Bangladesh is ranked the 43rd most dangerous country for Christianity by the Open Doors World Watch List. Perhaps unknown for its persecution of religious minorities due to the lack of documentation and media publication, Bangladesh is not estranged from militant Islam and continues to heavily oppress its minority population. Many have heard the horrific events of January this year, as Bangladesh embarked upon its new year with yet another case of sectarian violence.
Anjali Devi Chandhuri, a Nurse Lecturer at the Chittagong Nursing Institute was brutally killed last month by assailants from the Islamic Chattra Shibir group, a student wing of the militant Jamaat e-Islami organisation. Her instruction to nursing students to abide by the dress code of the institute –which discluded the Hijab – enraged the student group, culminating in her murder in broad daylight at the institute. Although the identities of her killers are unknown, it is claimed the ‘Hijab Movement for Nurses’ organisation, orchestrated through the militant Jamaat e-Islami were behind the murder.
Despite being a horrendous case, it is not a unique one. Prior to Anjali’s death, the fate of Professor Gopal Krishna Muhuri was not dissimilar. Muhuri’s life was mercilessly cut short, as he was attacked by Islamic militants in Chittagong due to his vocal opposition against the atrocities committed against Bangladeshi minorities, specifically standing up for the rights of the Hindu population.
The rise of militant Islam is increasingly felt and influential throughout the country, infiltrating the minds of the younger generation, a detrimental conundrum as it indicates a clear direction Bangladesh continues to sway; breeding a perpetual climate of intolerance towards un-Islamic views and actions. General targeting of its Christian community is rapidly remaining the norm, attune to most Islamic nations, which in turn evokes fear from its religious minorities, deterring many from speaking out against their persecution or voting for secular political parties; apprehensive of the violent, vengeful reprisals they so frequently face. The General Election of 2014 proved a classic example of such repercussions, where the secular Awami League’s victory was boycotted by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), sparking a tirade of violence, namely toward the Christian population.
The BNP is an amalgamation of 18 political parties, of which the militant Jaamat e-Islami is a member and is a party that in recent years has called for Blasphemy Laws to be upheld and enshrined and has been responsible for enabling non-Muslim persecution, a party that is set on a nationalistic Islamic agenda. In reporting on the events of the 2014 election, International Christian Concern’s Corey Bailey, regional manager for South Asia stated that ‘many Christians did not go out to vote because of fear of what would happen to them’. Those who refused to be intimidated were targeted by BNP supporters and militant Islam sympathisers . Asia News documented the attacks conducted against the Catholic community in Jalampur District : ‘Their homes were set on fire, the assailants promised to return, burn the remains and assume the land of the tribes’.
Such a hateful mentality towards Bangladesh’s religious minorities remains nothing out of the ordinary yet its government chooses to remain silent and lax in the face of brutal fascism and ethnic cleansing enacted by the hands of militant Islam. Daily discrimination is the norm, from denying Christians communal water supplies, to the prevention of employment – rendering much of the Christian population destitute, existing amongst abject poverty. The barring of access to education, business and employment in addition to land grabs, sexual violence, forceful conversions and desecration of places of worship is of frequent occurrence. This continues to feed into the long-existing conditions of callous, and savage intolerance demonstrated through cases of Anjali Devi Chaudhuris – a case that has not set any precedent into the workings of militant Islam but instead only serves to sustain its status quo.