Contrary to the perception created by India’s secular state and its establishment intellectuals, Islamic radicalism is no less prevalent in Bangladesh than in Pakistan.
In a the video goes viral on social media, a small Bangladeshi boy is interviewed about the cricketers he would like to meet. The innocent boy rattles off names like Mashrafe Mortaza, Mustafizur Rahman, Taksin Ahmed, Sariful. The interviewer intervenes and asks “(what about) Soumya Sarkar?
To this, the boy replies with a smile: “Soumya Sarkar is a Hindu. I don’t want to meet him.
Such is the hatred indoctrinated in young minds through Bangladesh’s Islamic bodies and network of madrasa mosques, which is also reflected in the actions of its politicians and clerics who frequently disparage Hindus using the pejorative term malun (unworthy of Allah’s mercy, subhuman). Recently, Awami League politician Shabab Ahmed had called Hindus “lower insects”.
This is not the first time a Bangladeshi Hindu cricketer has been shunned or attacked because of his religion.
In 2015, drummer Liton Das faced a torrent of abuse and threats on Facebook after posting a photo of Maa Durga and wishing everyone on the occasion of Durga Puja. Comments asking him to remove the photo, citing that Islam does not allow “idolatry” and that Bangladesh is predominantly inhabited by Muslims, were accompanied by other more abusive messages. A certain Mohammed Metun compared the existence of Maa Durga to the pain in a dog’s paw in a Muslim (keeping a dog as a pet is haraam in Islam).
One fanatic blasted: “Liton, the majority of people in Bangladesh are Muslims and praying to idols is forbidden in Islam. You hurt Muslims by posting a photo of Durga on your Facebook account. So consider yourself a Bangladeshi and not a Hindu”.
A crestfallen Das deleted the post and put up a new status expressing how crestfallen he was by the hateful remarks. “My first identity is that I am Bangladeshi, and religion cannot divide us,” he posted.
Can you imagine a Muslim cricketer from Bharat being asked not to post on Eid? On the contrary, Hindus are collectively humiliated as “fanatics” and criticized by our ex-captain signaling virtue for “trolling” Md. Shami, even when said trolling was engineered by Pakistanis and accounts of robots.
In 2020, Shakib Al Hasan, perhaps Bangladesh’s greatest cricketer, was a guest at a Kali Puja celebration in Kolkata. He is said to have inaugurated the program by cutting a ribbon and lighting the lamp. Shakib was a regular fixture in the IPL T20 league and represented Kolkata-based team KKR for many seasons.
For this “blasphemous” act, Shakib received death threats. He was forced to deny having inaugurated the puja mandap and had to apologize for hurting Muslim feelings. “Being a practicing Muslim, I always try to follow religious customs. Please excuse me if I have done anything wrong,” he said.
This hatred towards Hindu ‘kafirs’ usually manifests itself in attacks on temples, land grabbing and the assault/rape of poor Hindu women. But even wealthy Hindus are not safe.
Kishore Kumar Das, founder of the Bidyanondo Foundation, an NGO that does great work fighting hunger and educating underprivileged Bangladeshi children, has come under attack on social media for his “Hindu-sounding” name. He was branded an ISKCON agent and accused of mixing food served during iftar with cow urine/dung to convert Muslims to Hindus. In April, a police officer assaulted and tried to run over a Hindu university teacher after seeing her wearing a bindi.
Indoctrination begins young. Like a young Bangladeshi Hindu activist shared on twitter, “My sister’s son studies in class 1. Some of his classmates invited him to accept Islam. Additionally, there is bullying about gods, goddesses, and religion.
The saving grace is that some of Bangladesh’s progressive Muslims are aware of the problem and still bold enough to take a stand against it, and the growing Islamist influence in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party.