Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Hope for Bangladeshi Hindus

On July 28, something happened that forever changed the situation for the oppressed Hindus of Bangladesh. Congressman Robert Dold (R-IL) addressed the US House in support of HR440, sponsored by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) to establish a “Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia” with the rank of ambassador. HR440 passed 402-20; the few nay votes coming as a protest against any new expenditures (even this tiny one) at this time.

Dold began his speech by doing something that had never been done before in the United States Congress: He raised the issue of Bangladesh's oppression of Hindus forcefully and specifically. One of the greatest impediments we face in moving people to action that will stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh is the failure of people to name it as an atrocity. Now it is a matter of record in the United States Congress, and will provide the basis for more severe action. Dold's first words were:

"Since 1947, 49 million Hindus in Bangladesh have gone missing according to Professor Sachi Dastidar. And a recent Hindu American Foundation report concluded that the Hindus of Bangladesh continue to be victims of daily acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, temple destruction, and physical intimidation. Dr. Richard Benkin, an authority on human rights abuses in Bangladesh, has described to me on several occasions the atrocities and human rights abuses suffered by Bangladesh's Hindus that he personally has verified."

Some people make hours-long speeches and do little more than waste the time of their listeners; but in a one and a quarter minute speech, Dold created a watershed event that gave hope to millions of the oppressed by refusing to bury their plight amid generalities like "minorities" and "extremism"; and he urged the US to act. It did not take long before word of his action spread among many of them. Now, perpetrators, appeasers, and deniers can no longer pretend that the atrocity is not happening. Naming it was the first step in defeating it and sets a new basis for several actions now in the works to do just that. Thank you, Bob Dold, for doing what no one else has been able to do. And thank you, USA.

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Bangladesh Awami League Bares Anti-Hindu Teeth

Last month, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court ruled against some constitutional amendments instituted during two military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. It was hailed as a great step forward for freedom in Bangladesh and was roundly condemned by Jamaat and other Islamists. The court then asked the government to submit replacements for ratification in the Awami-dominated parliament. So what did this oh-so-progressive and freedom-loving Awami League do? It submitted new laws that outlawed military governments and religiously-based parties; but it left intact one of the most significant and hateful amendments that came under the Court’s scrutiny: the Eighth. Bangladesh’s Eighth Amendment made Islam the official state religion and essential to the character of all that flows from Bangladeshi law. It is an amendment that Hindus and others say makes them second-class citizens in their own country. Every law they have to follow begins with “in the name of Allah the beneficent.” Madrassas (Islamic schools) are given a favored position by their government and often receive public support, even those preaching radical Islam. Yet, this “pro-minority” government does nothing—NOTHING—even when its own Supreme Court sets the table for them.

While the Awami League has shown its preference for radical jihadists over true partnership in the world, that same world has assiduously ignored it. Just before its election, the Supreme Court and military-backed government arranged things so it could repeal the anti-Hindu Vested Property Act by mere fiat. It did not; but no one said a word. Nor has the destruction of Bangladesh's Hindu community slowed under this duplicitous government. Will this be the straw that breaks the appeasing camel's back?

Judging by the non-reaction to it, likely not. There has not been even one phone call from President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton to Bangladesh, challenging the government on this or other anti-minority actions. No one has reminded Sheikh Hasina of her still unfulfilled promises to end official minority discrimination in Bangladesh—and how she has an opportunity with this constitutional change to prove that she and her party are not shams

The Awami League's action is also yet another clear sign that the policies of weakness implemented by the Obama Administration are leading the Muslim world to take actions that distance themselves further from the rest of the world and move them closer to the likes of Ahmadinejad and the Taliban. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are, at best, oblivious; at worst, complicit. Will the American people end this madness in 2012?

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