Contrary to the perception created by the secular Indian state and its establishment intellectuals, Islamic radicalism is no less rife in Bangladesh than in Pakistan.
In a video going viral on social media, a small Bangladeshi boy is being interviewed about which cricketers he would like to meet. The innocent boy rattles off names like Mashrafe Mortaza, Mustafizur Rahman, Taksin Ahmed, Sariful. The interviewer interjects and asks “(what about) Soumya Sarkar?”
To this the boy smilingly replies, “Soumya Sarkar is a Hindu. I don’t want to meet him.”
Such is the hate being indoctrinated in young minds through Bangladesh’s Islamic bodies and madrasa mosque-network, which is also reflected in the actions of its politicians and clerics who frequently denigrate Hindus using the pejorative term malaun (unworthy of Allah’s mercy, sub-human). Recently, Awami League politician Shabab Ahmed had referred to Hindus as ‘inferior insects’.
This is not the first time a Bangladeshi Hindu cricketer has been shunned or attacked over his religion.
In 2015, batsman Liton Das faced a torrent of abuse and threats on Facebook after he posted a picture of Maa Durga and wished everyone on the occasion of Durga Puja. Comments asking him to remove the photo citing that Islam does not allow ‘idolatry’ and Bangladesh is inhabited mostly by Muslims, were accompanied by other more abusive posts. One Mohammed Metun compared the existence of Maa Durga to the soreness in the paw of a dog in a Muslim’s home (keeping a dog as a pet is haram in Islam).
One fanatic lashed out, “Liton, majority of the people in Bangladesh is Muslim and praying to idols is forbidden in Islam. You have hurt the Muslims by posting a photo of Durga on your Facebook account. So think of yourself as a Bangladeshi and not as a Hindu”.
A disheartened Das deleted the post and put up a new status expressing how disheartened he was with the hate remarks. “My first identity is that I am a Bangladeshi, and religion cannot divide us”, he posted.
Can one imagine a Muslim cricketer in Bharat being asked to not post on Eid? On the contrary, Hindus are collectively shamed as ‘bigots’ and slammed by our virtue-signaling ex-captain for ‘trolling’ Md. Shami, even when said trolling had been engineered by Pakistanis and bot accounts.
In 2020, Shakib Al Hasan, possibly the greatest cricketer ever of Bangladesh, was a guest in a Kali Puja celebration in Kolkata. He reportedly inaugurated the program by cutting a ribbon and lighting the lamp. Shakib has been a regular feature in the IPL T20 league and represented the Kolkata-based KKR team in many seasons.
For this ‘blasphemous’ act, Shakib received death threats. He was forced to issue a denial that he inaugurated the puja mandap and had to apologize for hurting Muslim sentiments. “Being a practising Muslim I always try to follow the religious customs. Please forgive me if I have done anything wrong,” he said.
This hate towards ‘kafir’ Hindus usually manifests in attacks on temples, land grab and molestation/rape of poor Hindu women. But even affluential Hindus are not safe.
Kishore Kumar Das, founder of Bidyanondo Foundation, an NGO doing excellent work to fight hunger and educate underprivileged Bangladeshi children, came under attack on social media for his “Hindu-sounding” name. He was branded an ISKCON agent and charged with lacing food served during Iftar with cow urine/dung to convert Muslims into Hindus. In April, a policeman abused and tried to run over a Hindu college teacher after seeing her wearing a bindi.
The indoctrination starts young. As one young Bangladeshi Hindu activist shared on twitter, “My sister’s son studies in class 1. Some of his classmates invited him to accept Islam. Besides, there is bullying about gods and goddesses and religion.”
The saving grace is that a section of progressive Bangladeshi Muslims are aware of the problem and still bold enough to take a stand against it, and against the growing Islamist influence on PM Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party.