Oct 02

The Fall of Bangladesh minister Latif Siddiqui: My thoughts

Abdul Latif Siddiqui, Post and Telecommunications minister from January 12, 2014, was relieved from his post, or more appropriately fired, both from the cabinet and as presidium member of the Awami League, as per an announcement from Sheikh Hasina, current prime minister of Bangladesh and party chief of Awami League.

This is in lieu of derogatory comments (see English subtitled video) by Siddiqui on 28th September, 2014, at a program in Jackson Heights, New York, where he saw fit to denounce the Hajj and question the practices of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) along with inappropriate remarks on Islamic political parties such as Tabligh-e-Jamaat and the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Protests have erupted all over Bangladesh (see news video) calling for his removal from the cabinet (already done) and trial for blasphemy. These protests have been significant in the fact that they have been attended by thousands all over the country, irrespective of political affiliation (except the minority left) and have been a representative of an occasion for unity rarely seen for quite some time in Bangladesh.

As the flow of events indicate, a growing number of cases are been filed against Siddiqui, mainly on grounds of hurting religious sentiments, nine to be exact uptil now, with talk of more cases in the works. Three Metropolitan Magistrate’s Courts in Dhaka and Chittagong summoned Latif to appear in the courts on October 23, 28, 30.


Translation of his hateful speech against Hajj:

“I am against the Hajj and the Tabligh Jamaat. I am against Jamaate Islami too. But more than that I am more against Hajj and Tabligh Jamaat. So much manpower is wasted during the Hajj. 20 lakh (2 millions) people have gone to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. They have nothing to do. they have no production, they are giving only reduction. they are only eating/consuming, and giving away the wealth of our country. If on average 1 lak (100,000) people go to Hajj from Bangladesh, each spending 5 lak Taka, then we waste 500 crore Taka.

Abdullah’s son Muhammad was a cunning man. he realised that his people were bandits, there were no cultivation/farming in the Arab desert, so how would these low-lifes [he used a very derogatory term meaning ‘son of my brother in law’ or closely ‘bastards’] survive? So, he arranged for this system of [Hajj] so that his followers from all over the world would come to this place and give away some charity to these people [of Arabia].

The Tabligh Jamaat gathers 20 lakh people at their annual conference [in Bangladesh]. They themselves have nothing to do. Moreover, they stall the transportation system throughout the country.”

Points to be kept in mind:

Latif Siddique in the past has done many things for which he could have been sent to jail. He handed over 46 government establishments to persons of his own choice, sometimes without any bidding process and sometimes even at no cost at all. He had beaten up a government officer. He has openly called upon Chhatra League activists to enter the homes of those perpetrating strikes and to kill them. He has shown utter disrespect for the court. All of these are crimes punishable by the law. But the government and the courts have remained silent.

The court has punished people for defamatory remarks about the prime minister, some losing their jobs and some facing seven-year prison sentences. At various times Latif Siddique has made extremely objectionable remarks about the Prophet (SM), the High Court, leaders of the opposition, members of the minority community, intellectuals and journalists, but has never been punished.

Latif Siddique has got away with everything. Awami League leaders who have been less offensive than him, were not given cabinet positions this time round. But Latif Siddique retained his place in the cabinet, encouraging him to be even ruder and more arrogant. Despite the stormy reactions at home and abroad over his remarks concerning Hajj, Tablig Jamaat and religion, he is not apologetic in the least.

Awami League is no friend of the Islam loving masses. Arguably, the main issue that cost Latif Siddiqui his job is his remarks against Sajib Wazed Joy, the son of the Prime Minister. Demeaning Joy in the program, Abdul Latif Siddiqui mentioned that Joy, despite his apparent inefficiency and overall low profile, earned about 200,000 dollars salary as a mere ‘IT expert’ each month, which amounted to 1 crore 60 lakh Bangladeshi taka. Siddiqui mentioned in the program that he himself was the official who had sanctioned the salary.

Although some Awami League supporters protested, especially in Tangail, from where Abdul Latif Siddiqui hails (organized by his local opponents no doubt in anticipation of filling his place), the bulk of the protests were led by Islamic parties, mainly the Hefazat, Islami Oikkojote, Jamaat-e-Islami and the like. Police actually tried to impede the protests, instead of allowing for free expression. At least 30 people were injured as the police opened fire and charge baton on protesters at places while protests spread countrywide on Wednesday demanding arrest of the post and telecommunications minister, Abdul Latif Siqqidue, for his derogatory comments on Islam, its Prophet (SM) and Hajj. The police charged baton and opened fire in Jessore and Natore as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and others political and religious platforms tried to hold rally, human chain protesting against Latif’s remarks.

That the Awami League by nature does not consider derogatory comments to be a big deal can be understood from the fact that the leaders and activists attending the program were smiling at his derogatory comments and applauded them instead of protesting the libelous remarks of the minister. It was only when the topic of Sajeeb Wazed Joy came up, when the issue of condemnation actually surfaced from the end of the Awami League leadership.

Another point to be noted, and I stress on this issue, is that Abdul Latif Siddiqui never backtracked from his statement. He reiterated the fact in a BBC interview where he confirmed there was “no question of withdrawing” his comments. This alludes to the disturbing notion that the minister is backed by an entity far greater in power than Sheikh Hasina or the Awami League. Many analysts have opined this particular entity to be the Indian intelligence agency RAW, which is well understood to be trying to play a key role in influencing the course of about everything in Bangladesh, in line with the vision of the India government. In that case, assuming that such an allegation rings true, it would bring into the picture some serious calculations in the game, keeping in mind the fact that neither the opposition not the Islamic scholars are considering this issue to be more than a classical local case of a “cop turned bad”.

Some pictures of protests upto 02.10.14:

Pictures of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir

Pictures of other parties protests: