people in Bangladesh. It showed that it is impossible for any tendentious quarter to try and create any schism in this proud tradition that Bangladeshis are proud of.

In next door India, the overwhelming Hindu nation, praises came from diverse quarters for this extraordinary manifestation of religious tolerance that the Bangladeshi people showed notwithstanding the provocations from behind the wings. Indeed, Bangladesh today has a very positive image in the world stage for certain things, religious tolerance and harmony being a main one of them.

Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina underlined on Friday that none will be allowed to even try to spoil the fine tradition of communal harmony that Bangladeshis have been well known for centuries. The PM also underscored on the occasion that Islam as a religion also puts the highest stress on religious tolerance though some among the non Muslims purposefully or unknowingly seek to portray Islam as a religion of intolerance. But the facts prove otherwise.

If Islam had been intolerant then today in Arabia there would be no other religion but Islam. The followers came to Prophet Muhammed and sought his advise on how to deal with the conquered Jews and Christians. They were told by the Prophet that their lives and well-being are as much held dear by him as the Muslims and no non believer should be persecuted or harmed in any way for his or her religious belief. If they embrace Islam willingly that would fine but no coercion would be allowed in the matter.

Indeed this is the cardinal message of religious tolerance that Muslims have carried everywhere they went or conquered, The Indian subcontinent was ruled for over seven centuries by Muslim rulers. But their rule was mainly characterized by good governance and religious tolerance shown to their numerically much bigger Hindu subjects.

Had it been otherwise, the far smaller number of Muslims could not remain or flourish as rulers. The greatest of the Muslim emperors in this long period of Islamic rule, emperor Akbar, was exceptionally noted for the extreme tolerance he showed in all matters towards the Hindus.

Bangladesh asa territory long under various Muslim rulers acquired this tradition of religious tolerance. Even before the birth of Bangladesh, its founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, personified the right Islamic principles and spirit of religious tolerance.

This was written large in the Bangladesh Constitution that was introduced in the new nation after 1971. Secularism as a state policy was declared in the Bangladesh Constitution after 1971 and was practiced not in words but deeds. The military rulers after the assassination of Bangladesh’s founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, tried in vain to banish the practice of secularism as state policy.

But secularism as a cornerstone of state policy has come back even stronger after the daughter of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to full powers and control from the nineties. In today’s Bangladesh everyone is regarded and treated fairly and as per the canons of law first as a human being with basic human rights and on the basis of his or her nationality as a Bengali but not communally as a Hindu, Christian, Buddhist or some other religious faith.