May 21, 2007

Bangladesh to open an embassy in Khartoum. Asif to open an international studies program in Dhaka.

While I'm all for South-South cooperation, I can only be appalled by the decision of the Bangladeshi government to open an embassy in Khartoum, as reported here and here. I especially love how the Bangla report says that the decision has been taken, while the English says that it has only been hinted at! Great going mouthpieces!

After calling for a reform of the OIC that everyone has known for years was a useless international organization, Iftekhar Chowdhury managed to slip this in without the local press even sniffing to try smell the stench. Which only points to how much more our "local" press needs to know about the world outside of Dhaka and South Asia.

Three/four days ago, Zafar Sobhan had written of Pakistan:

"With Pakistan lurching towards ever greater strife with each passing day, closer association with it at this precise moment in time sees like an anachronistic idea."

One now hopes that someone comes out with a similar rebuttal against greater ties with Khartoum, especially under this government. The problem is not JUST its appalling human rights record in its ethnically-African southern regions and now in Darfur (and how many Imams in Bangladesh know and are ready to denounce this blatant violence against Muslims by Muslims?). The problem is that even more than Pakistan, Sudan has an extremist government ready to export out its own brand of religious violence and intolerance under the guise of "Islam". And it doesn't take much internet research to find that out.

What's really pissing me off is OUR moral equivalence. I'm all for a realist paradigm in foreign relations. But Bangladesh does not follow a realist model at all. We have cited, and still do cite, other governments' human rights records as pretexts for not maintaining diplomatic relations with them (or perhaps our diplomacy has the sole goal of keeping the OIC happy instead of us!) We did not keep ties with apartheid South Africa, even though we could have used their resources. What about the Khartoum governments' awful treatment of Darfur's people? Should we overlook it thanks to the elusive promise of their black gold?

What's worse is calling for reform of the OIC - which opposed our independence drive and ROUTINELY disregards Muslim oppression of other Muslims - and then disregarding Darfur's suffering in the same breath. Our foreign affairs staff might regard that as Machiavellian and pat themselves on the back. But they've just crossed the fine line into outright hypocrisy.


Fugstar said...

Bluder, You are reading from the wrong atlas of indignation .

I think you should know more about sudan than the human rights case and some primative black oil argument against them. They have significant history which you arent being presented with, too many borders, lots of challenges and there are lots of deshis already there 'keeping peace' on behalf of white power.

It is probably those relationships that the GoB is seeking to build on. Every sudanese persona i have met has impressed me, a friend was doing fieldwork out there and was similarly taken aback.

If i were a random Muslim country that didnt beleive in ummah, i would have nothing to do with bangladesh. what do you think? The secularist contention of 'Ummah doesnt exists' means that BD shouldnt be part of the OIC. Am i wrong?

I like this foreign advisor of mine, he isnt as embarrasssing as the others and seems to be speaking sense.

Im not sure if you really are FOR south-south cooperation, because you bring up the HR thing as if its of ontological importance in state state relations. It isnt.

Most countries would like the OIC to change and the family institutions to get better. Countries of consequence like say malaysia or pakistan (ye i know) have been trying to initiate reforms for a long while.

No Bangladeshi leader, apart from say zia, has really believed in Ummah or had any special cards to play to act on the OIC level.

The foreign advisor just told the conference of foreign ministers that the OIC should become more development based, i wish he would expand on his statement.

I dont know how much you know about the work that OIC institutions like IRCICA, ISESCO, IDB and COMSTECH do....

asif said...

Hmmm... twice in one night I have to disagree with you wholeheartedly.

HR isn't of ontological importance in state to state relations. But peacekeeping missions are? Fine, for arguments' sake, let me accept that now. In which case, I say we emphasize cooperation with Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire and Congo over cooperation with Sudan. Why? Simply because we have more peacekeepers there. Here:

Talking about human rights does not make anyone opposed to South-South cooperation. It simply indicates that I want to see a different sort of cooperation in the South.

"They have significant history which you arent being presented with, too many borders, lots of challenges and there are lots of deshis already there 'keeping peace' on behalf of white power" - Where'd you get that bit? Out of Pakistan's media package to Western media outlets in '71? More than human rights, it's the similarities with '71 that get me!

"If i were a random Muslim country that didnt beleive in ummah, i would have nothing to do with bangladesh. what do you think? The secularist contention of 'Ummah doesnt exists' means that BD shouldnt be part of the OIC. Am i wrong?" - I have no idea what you mean by the first question. The second question simply begs another. If you do not believe in ideological basis for inter-state relations such as HR (and I don't believe in it either), then why stress inter-"Ummah" considerations which are ideological rather than realpolitikal?

And the "Ummah" doesn't correspond to the OIC last time I checked. Really lazy argument there. And it doesn't take a "secularist" to know that it's dead. Question is, was it ever alive? Read the book I hyperlinked in the article. You'll get a lot more from my point of view.

Lastly, Zia did not believe in anything other than Zia and what he saw as Bangladesh. God bless him for it! And please don't buy into party history wholesale like this. Remember that it was Mujib who SOUGHT OIC membership. It came along only when Zia was in power.

asif said...

lastly, I have nothing against Sudanese people. It's their government I'm firmly opposed to. Which is why I remain silent on our peacekeepers there, and on some BRAC sponsored projects in the South.

You may think I'm learning my lessons from the "wrong atlas", but truth is, I've learnt about Sudan from a Sudanese!

Fugstar said...

UN peace keeping missions are essentially tools of the big powers, neither of whom are brown. The UNSC exists to perpetuate the post war power structure. Thanks for Israel guys.

anyway, thats my UN beef contextualised.

Sudan as opposed to the other west african countries. Your style of blog combat means that you seperate linked issues, which is limiting. Our embassy in rabat deals with west africa. Perhaps a khartoum unit would have a relevance for bangladesh in the horn of africa? Also the Muslim brotherhood imperetive does it for me (based on the limited knowledge i have of the relationships on the ground) solidarity is in our constitution right? At a more vital level i think closer interummahtic relations are important for muslims, not blind ones mind you.

Sudan needs friends. I think the sudanese and bangladeshi establishments will find they have more and more in common as time goes on.

You made up the direct equivalence of Muslim nation states with Ummah. Thats your own choice. I hope the deshi diplomatic corps doesnt mess up this opportunity.

I mentioned Zia, well i wasnt going to mention anybody actually.... but i felt the need to mention somebody at least! Of course we dont have leaders of ummahtic importance like mahathir, habibie, erbakan or erdogan.

Seems like a relatively ummahtic guy, according religion value in documentation rehabilitating 'the right' etc. Anyway from my reading the oic thing wouldnt have occured until someone like zia stepped to the plate. read 'political orphan' for my attitude to partisanery.

For my own information though...I'd be interested in reading Sheikh mujibs post 71 speaches on any subject relating to islamic solidarity.

I dont know why you are bringin up 1971..... other than the injustice, foolishness and racialisation lark. can you elaborate?

Sudan is a very different situation and the regional and internal politics are configured differently. I have my own particularly impotent stance on the matter! (the juristiction of which extends no further than my own body!)

Sudan might also be a good country to cooperate with in the water resources sector and Islamic scholarship improvement.

In fact i think i could outline reason 'why' rather than 'why not' all day. Only theyd be my own, not the GoB's, what is their motivation?

Anthony said...

I don't know whether Mujib cared about the ummah, but Bangladesh joined the OIC under him, not Zia. Mujib attended the OIC summit in Lahore in February 1974 after a bunch of Arab states (led by Kuwait) forced Bhutto to recognise Bangladesh unconditionally.

Mujib was also unequivocal about the Muslim element to Bangladesh's majoritarian nationalism. He said that Bangladesh was a Muslim nation in his first speech in the liberated republic in January 1972.

asif said...

The reply promised on another comments section:

Fugstar, I don't even know where to begin taking apart your argument.:) Let's start at the beginning.

By just finger-pointing Israel, you show your cards. Let's not forget that the colonial legacy or the post-war power configuration also gave us India, Pakistan, Lebanon and the Sudan's borders itself. Oh, and if you have a problem with Israel's human rights record, why not have a problem with Sudan's?

If Rabat can take care of west africa, why can't cairo or riyadh take care of the Horn? Doesn't make sense.

"Sudan needs friends" and "closer inter-ummatic relations": both are true. I was under the impression that that was EXACTLY what I was advocating. I'm trying to be friends with Sudan and telling it to stop persecuting its own citizens. I'm trying to help the part of the Ummah stuck in Darfur by saying, "Boycott the Khartoum regime". But perhaps, you see it differently. To you, your way, to me, mine.

"The secularist contention of 'Ummah doesnt exists' means that BD shouldnt be part of the OIC" - that read to me as equivalence between "Ummah" and OIC member states.

"Of course we dont have leaders of ummahtic importance like mahathir, habibie, erbakan or erdogan" - depends on how you measure "ummahtic importance", doesn't it? I'd say Mujib and Zia were fine specimens, better in some ways than those you named. Seriously re-examine this issue in the light of the middle-east-centricism of what constitutes "ummahtic importance". And I know where Mahatir is from.

Why do I keep bringing up '71? Because you keep implying that we should cooperate with a regime simply because it is run by Muslims. That is exactly why ignorant Muslim-majority states did not support us in '71. Instead of supporting Muslim people, you end up supporting despotic regimes.

The similarities with '71 are this: the warring parties are different ethnicities and share a similar religion. Racialisation is not a lark, but a fact.

GoB is most likely after their oil. That's the only thing it has used the OIC for. Ask anyone who has studied Zia's regime carefully.

Over and out!:)

Fugstar said...

village imam i spoke to today, was as bemosed by khatmenuwabat activities as everyone else was, i didnt have the heart to ask about darfur, as he has bigger more local problems on his plate.

I'm not ;for; nasty regimes. what I am for is closer muslim to muslim ties. i think its one of those religious things. I dont need to show my solidarity with liberal boycottspeak. I have my own way and it doesnt lend itself to commodification and frenzied indignation.

I brought isreal up because of the UN's role in its establishment, not because of HR, which you always end up bringing any discussion to. You misread where the finger was pointing, it was at the UN, not israel!

What constitutes ummahtic importance in your idea of the scheme of things amongst the beleivers is not the understanding that i operate under. Geography and history have it that we feed from different information trees! Where I am from we dont weight the ummah by its oil exports.

I dont think boycotting behaviour is befitting for muslim to muslim relations. It amplifies bad blood and its cheap. IT should be one of the last resorts.

Practically what effect would boycotting sudan have? would anyone notice?

anyway, rereading your article i see that the embassy thing is probably only just a talking point anyway. I found the issue very telling.

OIC is middle east centric, but can be made better by the others standing up. the D8 was less ME centric but kinda flopped when erbakan was taken out in a military coup.

Btw what would you have liked to have seen from the OIC during the war(given that is was a baby then)? How much of this is a direct consequence of the awami leagues ideological 'taste' and PR strategy at the time?

asif said...

I'm only too happy to hear about the imam. This has little relationship with the topic on hand though, perhaps more to do with our conversation regarding the Indian diplomat's speech. Unlike many I can name, I don't have a habit of demonising religious people.

Look, my sentence up there about local imams not talking about Darfur still stands. I've never heard one. On the other hand, I've heard loads (LOADS) about Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine. True, he has "local" problems to deal with. Remind any imam of that next time they bring up any of those four places I mentioned up there. I personally wouldn't: because Islam is transnational, not local.

I SERIOUSLY have no idea what role the UN played in Israel that it did not also play in Indo-Pak foration. Enlighten me. On the role of "boycotting" in terms of "muslim to muslim" relations, do you support the lifting of the Bangladeshi and Arab diplomatic ban on Israel, given that a Muslim minority exists in that country?

What the OIC could have done differently? Nothing really. What other Muslim majority countries could have done differently? RECOGNISE OUR PAIN AS MUSLIMS! To this day, they do not. Yet, ask the average Muslim person on the streets from Jeddah to Djakarta, they know about Partition, the Nakba etc. etc. I'll elaborate on my Islamism post when I end up writing it.

Why I keep bringing up HR? Simply because as a good Muslim, I believe that it is my duty to see that people are not oppressed. If I use a vocabulary that is not historically associated with Muslims, does that make me any the less Muslim? Don't answer that: we both know that was purely rhetorical.

History, geography and a host of other factors ensure that we feed off different information trees. Now whose tree is more valid than anyone else's? And if you truly believe that I am simply a slave of my geography, history, class, gender, religion etc. etc. why even bother talking to me and trying to convince me?:)