Is there any doubt that both the UK and Bangladesh are facing the same threat of extremism? Certainly, they are. Recently, the British government has formed a taskforce ‘aimed at confronting Islamic extremism and controlling preachers of hate’ (The Times, 3 June 2013, p.4). The choice of words may shed some light on the work of this taskforce and my mentor Professor Gary Rawnsley of University of Leeds has rightly quipped that the ‘framing echoes both the disastrously-named War on Terror and Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations.’ [http://wwwpdic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/british-taskforce-to-confront-extremism.html]
Moreover, Prof Gary has narrated how the issue of ‘engagement’ has been left out and here I come with my experience on its importance. And I have a feeling that both the UK and Bangladesh are in the same position where societies of both the countries pushed a segment of the society into a corner.
When I was a student in the UK during 2008-09 academic year, I had the opportunity to see local Bangladeshi channels which broadcast from London. Every night, there were people who used to preach Islam on television screen and most of their contents were really thought provoking! ‘Am I watching this tv channel in the UK? Oh My GOD!’ I am lucky that Phil Taylor was my teacher. One fine morning while chatting on Bin Laden’s propaganda and propaganda by Islamist groups (moderate or not), I raised the issue and Phil told me that there were people in the Home Office who were taking care of these. Were they really?
At that time, the British were promoting multiculturalism and I have seen how boxes were created and groups were pushed into those boxes. I had the opportunity to travel different places of UK and I have seen how people in the name of different organisations and faith groups received government’s fund. What they have really done will be a matter of monitoring and evaluation of those programmes. But now the pressing issue is whether it is too late to be engaged and create a more inclusive society where people from different background can live and prosper together as one.
The area where I used to live in Leeds was dominated by Pakistani origin people. Their lifestyles were not too different from those of some Bangladeshi immigrants. They live within themselves. In a nightclub in the city centre, a bouncer once asked me: ‘you are a Bangladeshi? What are you doing here? I have never seen any Bangladeshi guy here before!’ It’s not a shame. They have different place to go. You don’t need to go to night club to become a good British! So many of them go to places where gym and mosques are housed together! And some of them also become vigilante (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1YMGg1QVvI)!
Here in Bangladesh, many of those who are labelled as ‘Mollah’ by many used to live aloof. Their dress is different than others. They are in their hundreds of thousands in different Madrassahs. Engagement by the government in those madarsah, which has brought global attention towards Bangladesh recently, is near to zero. They are called or brought in to residences of gentlemen whenever anyone dies. They are brought in for offering ‘doa’ and ‘milad’. After the milad, they are offered some ‘cash’ and that’s all. Bye, bye. Next time, you need them during the Eid ul Azha when you feel that you need to donate the skin of the cattle that you sacrificed. The skin goes to the madrasah where orphans are raised. They are citizens of Bangladesh but left as a prey to those who know what they want and how they want.