‘Secularism, Islam should be dropped from constitution’

The terms ‘secularism’ and ‘Islam’ have now become a matter of division, conflict, violence and hatred. They have given rise to a conflict between the so-called atheists and the believers. So, they should be dropped from the constitution as universal democracy can protect the interest of all people, Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq, supernumerary professor of Bangla in the University of Dhaka, tells Khadimul Islam in an interview with New Age

spe7New Age: The ‘proclamation’ of Bangladesh’s independence, made on April 10, 1971, promised citizens ‘equality, human dignity and social justice’. Now, 44 years into the country’s independence, where does Bangladesh stand in terms of ‘equality’ — political, economic and cultural — of the citizens?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq: Nature does not create all human beings equally. There are diverse kinds of people. Given such diversity, terms such as equality, human dignity and social justice should be considered carefully. Inequality, disrespect to people and social injustice committed by some should also be considered keeping these issues in mind. Everything in the proclamation of independence was included keeping this in mind.
It reflected the aspirations that the people had and the behaviour of people at that time was quite admirable. Keeping this in mind, progress in all sectors was, however, discontinued after the formation of the government on January 12, 1972. Decline of a sort has continued from the very beginning till today. Public conduct has been degrading. Good people in society are now suppressed and oppressed. But there are still good people in society and good initiatives are made. This is why we have survived and this is why Bangladesh still exists. The policy that we now need at the national level is unity in diversity or synthesis in plurality. Bangladesh is now running in the other direction.
New Age: Do you think that ‘human dignity’ of citizens, particularly of the poor millions, has been established in Bangladesh? If not, why?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq: No. You cannot define the word dignity as an abstract. If you see dignity as an abstract, it means nothing. It should be seen in a concrete form, in the perspectives of education, culture, economic justice, social harmony, social cooperation and peace. The poor masses will not have progress and dignity without economic justice and with abstract policies. But it is true that revolution in biotechnology and in information technology has become a tool for economic growth, resulting in an increase in the per capita income and the gross national product. Because of this, everyone even the poor, has benefited; they can have food and can wear better clothes. But at the same time, injustice in society has also grown quite substantially. Disorder and corruption have also increased. It reminds me of a verse of the Bible: ‘Man does not live by bread alone’.
What we have seen since 1972 is that the political character of governments have not been the same. In policy making, however, they followed the same policy patterns and worked for the same agents — imperialists and the upper class. Successive governments have only worked for the small upper class. The role of intellectuals has not been praiseworthy either. Men of conscience and new ideas are badly suppressed and oppressed.
New Age: What is the state of ‘social justice’ in Bangladesh?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq: There is an absolute unjust system in place.
New Age: What are your recommendations for materialising the ‘proclamation of independence’ at all levels?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq: Over the past 44 years, the state of our nation and the whole of mankind have changed quite radically. Thus, we should have new proclamation for the future. Our thoughts and ideas must not remain confined to ideas of the past. We should learn from our past experiences. The world is not bipolar now; Bangladesh is no longer a part of Pakistan. We should now have programmes for our national unity, for building Bangladesh as an independent state and for establishing universal democracy.
The terms ‘secularism’ and ‘Islam’ (as the state religion) have now become a matter of division, conflict, violence and hatred. It has given rise to a conflict between the so-called atheists and the believers. So, it should be dropped from the constitution. Universal democracy can protect the interest of all people. Only criminals should be tried and punished.
Socialism is something that has not been accepted by any political party such as the Awami League, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jatiya Party that have ruled Bangladesh as these parties follow the principles of free-market economy, liberalism, etc. Marxist organisations have also failed to take any programmes to establish socialism. Under the circumstances, socialism should also be dropped from the constitution.
Democracy will be enough if it is given a new structure and is functional for all people. Government should be formed based on proportional representation. The question of a political party with universal democracy is highly important. I have circulated and handed out pamphlets for the past 11 years — 28 points: a programme for our liberation and progress. This may be considered by activists in all fields who want and expect a better future for Bangladesh.

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