Review Nepal News

Sculpture, ignorance and chaos
  Kathmandu, Nepal      December 29 2020

M A Hossain

In the past few months, Bangladesh has been going through an imbroglio regarding the installation of statues. Numerous articles were published on this issue but most of these were apparently partisans to their own ideologies. A number of Islamic scholars lambasted on erecting statues in the country, which eventually became conducive to the extent of damaging and defacing of some statues that put the ruling party in an uncomfortable position. Some left-leaning leaders and progressive activists were vibrant against these Islamic groups in both electronic and print media. These agitations of both sides made me embark on writing this article to preach the true lessons of Islam. I will try to dissect the deeds of the belligerents on this Statue issue, with a bid to demonstrate the situation, which I hope my readers will find comprehensive.

Bangladesh is a secular country. At present, Bangladesh can be exemplified as a role model about the atmosphere of communal harmony to the world. Though some sporadic incidents may have had come to the limelight in the recent past, those were either exaggerated or concocted, or galvanised by the foreign actors. As per the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, secularism is one of the Fundamental Principles of the Constitution. Therefore, the installation of any statue/sculpture is not unconstitutional. The way our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dealt with the issue demonstrated the political acumen of her decision-making. Needless to say, Bangladesh Awami League and the Government have defused this sculpture spark very smartly. Then the question remains as to what was wrong and why did it hurt our Muslim community?

First, the exaggeration and excessive rants against Islam by non- befitting individuals made Bangladeshi Muslims felt disappointed and betrayed. It is not expected that a renowned communist leader (Now an ally with a Democratic Party!) should teach Islam to the Nation. Another progressive intellectual came up with his crass analysis of the Quran and this gentleman legalized lifelike sculpture in Islam high highhandedly, and he substantiated his logic with the word 'Tamasil' from the Quran. I may take the liberty to correct him that 'Tamasil' means resemble of lifeless things and possibly he amalgamated with the Arabic word 'Sanam (pl-Asnam)' which means resemble of the lifelike creature.

Second, speeches and languages of a few Islamic scholars do not commensurate with the teachings of Islam. In Qur'an, it is said that you invite (mankind) to the way of your Lord with wisdom, kind advice and argue with them in the most kindly manner. According to Bukhari Hadith, one is best to Allah whose character is best. Two Islamist parties have threatened and demanded the Government not to install any sculpture or idol. Apparently, it may appear to be an Islamic step but in fact, such pretentious action triggered an ominous flaw to the belief of Muslims and gravely hurt the Muslim practitioners and scholars. 

In retrospect, Islam in Bangladesh was more prone to Persian "Sufism" than the original Islam emerged in Arab. Again, it was also biased and infiltrated by the pre-practised local cultures. All these malpractices occurred due to the lack of communications. That's why we see the shrine culture, non-Islamic superstitions, dogmatisms etc. At times our excessive respect reaches to a worshipping level. In South Asia, it has remained a practising culture. We can see, a portrait of Donald Trump was worshipped by some Indian Hindus before the presidential election. So as a Muslim, we must acquire the true knowledge of Islam that could save us from all confrontations and confusion. Right now, vandalisation of statues in Bangladesh was not a wise Islamic performance. It is a clear breach of prevailing laws. Our Islamic scholars must remember that the dialogues used in the battlefield are not the same as in Waz-Mehfils (public gatherings). 

Islam shows a straight-forward and unvarnished way to surrender to the Almighty. It doesn't allow any alternative or skewed way from His Messenger, Mohammad(SM). In my opinion, Bangladeshi Islamist groups didn't follow the way (Sunnah) of our Prophet(SM). Islamic laws or Sharia laws only can accentuate to destroy the lifelike idols/sculptures. We must remember, our Prophet(SM) destroyed the idols after he conquered and established Islam in Mecca. Before that, he didn't show any fanatical activities but preached against non-Islamic idol worshipping.

In several articles by a doyen Bangladeshi leftist leader and a few mediocre Awami League leaders tried to politicize this issue. They chanted that our Ulems/Ulamas are performing an agenda to make Bangladesh integrate to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A Minister of Bangladesh Government tried to cover the fact as fig leaf that vandalization of two sculptures in Kustia was committed by the same actor. People of Bangladesh should remain alert against the chaotic situation backed by foreign actors. Bangladeshi Islamic scholars must not entrap themselves to be a pawn of conspiracy. Our ignorance has the remedy but incompetence to understand the machination has no remission. Our politicians must stop unnecessary tattling. 

Pakistan is neither an Islamic country nor a role model country. Even Pakistan wants to be like Bangladesh nowadays. In Kustia, one of the vandalisation was done by the ruling party men. Samuel Huntington in his article, "The clash of civilization" predicted a successful theory that the 21st century would experience a confrontation between the Islamist and the West. So the conspiracy against a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh should not be washed off with the spat of fingertips. The way Islam resurrects in Bangladesh, it's obvious a global Islamist force already has established their footholds here. 

In the bottom line, there is no scope of installing lifelike idols/sculptures under the Islamic Emirates or Sharia Law. Because during Judgment Day, the sculptor would be asked to give life to those sculptures which he created in his life. Very often, our secular leaders or intellectuals are referring to some Muslim majority countries to legalize life-like sculptures but that is not right. Islam does not belong to any specific country or political party; rather the greatness of Islam lies in the performance in compliance with the Quran and Sunnah, globally and collectively. That is the beauty of Islam. 

M A Hossain, a political and defense analyst writes on diversified topics in Bangladeshi and foreign newspapers.