BY RACHEL AVRAHAM, AUGUST 30, 2017
Israel has nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking a stance in favor of the Bangladeshi Hindus.
A MAN sells photo frames with pictures of Hindu religious figures near a temple ahead of observance of Rakher Upabash in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN).
In the wake of the persecution experienced by Bangladesh’s Chief Justice and the Hindu community more broadly within the country, Israelis should take actions to support the Bangladeshi Hindu community. It is an urgent imperative at this time. Recently, Bangladesh Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha repealed the 16th Amendment, which the ruling party had passed in 2014 as a tool to remove opponents from the judiciary. Since then, leaders and activists of the Awami League, the country’s current governing party, have been orchestrating a hateful campaign against the chief justice and the Hindu community more broadly. “They are flagrantly demonstrating contempt for the court, resorting to all kinds of abuses, threats, intimidation, coercion and vandalism to forcefully remove the Chief Justice from his constitutional position,” said Shipan Kumar Basu, head of the Hindu Struggle Committee. Meanwhile, the Hindu community has faced increased persecution. Given these developments, I call upon the Israel to stand with the Bangladeshi Hindu community at this crucial juncture. Now more than ever, Bangladeshi Hindus need Israel to take action to support them. There have been a number of recent incidents targeting Hindus in Bangladesh. Some of the culprits are associated with the ruling party. For example, a 20year-old college student was kidnapped and killed. His body was found in the Awami League Union Room at his college mutilated and sacked. A Hindu female teacher in Borguna was raped by youth activists belonging to the ruling party. Her husband, who went to visit her in the school, was severely beaten up and locked in a different room while his wife was being raped. These are only two of countless examples of violence in Bangladesh since the recent crisis surrounding the Supreme Court Justice began. According to Basu, because the Chief Justice is Hindu, the ruling Awami League leaders and workers are now targeting the entire Hindu community.
“This is a blatant manifestation of Awami League hatred toward the Hindu community, nurtured in the hearts and minds of Awami Leaguers from time immemorial. As long as the Hindu community bent down to Awami Leaguers like medieval slaves, the Awami League was willing to tolerate them as second class citizens. Whenever Hindus speak out for truth and justice, which goes against the vested interests, the Awami League becomes infuriated and begins crushing the Hindus down under their feet. One of the Awami League State Ministers of Home Affairs threatened Hindu voters in broad daylight that if Hindus do not vote for him, he would circumcise them all. “The late Kali Das Barhal was an Awami League activist,” Basu continued. “In spite of that, the Awami League leader and an influential member of the Sheikh Dynasty named Sheikh Helal murdered him via mercenary killers. His fault was that he favored the poor and helpless among the minorities, seeking to assist them. I was imprisoned for demanding justice following his assassination.”
But for Basu, silence is not an option. Basu believes that his people risk being forced from their homeland and will thus be doomed to refugee status in India if action is not taken. For 2,000 years, Jews across the world have been persecuted, massacred, raped and were victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing. They know what it is like to be oppressed, relegated to being second-class citizens and to even be forced from their homeland merely because they have a different faith. They have a strong sense of justice for persecuted peoples around the world. Therefore, I call upon the Israeli nation and especially the Israeli government, which represents the Jewish community worldwide, to help another persecuted minority group to redeem itself, which will thus enable them to not only survive but to persevere and overcome the yoke of despair and oppression, permitting them to take their proper place as citizens with equal rights in a free and democratic Bangladesh.
It is critical to note that without outside intervention, ISIS is likely to establish another base of operations in Bangladesh and this can pose a major security risk for Israelis and others, who can be attacked either in India via ISIS bases in Bangladesh or in other countries by local Islamists who were indoctrinated by ISIS terrorists in Bangladesh. Already under Sheikh Hasina’s government, ISIS has made major inroads in Bangladesh according to a University of Maryland report. ISIS is unlikely to remain satisfied with merely persecuting Hindus. As ISIS’s emir for the Bengal region Tamim Chowdhury proclaimed, “Having a strong jihad base in Bengal will facilitate performing guerrilla attacks inside India simultaneously from both sides [Pakistan and Bangladesh] and facilitate creating a condition of tawahhush (fear and chaos) in India with the help of the existing local mujahideen (Jihad activists) there.”
Should Israel help the Bangladeshi Hindus to obtain free and fair elections under a trustee government, elements of the Bangladeshi opposition have stressed that they will seek to establish diplomatic relations with Israel if they emerge the victors! The Hindu Struggle Committee has already discussed this issue extensively with Israeli diplomat Mendi Safadi. Safadi has been advocating in the international community for free and fair elections on behalf of the Bangladeshi Hindu community. Bangladesh presently is an enemy state with no diplomatic relations with Israel. However, if a new government comes to power that both supports the Hindu community and seeks to open a fresh page with Israel, Israel can benefit from marketing their goods in one of the most populated countries in the world and will have one less enemy in the Muslim world. In sum, Israel has nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking a stance in favor of the Bangladeshi Hindus.
The writer, a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency, is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.