International conference sees rise of religious fundamentalism in the region
Religious fundamentalism is rearing its ugly head in South Asian countries, obstructing the progress of secularism in the region, observed scholars and politicians of some South Asian nations at an international conference yesterday. The failure of the secular forces to prevent this menace is partly responsible for the escalating threat of communal violence, they said and urged all to come forward to strengthen secularism to secure peace in the region. Bangladesh Itihas Sammilani, a forum of historians, organised the two-day international conference styled “Religion and Politics: South Asia” at Cirdap auditorium in the capital. Representatives from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal are participating in the seminar to discuss the use of religion in the politics of South Asian countries. New Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia University Vice-chancellor Prof Mushirul Hasan presented a keynote paper at the programme while Itihas Sammilani Convener Prof Muntassir Mamoon chaired the inaugural session. Prof Mohammad Salim of Jagannath University gave the vote of thanks. Hasan, a prominent scholar of India, said the societies of the South Asian countries were not secular as pluralism was absent here. “The Indian constitution is secular but our societies are not that. There is a lack of efforts to secularise the society,” he noted. In the region’s political domain, there are many groups that obstruct secularism, and the sad thing is that the states are also negotiating with them, he added. According to him, secularism is the only way out in the prevailing situation and that secularism is not against religion it is rather like a negotiation with religion to promote pluralism in the society. Muntassir Mamoon alleged the BNP-Jamaat pushed the country backward through using religion in politics and Jamaat was still active to harm the country. “In the coming days, as the election is ahead of us, we don’t have any alternative but to win,” he added. Prof Tariq Rahman, a scholar from Pakistan, narrated the miserable condition of his country because of the influence of religious fundamentalism in politics. “For promoting communalism, the use of religion here has caused humiliation for people,” he said. Addressing as the chief guest at the inaugural session, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said religious fundamentalism was impeding progress not only in South Asia but also across the world. “We have the heritage of religious co-existence for thousands of years here. We must cherish the spirit of non-communalism to lead Bangladesh ahead,” she added. Addressing as the special guest, lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon said religious fundamentalism never had any place in Bangladesh but conspiracies of some fundamentalist groups had always existed. “Religion has now emerged as the prime issue in our politics because we are now putting more focus on our religious identity,” he added. Airya Vidyasekera, a prominent scholar and human rights activist of Sri Lanka, also spoke on the occasion.