Bangladesh - a secular state
There is a raging debate as to the congruity of keeping Secularism and Islam in the Constitution. We need to understand that a secular state does not need to be a state without religion. Listen to the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Delhi while returning to Bangladesh in 1972. He said that he believed in Secularism, Socialism and Democracy. Reaching Dhaka on January 10, 1972, he said at a mammoth public meeting at Sharawardy Uddyan (then Race Course): "I am a Bengali, a human being and a Muslim ..." When we consider these utterances, we find apparent contradictions but a close examination proves this wrong. This apparent contradiction (not in his speech) is blown out of proportion by the exponents of Secularism who are critical of the Constitution for keeping together Secularism, Socialism, Islam and Democracy.
The Father of the Nation seems to have been very much aware of the fact that there is no contradiction of Islam with secularism, socialism or with democracy. Now, let us examine what these isms mean.
There is Socialism where the whole community owns and regulates production, distribution and exchange. It is clearly a system of state control of all financial institutions. Now, if we introduce adult franchise to the rigid financial system we may dilute socialism a bit but they can easily co-exist with democracy.
Secularism exits where the state and the religious institutions are not amalgamated. Our religious institutions are completely independent of the government.
Democracy is a system of government where the people govern themselves by representatives elected by them.
Therefore, there is no incongruity whatsoever in Socialism, Secularism, Democracy and Islam co-existing with a bit of fine-tuning. In no way the fine-tuning damages any of them or makes it impossible for those to be in our constitution, as many proponents of the so-called progressive intellectuals would like to claim.
In the early days of Islam, the religious head was also Head of the State. Later from the Omayyad days, separation began and that exits still today. Therefore, we have an effective separation of state and religion. Our private and social live are regulated by our religions as is applicable. The state seldom interferes. The religious leaders govern our religious lives though there is the Ministry of Religious Affairs and an institution called Islamic Foundation run by Islamic scholars that almost never interferes in our day-to-day affairs. The religious affairs ministry looks after peoples of all faith including the Muslims. Therefore, we are a secular nation and Islam has no restriction to accommodate secular practices as it itself practices those.
Considering, all the facts above we can safely surmise that there is no clash between Islam and the other isms. Therefore, the proponents of Secularism who think even the mention of Islam is injurious to Secularism are grossly mistaken and must be doing it from their wrong indoctrination imbibing them with an allergic apathy to religion. They consider religion without ever trying to understand the deep relationship of faith to humans. They should enlighten themselves with religious thoughts. Likewise, the dogmatic religious fanatics should realise that there is nothing anti-Islam in secularism - where it means the separation of state power and religion, and not faithlessness. Therefore, they need not be alarmed and make unnecessary outcry.
The writer, an author-fiction writer and freelance consultant, is former Senior Executive of the now-defunct Bangladesh Observer.