Political use of religion nurtures extremism: confce

Staff Correspondent

Academicians and political analysts at an international conference on Friday said adoption of secular ideals in state activities in its true sense was the only solution to the growing threat of extremism nurtured by political use of religion in South Asian countries.
They pointed out that although the charters of India and Bangladesh were secular, the societies remained the reverse and it required separating the state activities and religion and practising pluralism accommodating all faiths and opinions to change the situation.
They said use of religion was increasing in South Asian politics and the growing influence of religion-based political parties had become a cause of concern in the region as it was a grave threat to the stability, harmony, security and economic development of the region.
The minister for foreign affairs, Dipu Moni, attended as chief guest the inaugural session of the two-day public lecture series and conference on ‘Religion and politics: South Asia’ organised by Bangladesh Itihas Sammilani at CIRDAP auditorium.
Dipu Moni said religious extremism was standing in the way of progress and development all over the world but South Asia had a tradition of peaceful coexistence over millenniums and it must be upheld for advancement of this region.
She said Bangladesh had emerged after a long struggle against oppression in the name of religion during the Pakistani era and it was the first country in the region to adopt secularism as a basic principle of the state. She said after 1975, the secular character of the state was removed through military proclamations and it was restored through the 15th amendment to the constitution.
Dipu Moni said there was no space for extremism in the name of religion in Bangladesh and people would resist extremists.
Mushirul Hasan, former vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, in his keynote speech, said there was no alternative to secularism in establishing global peace as those who were spreading hatred in a divided society were out gain political benefit using religion as a tool.
Mushirul said India had prepared a secular constitution but the reality was that the society was yet to become secular. He called on the people of South Asia to get united to fight against religious extremism. He said that religious extremism was growing throughout the region and lamented that in some cases it was getting state patronisation.
Mushirul said secularism did not stand against religion but those engaged in hate campaigns and fuelling sectarian violence must be kept away from politics.
Dhaka University history professor Muntassir Mamoon, in an oblique reference to the ruling coalition, said those who considered themselves as liberal or democrat sometimes tried to fight religious extremism with religion. ‘But such ploys sometimes prove dangerous,’ he said.
Muntassir said it had become a challenge for the people of South Asia to separate religion from politics and the use of religion as a political tool must be resisted.
Workers Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon said religion seemed to have turned into a major factor in Bangladeshi politics. ‘It is actually political religion, not the religion that people practise in their everyday life,’ he said.
In a working session, the prime minister’s adviser on international affairs, Gowher Rizvi, said it was essential to address the questions of how religious extremism could gain currency in the region of communal harmony and how to resist it.
Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury warned of the growing threat of religious extremism and said that the ruling classes had patronised of violent uprising of religion-based politics in the country in recent times. He said politics should be completely separated from religion.

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