When Freedom Emerges through Individuals~
by Rupam Dhrubo
I was born alone, and thus will I die. Am I a Muslim, or a Bengali, or a member of proletariat? These are what others shape me into. But the identity that exists before all these constructs is my own self. The individual me.
What is fascism? When a person follows an ideal in his own life, he becomes an idealist. But whenever he starts to impose his ideal on other’s life, whatever ideal that might be, he becomes a fascist. Fascism is anything but individualism. It does not tell individuals to follow their own path. It never promotes self determination of individuals. It is a form of collectivism; it forces individuals to align with the interests of a sacred collective. Fascism teaches that it is not you who is in charge of yourself. Your path of life is not chosen by you. The decision given by the Collective or their sacred text is your fate. In fascism, the Individual is not the owner of his own self, it is the Collective that ultimately enjoys that prerogative.
Self determination of individuals tells that the ultimate decider of your own ideal is you. You alone are in charge of your life as long as you do not tread on the way of others. Before submitting to any ideal, religion, or nation, it tells you to submit first to yourself. It is against all possible kinds of fascism. In self determination, only you are the owner of yourself. In self determination, the Self comes first, before nations, religions, ideals and all else.
The worst kind of religious injustice occurs when it is sponsored by the State. And that is a loss for the religion itself. The State is an agency of violence; worse, it is the only agency that assumes monopoly on violence. Violence destroys. It even destroys its initiator. Monopoly violence does so without restraints. Thus, whichever ideal resorts to this agency will incur a substantial loss to itself. In order to free religion, it should first set itself free from the State.
Ideals cannot be destroyed. Islam will not vanish either. At best, we can only seek its salvation. The salvation of Islam may come from its diversification and growth in various directions. There is no such thing as a single canonical form of Islam. One must agree that Islam exists in various forms. And it may take different new forms, too. Among all these variations, let the individuals decide themselves which form they like.
While the antagonism against Islam is uniting the Muslims into a blind group of aggressors, diverse growth of Islam will make them self conscious. Muslims will realize that everyone essentially follows a different Islam. There exists no single canonical form of it. Each Muslim is entitled to follow his own interpretation. Therefore, there is no point in uniting them based on one common faith. It can rather be a potential wrongdoing to impose a particular form of faith on others. Instead of relying on an Islam imposed by others, an enlightened Muslim will seek his own interpretation of it. The Muslim will thus become free by emerging as an individual. This salvation of Muslims is what makes up the salvation of Islam.
Farhad Mazhar is going to unleash an unseen power of political Islam. It is an Islam with faceless collective of Muslims who disregard individual’s person and property in favor of romantic collectivist ideals. But it is not political banning that will do the trick of thwarting his efforts; it never does. Farhad Mazhar’s exploitation of Islam will be thwarted effectively when his Islam will appear petty among many other Islams. In a society of free, individual Muslims with their numerous interpretations of Islam, Farhad Mazhar will not be able to unite them in the name of any ‘One Islam’. Hence, Islam can be saved from his exploitation through its diverse growth. But if you ban Islam from politics, given that it is possible at all, a sincere powerful thinker such as Farhad Mazhar will still be able to organize and unite secretly. The other forms of Islam that could have tackled his Islam will be thwarted by the ban, instead.
Banning seldom works. Banning only empowers the outcast ideal. You might manage to ban JSD (‘Jashod’). But you cannot ban socialism. On the contrary, it will inevitably unite the socialists. Forbidden ideas cannot grow freely. So it potentially remains in one form, and tend to conglomerate and unite. If you ban all the socialist parties in Bangladesh today, it will unite all of our ever-divided leftists and socialists at once, and the second largest political party in our country will be a communist party. Due to massive popular support, it will soon become a legal existence. It is precisely because socialist parties in Bangladesh are legal that zillions of socialist parties and ideals exist in our country, where one is tackled by the others. The desired balance of ideas emerges from their freedom, not from forbidding them.
The salvation of Bengali nationalism will also come from its diversity. We need different Bengali nationalist ideals and parties for this to happen. And the best way to preserve the essence of Bengali nationalism, whatever it stands for, is by protecting it from state sponsorship. As long as the State can control and dictate the nationalist spirit of its people, the only Bengali nationalist party will remain to be Awami League. AL will continue to thwart every other kind of Bengali nationalism by imposing its own through the power of the State. It would be a great loss for Bengali nationalism and eventually for AL itself.
Let us make Islam, socialism and Bengali nationalism free by making their followers, each individual, free.