Crisis in Young Muslim Mind Bangladesh Perspective -Mahfuz Molla


Young Muslims are in deep crisis all over the world. But there is less discussion and debate on the issues of youth. Traditional Ulemas, who have more social engagement and influence than general educated Muslim activists trying to revive the Islamic spirit, are failing to diagnose the problems of youth of this age. Young Muslims of this time are passing through crisis in their mind. They are in need of something which is not provided in valid ways, they are eager to share their woes and agonies but there is none, they are avid to be heard but they are being ignored, they are facing serious ideological and cultural aggression when there is no counter activities, they are waiting for salvation from labyrinth of this materialistic life and its worst effects over their life style but there is none for showing the right path.
Bangladesh is the third-largest Muslim-majority country (90.4% of population), which has fourth-largest Muslim population in the world (158.6 million). According to UNFPEA, 47.6 million or 30 percent of the total 158.5 million people in Bangladesh are young (10-24 years) and if the 90.4% people are Muslims, then approximately 43 million young people are young Muslims in Bangladesh. Since Bangladesh has demographic dividend which will be sustained for coming two or three decades, there are possibilities of rising of youth population and their role of nation building in coming decades although this 30% youth population will be decreased to 10 to 19 percent by 2050. So, this huge young Muslim population’s crisis in their mind should be analyzed and their opinions should be heard. In Bangladesh, crisis in young Muslim mind are very complicated and disastrous. There are many factors which we have to shed light on. After polashy tragedy, Bengali Muslims experienced with British rule in this region which was assisted by elite Hindus of Bengal. The prominence of Muslim culture and administration system was destroyed gradually. In new situation, Hindu elites took the opportunity in new zamindari and administration system when Bengali Muslims were lagged behind for their resistance against British rule and some socio-political events.
Although, there were some initiatives taken by Muslim leaders and thinkers to cope up with British rule for the benefit of oppressed Muslim community after 1857 independence movement failure. But it was after the bongo-vongo (1905) for administrative benefit of British, opposition and militant activities of elite and communal Hindus, withdrawal of bongo-vongo (1911) and as a compensation of the loss of east Bengali Muslims, the establishment of Dhaka University – the Muslim middle class arises. In that new age, Bengali Muslim youth got the opportunity of modern education at large scale. Before Dhaka University, Bengali Muslim’s participation in secondary and higher studies was very poor in number. They were mostly enrolled in madrasah education system and most of them were from rich families. So, the education of Muslim youth of that time was not accessed by many Muslim youth and the rising of middle class was belated.
After establishment of Dhaka University, Muslim youth confronted with modern education system and many challenges brought with that system. They considered the then interpretation of Islam as the root cause of lagging behind of Bengali Muslims. So, some of them trapped into the liberal interpretation of Islam and others tried to cope with new challenges with abiding Islamic principles. Some Muslim newspapers took secularist approach to interpret Islam and then political events but there were also some Muslim newspapers which propagated ummatic vision among Muslims. Then Pakistan movement took place and Bengali Muslim youth participated in this movement with their heart and soul. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was one of them. Muslim nationalism reached at its highest echelon. Bengali Muslim students and youth went every nook and corner of Bengal to get support for Pakistan movement. But the ideal of Islam and Muslim nationalism began to wipe out from Bengali Muslim’s mind as they were being oppressed from Pakistani rulers in the name of Islam and national integration. The idea of Bengali Nationalism as ideology began to take place of Muslim nationalism although Bengali Muslims were pious with their Bengali identity. But they were not considered good Muslim by Pakistani Muslim elites and not also as Bengali as depicted by shratchandra. Bengali nationalism rises when the attack on Bengali language was started by Pakistani rulers and elites. Language based Bengali nationalism spread out through east Bengal. There was another ideological wave. Communism as a counter ideology of Islam was growing in this region and most significantly it was Hindu-led. Bengali Muslim youth were not interested in communism as communists were anti-Pakistani and sometime against Muslim peasant’s right. But after independence from British, Bengali Muslim youth indulged in communist movement as they were culturally and politically discriminated and oppressed. And communists raised their voice against oppression as their century old political tool. Bengali Muslim youth were bewildered in that situation. Now, Muslim dream broke down and new ideological waves such as feminism along with aforementioned two ideologies challenged their beliefs and Islamic ideology.  But there was less response from ulemas and Muslim leaders. Most of the influential young Muslim organizations and their leaders in East Pakistan were influenced by these ideologies
Through many significant events Bengali nationalisms become the sole ideology of most of youth although others youth were communists. In 1971, Bangladesh got independence from Pakistan and new crisis began to spread over young Muslims mind. Bangladesh adopted four fundamental principles of constitution which were nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism. The last two were sheer opposition to Islamic ideology. Young Muslims who wanted to retain their Islamic ideology were in deep trouble.  Many Ulemas supported the integration of Pakistan as Islamic state although a particular portion of ulemas supported the independence of Bangladesh. So, a significant number of young Muslims in Bangladesh faced with problems of identity crisis.  Intellectuals at that time wanted to wipe out Islam and Muslim identity from young Muslim’s mind. They introduced secular education and professed Bengali nationalism and secularism as young Muslim’s ideology. They have established intellectual aristocracy on history and culture of Bangladesh. There was also another challenge of Indian cultural hegemony towards Bengali Muslim youth. The challenges have not reduced to any significant extent, instead the challenges are growing and crisis in young Muslim mind are being worsened.
After independence of Bangladesh, there were many changes in government and politics. Bangladeshi Muslim youth tried to get rid of ideological challenges but new challenges of corporate culture, materialistic life style of middle class Muslim and globalization made them hesitate and skeptical. Ulemas and Islamic communities revived their spirit after a decade and they have tried to build Bangladesh as an Islamic country. They got significant response from young Muslims but the tragedy was their differences on pretty matters. So, Ideological strife and conflicting situation among Muslim communities and their leaders made young Muslims disappoint and dishearten. Many new Islamic ideological waves as Salafism, khilafat-centric extremism also worsened the situation. Fake Muslim saints and their growing communities also hindered the true vision of Islamic society by being puppet of secularist political parties.  These fractions of Islamic communities baffled young Muslim and breed extremism in opinion or reluctance to Islamic ideology. For century long colonialism and its influence over administration, education and culture, Muslim youth suffered inferiority complex for absence of Islamic law and education system and their inability to produce new knowledge in colonial system.
In 21th century, young Muslims in Bangladesh are facing the challenges of globalization, extremism and cultural aggression when there is no preventive measure or alternatives proposed by ulemas or Islamic leaders. They can’t keep face with globalization and its harmful elements and they can’t tackle the cultural aggression and harmful contents for character. In this globalized era, they are also experiencing misconception and fake allegations against Islam in internet when they aren’t getting contents answering these misconceptions. Many Muslim youth are now facing the threat of agonism and atheism. The ‘War on terror’ project and its practices in Bangladesh made culture of fear among young Muslims. They can’t share Islamic contents, can’t express their thought in public sphere and they are being confined to materialistic and corporate culture. Muslim girls are also facing challenges breeding crisis in their mind as same as Muslim youth are facing. But they are facing most threatening feminism craze and women right campaigns. Although Islam gave women’s right, these campaigns should be critically analyzed and criticized. Muslim girl’s dilemma in higher education and social leadership should be critically assessed by Islamic scholars and their rights based activities should be started. Their voice need to be heard and their changing mind should be read. Young muslims in bangladesh are going through many crisis in their mind which should be analyzed with compassion and love. Ideological vacuum in socio-political debate, Lack of preaching, sexual and marital problems and other factors giving rise to crisis in young mind shouldn’t be overlooked. n
The writer is an undergraduate student of the University of Dhaka.

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