Bangladesh: Banning of books by the Ahmadiyya movement

Bangladesh has banned publications by the minority Ahmadiyya movement amid demands from Islamic hardliners that it be declared non-Muslim.
Drishtipat, an organization committed to safeguarding every individual's basic democratic and human rights, expresses grave concern at the recent decision of the Government of the People’s Republic Bangladesh to ban all publications of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh.
Press Release

In a press release, the Home Ministry claims that the decision to ban publications was made "in view of objectionable materials in such (Ahmadiyya) publications which hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh." In our view this decision is completely contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as well as Bangladesh’s obligation under international human rights laws.

Specifically it is in violation of the rights of all Ahmadiyas, and indeed of other citizens of Bangladesh who may wish to read their publications, to the rights of free of expression, freedom of religion, and the right to be treated only in accordance with law. In a democratic country and open society, individuals, religious groups, and political parities should be free to publish their viewpoints, and to practice their own religion without causing harm to others.

The decision of the Government of Bangladesh is quite alarming, particularly in view of the call by some extremist and sectarian groups in Bangladesh for the for the state to declare the Ahmadiyyas “non-Muslim.” In our view, it is certainly beyond the authority of the State to engage in the business of judging the authenticity of the religious views and theological positions of a particular community. The declaration of the Ahmadiyya community as “non-Muslims” by the state of Bangladesh would be not only a grave offense against a particular religious community, but also a grave offense against all Muslims, in as much as it would portray Muslims as intolerant of divergences of views. It would also give rise to anxiety and fear among various religious communities, including Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists and others, regarding possible actions to be taken against them. The religious texts and theological works of one group may contain notions and concepts that are not acceptable to others; however, this cannot be accepted and rationalized as a ground from banning such publications. Minority religious communities should be free to publish and to distribute their materials.

It should be pointed out that historically actions such as the banning of books and publication and the destruction of statues and paintings may be precursors to much graver crimes. It is, therefore, critical that all conscious citizens of Bangladesh and others concerned with fundamental rights become not only be aware of such activities but collectively organize to prevent such actions. We reiterate that bigotry does not stop once it is endorsed by the state. Those who are demanding the banning of publications may be emboldened to go to further once they win their first demand.

We call on all our fellow citizens in Bangladesh to resist the forces of bigotry and to reject the Government of Bangladesh’s attempt to ban the publications of a religious community, any attempt to officially declare a community “non-Muslim,” bar people of one faith or other from serving as state functionaries or elected officials, or engage any other activity in which the state authorities endorses a specific religious or theological viewpoint.

Perhaps it is testimony to the profound lack of understanding of the rich and complex heritage history of Bangladesh, of Islam, of the Constitution of Bangladesh and of human rights that the state authorities can act in such tyrannical and grotesque fashion. Indeed, by acting in this fashion, the authorities risk tarnishing Bangladesh's image as a country that promotes tolerance and where people of diverse religions and beliefs live peacefully.

We appeal once again to the citizens of the country to prevent the authorities from imposing their fiats based on bigotry and ignorance on the citizenry and to withdraw with immediate effect their decision to ban the publications of the Ahmadiya community.


Read more about this on the BBC website.