Toward a Marxists-Muslims Dialogue

[Draft: January 2000;
it was prepared for an informal discourse on an online discussion forum, Shetubondhon]


Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
Professor of Economics and Finance
Upper Iowa University

I. Introduction
II. Mutual disrespect and distrust
III. Marxists are atheists. That's that!
IV. From our past experience
V. Conclusion

 

I. Introduction

Secularism has been one of the pillars of Mujibbad [Mujibism, after the name of Sheikh Mujib, the leader of the independence struggle of Bangladesh] and part of the first constitution of Bangladesh. While the country has moved away from the secular clause, the underlying tension in the society remains intact. The implications are far-reaching.

Most importantly, there are those who, quite erroneously, oppose secularism in a blanket fashion. In contrast, there are many among those who, in defense of secularism, seem not to know or respect any limit as "secular fundamentalists.". Thus, better understanding of this issue is important, especially if we want to have or identify some relevant talking points in regard to secularism.

It is erroneous to think that this "secular fundamentalism" characterization of Turkish government's policy is merely an attack on secularism. Moreover, it is quite interesting that the same people who are boisterous defenders of the "right" of Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin, who most callously insult others' faith, especially for the sake of money and recognition, and who find some of the regimes with terrible human rights problems, such as Afghanistan, utterly unacceptable and loathsome (somewhat justifiably), but do not seem to have any problem with the Turkish policy of interference with hijab, barring a parliament member to take seat in the parliament and other concomitant issues, because being a parliament member, supposedly, is not a right, but a privilege, and therefore, anyone who wants to be a parliament member needs to respect and adhere to the rules set by the institution. A captious, "right vs. privilege" distinction takes care of ALL THAT!

This "privilege" thing seems to be rather peculiar - really and almost uniquely peculiar - approach to this whole thing. Indeed, some of the other fellow "secular humanists" not only do not agree with such "privilege" approach to rationalize the Turkish Secular Fundamentalism, but some even have gone to the extent of calling Turkey's type of approach as "not far from fascism".

When we had the discussion on this topic on another forum, I made a plea for a "principled" approach. [Re: Anti-secular? Anti-Christian? Anti-Semitic?; http://www.egroups.com/message/eshomabesh/817 ]

Reciprocating my call for a "principled" approach that treats extremism (anything as such for that matter)  consistently and fairly, there were voices of conscience, reason, and fairness, among secular humanists friends. 

Lest some of us, who used to participate together on another forum, have forgotten and others who might not had the "privilege" of benefiting from that earlier discussion, I produce below the comment of Dr. Shaikh Mizanur Rahman, an avowed secular humanist:

"For example, my conclusion by 'secular humanistic' thinking  about the right of a Muslim parliamentarian in Turkey or school girls in France to cover their heads on religious grounds is different from that of Mr. Masudur Rahman (4 Nov 1999).  I do not disagree with Mr. Masud that entering into a school or parliament is a privilege.  However, that privilege was EARNED by taking the relevant admission test or winning the election.  After that entering into the school or the parliament is a right.  Wearing clothes according to one's wish within the range of decency, particularly for religious reasons, is not a privilege, it is a right.  It is the basic human right of practicing one's religious belief.  It is a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT in USA and in many other countries of the world.

I remember, regarding the expulsion of the Muslim girls from the French school for wearing headcovers, one French leader (or judge I guess) said that it was needed to prevent "cultural pollution" of France.  Well, to me that was one of the most ridiculous example of western "tolerance and liberalism", and was not really far from fascism." [emphases are Dr. Rahman's] http://www.egroups.com/message/eshomabesh/912


II. Mutual Disrespect and Distrust

Let me acknowledge right here that at the level of ideology there are some irreducible, fundamental differences between Marxism and Islam. Therefore, let us not be facetious by simply trying to gloss over all the differences as if there is not any. Indeed, in some contexts, Muslims do need to remind themselves and others of those differences. One should also understand that at certain such level, Marxists may also understandably remind themselves of those differences.

My purpose is, however, to look at the nature of the differences, explore how do we deal with those differences, and seek to find common grounds as a basis of reducing such differences, wherever possible. In a difference-emphasizing model or approach, one starts with the differences, keeps finding differences, and then magnify those as well as find more and more differences. In a common-ground-seeking approach, which I value, one starts not with the differences (even if there might be some irreducible ones), but with what might be common. One might not need sophisticated rationale from either side to make the case that according to neither Islam nor Marxism, differences, where they can be reduced, would still be valued, sought and defended like treasures.

The current state of affairs is such that there is virtually no mutual trust or respect between the adherents of Islam and Marxism. As I like to put it, Muslims view the Marxists as condemned to Hell, and the Marxists don't mind at all to "condemn" the Muslims to Heaven! But it is more than just condemnation. In many societies the differences have compounded to conflicts, sometime bloody and quite ugly. Let's take a closer look from the vantage point of each side with the hope to identify some common grounds in the process.

    i. To be Marxists is to be anti-religion (anti-opium)?

The fact that Communism has a political-economic system that has basically been abandoned since the collapse of the former Soviet Union should not fool us to think that the underlying conviction about the Marxist philosophy has weakened. This is because Marxism is more than a political-economic system or ideology. Secularism, humanism, materialism etc. are at the core of Marxism, and abandoning those should not be expected to be automatic with abandonment of the political-economic aspects of Marxism. The influence of Marxism has been deep in our societies and continues to be so in different forms.

Many of us, while we were lot younger, used to be fond of everything "red." I remember that my own bookshelf, when I was in college years in Bangladesh, was dominated by red color. There were, at least, three reasons. First, the market/society was inundated with colorful, glossy, inexpensive material from the former Soviet Union and China. Much of those literature was also available free (just for asking from the right - I mean, left - sources). Just try to remember the cost difference between Time or Readers Digest on one hand, and Udayan or similar magazines on the other. Second, those "red" literatures were intellectually more challenging, satisfying and sophisticated than Namaz Shikhkha [Prayer lessons], Qasasul Ambiya [Tales of the Prophets], Maqsudul Mumineen [The Aspirations of the Believers, which used to be common to almost every Muslim home in Bangladesh]. Of course, for the less sophisticated, there were "Chhotoder Arthoniti" [Economics for the Young]-type books from the other side of the border. But one could proudly show off on his or her shelf, and at least, appear intellectually superior, if one had The Communist Manifesto or the likes. You were already in (intellectual) "heaven," if you had Theories of Surplus Value or Das Capital. Of course, Marxists don't believe in any such thing.- [Confession: I also had those last two sets in my meager collection. I have a PhD now in economics, but those are still as jaw-breaking to me as they were during my college years.]

Third, there was probably a deeper and more serious reason for being attracted to the left (even though when we used to march, it was not left-left, but left-right, somehow ending up on the "left" side - like, left-right-left) - that's the powerful and sophisticated humanistic message and orientation of Marxism. It wasn't too difficult for anyone to see why there was - and still is - a great deal of validity to equate religion with opium, as people are often exploited in the name of someone higher above.

Religion as many of us saw - and many still continue to see - as the defender of the status quo and tradition. It is often against change, while peacefully co-existing or ardently defending the deep-rooted and widespread injustice and exploitation in society. During the past century, Marxism (or generally, leftist ideology) was at the forefront of the voices for change and justice - and against rotten traditions and injustice/exploitation. Even within the context of Islamic history, one can't but avoid the fact that the religion itself has been (ab)used by the ruling and the powerful for narrow group/individual interest. And, then religion itself has been used to keep the Muslim mass from rising against the wrongs and injustices, notwithstanding the fact that there were also contrary examples and cases in the Muslim world in recent centuries in its struggle against colonialism..

Anyway, seeing the opium-like role of Islam during a good part of historical time-table, many socially conscious people were unavoidably and somewhat justifiably attracted to Marxism. Even many Muslim icons of the last century were originally inspired a great deal by Marxist ideas (or, more appropriately, ethos). Although examples abound, one can't help but mention names such as Dr. Ali Shariati of Iran. He is regarded by many as the primary figure contributing toward the awakening of the intellectually-oriented segment of the pre-revolution Iranian society. He left an indelible mark on the modern-educated segment of the society - detaching them from Marxism and attaching to Islam as ideology. One does not have to agree with either Islam or the present Iran (and not necessarily, Islam and the present Iran are adequately convergent), but not to try to understand and appreciate the MASS movement that propelled the Iranian society toward the turbulent path of revolution is to miss the underpinnings of one of the most important mass revolutions in modern history.

This story in reference to Dr. Ali Shariati is particularly relevant in a Marxists-Muslims dialog because the regime and the system under Shah of Iran fell due to struggle that originally brought Islamic and Marxist forces together as one united front. [Note: The outcome of the revolution as crystallized in the contemporary Iran is a different story. I am emphasizing the nature and characteristics of the mass movement behind the revolution.]

Whatever happened in Iran (once again, discussion of post-revolution Iran is a separate issue) is a clear indication that Islam did not play a role of "opium" in Iran. Rather, it LED the process of change and galvanized the mass against the capitalist-autocratic-monarchic rule of the Shah.

This reminds me a story that most of you already know in one form or another. An orphaned baby tiger was left by its dead mother tiger. The baby was picked up by a herd of sheep, which for reasons of safety, wanted to rear the baby as a sheep, rather than as a tiger. So the tiger grew up learning to do "ba ba", instead of its natural "roar." The sheep thought that they could simply keep the tiger as one of them by taming as a sheep. Most of you know that story:  a tiger is a tiger, though it can be tamed, at least for some time as a sheep. But that does not make it a sheep.

That Islam has been turned into a tool for the defense of otherwise unislamic status quo does not mean that it is really a tool of the status quo - it's only until people, the mass, realize that their role is just the opposite, then one can see a completely different result. Even politically-passive religions, such as Christianity, found powerful anti-establishment expression in new ideological hybrids, such as Liberation Theology.

Aronowitz writes: "The rise of the Catholic and Protestant left defies time-honored images and conceptions of religion among Marxists. Although Marx himself comprehended religion as the sigh of the oppressed, Marxism has focused almost exclusively on its institutional manifestation, finding - often correctly - that organized religion was allied to established regimes, a faithful retainer of the status quo. In consequence, and with few exceptions, Marxism has been unable to grapple with the new currents within the world's religions without the handy tool of class analysis. Thus, on the whole, Marxism remains uncomprehending of Islam, of new currents in Catholic doctrine and of the partial eclipse of political conservatism among world protestants. ...

[from various contemporary events] We have learnt that Islam means to exercise power on a global scale and that religious ideas are not merely superstructural phenomenon. ... Modernists seem completely baffled by the resurgence  of theocratic politics because they have accepted the evolutionist proposition according to which secularization is an inevitable victor in the war against superstition, that science and technology constitute a value system antithetical to Deism. Clearly, these hasty modernist conclusions have proven to be seriously flawed." [p. 31]

Although Aronowitz's observations are noteworthy, there is a fundamental lapse in Marx-Engel's thought and contribution that is not often recognized, as is the case with Aronowitz. It is interesting to note that non-Muslims (not with any Islamic-Muslim connection in terms of affiliation or funds whatsoever) in ranking the most influential people in human history finds that at the top of top 100 Most Influential Men in History is Muhammad. (Note: The ranking is not without controversy; also it does not prove a particular ranking one way or another. I am trying to make a different point in this context.)

Whether a particular ranking places Muhammad at the top of such ranking or in the top ten, top fifty or in top one-hundred, one would hardly give any credibility to such work, where Muhammad does not appear at all. Interestingly, Marx-Engels both have been quite thorough in terms of sifting through the vast canvas of human history to formulate the formidable edifice of  their theory and analysis. Most painstakingly, they have studied human history where Judaism and Christianity have not escaped their radar. However, for whatever reason, in the entire works of Marx, there is ABSOLUTELY NO reference whatsoever to Islam, Muhammad or the impact they had on history or the society/ideology that emerged in that line.

From my personal reading of Marx, I was aware of the complete absence of Islam and/or Muhammad from their works. Recently, discovering the vast and most comprehensive online Marxist Archive containing almost all the major and pertinent works of Marx (and Engels), I decided to contact the archive-director about this matter. My earlier impression was once again confirmed, as I received the response from the archives CD-Rom project director (1/16/2000): "Dr. Farooq, Unfortunately, I 've not been able to find any other references of even minor interest in the works of Marx and Engels that are transcribed for the MIA." Actually, in their entire works, there is absolutely nothing about Islam/Muhammad as far as Marx is concerned. In the works of Engels, there is ONE footnote in which there is a mention about the Mohammedans, after reading which, one can conclude for himself whether that really reflects any meaningful knowledge or understanding about Islam or not. The footnote (#1) occurs in Engels'  "On the history of early Christianity" (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894chri/index.htm). (Note: Any information to the contrary is most welcome as the purpose of this writing is education and dialog.)

What might explain the absence of any reference to Islam/Muhammad in the works of Marx and virtual absence in the works of Engels? That has to constitute a separate work. However, there  are at least three plausible reasons. First, Marx-Engels did not know anything about  Islam/Muhammad. Second, they did not know substantively enough to make any reference. Third, they knew but found it to be irrelevant to their works. Fourthly, they knew and knew well but could not integrate into their schema of "dialectical-historical materialism" that unfolds through the process of "class struggle." Take your pick! But, a better understanding of the pertinent issues and problems might be particularly revolving around the fourth option.

That Islam is a force, indeed powerful force, for change, justice, and non-dominance of any particular class or race, and that it is for a constitutional, accountable, and participatory system of governance, might be the starting point to develop a better understanding from the Marxists side about the pertinent issues in regard to Islam. If injustice and exploitation are among the foremost concerns of Marxism, then there should be a mutual respect and understanding between Marxists and Muslims, even though they may fundamentally differ about various metaphysical aspects of their respective ideologies.

Incidentally, one of the most freedom-loving, valiant, change-seeking, rebellious icon known to all of us as the REBEL poet is Kazi Nazrul Islam. Whatever others think about the source/inspiration of that Rebel's rebellion, has anyone taken an interest to learn about the Rebel's own perspective on this? While people have written thesis, dissertations, and treatises on the Rebel of the poem "Rebel", whose explanation should be more relevant here than the Rebel himself? If interested, please read my article "Toward Understanding Nazrul: The Rebel and more" at http://www.globalwebpost.com/nazrul/works_on_naz/articles/farooq_rebel.htm .

III. Marxists are atheists. That's that!

Whether the Marxists have any interest or reason to seek common ground, wherever possible, reduce the differences to a minimum, and attempt to foster mutual respect and trust, it is for them to determine and decide. As a Muslim I do see value in and need for such bridge-building. Of course, I feel more comfortable to articulate the relevant perspective from the Islamic side.

Although I can't claim any authoritativeness in regard to my articulation of Islam, whatever I present here, I do so conscientiously what I personally believe to be a proper articulation in light of the understanding of Islam based on the Qur'an and Sunnah. Those of you who have read my other works, including and in particular, "Fundamental Challenges Facing the Muslims: A Concept Paper" and "Key Qur'anic Verses" might find the articulation here easier to follow.

The attitude of most Muslims toward Marxism is fairly simple and straight-forward. Since Marxism represents one of the most powerful and sophisticated challenges to religion in general and Islam in particular, and given its decisively atheistic and secularistic stance, there can be only one way to characterize the relationship between Marxists and Muslims: adversarial and antagonistic. Indeed, the more religious Muslims seem to be, the more vehement is their attitude against Marxism.

This is where I find the position of most Muslims difficult to understand. In some respect they are not much different than their Marxist counterparts. Just like the Marxist would summarily dismiss religion in general, and Islam in particular, in intellectual arrogance, so would the Muslims speak and write about Marxism in disrespectful manner of "spiritual arrogance" - without any motivation or desire to seek common grounds.

If Muslims believe that Islam is categorically and decisively against any kind of injustice, oppression, or exploitation, then that should be a valuable starting point for establishing common grounds. Let me also make it clear that according to Islam, "who believes in what" is a fundamental human freedom to choose. I may not agree with others' choice, and I might feel bad or sad about it, but that's all. Whether a person believes in any particular religion (Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism) or ideology/philosophy (Marxism, atheism, agnosticism, existentialism, secular humanism etc.), that is a right of that individual. We MUST respect not necessarily the choice, but the RIGHT/FREEDOM to choose. This is a fundamental Islamic creed, which before anyone else, Muslims must recognize, understand, and appreciate adequately. "Let there be no compulsion in religion; Truth stands out clear from Error; ..." [al-Qur'an/2/al-Baqarah/256]]

Furthermore, differences in creed/faith/ideology does/should/must not automatically lead to antagonism or adversarial relationship. There is only one basis in Islam for antagonism toward others. ["... Let there be NO HOSTILITY except against those who practice oppression." [al-Qur'an/2/al-Baqara/193]] Thus, just because someone is an atheist, agnostic, or communist does not automatically become adversary of me as a Muslim. Others should recognize and respect my right to choose and I should do the same for others. That leaves the wide-open door for mutual respect, understanding and even cooperation in good, positive common causes to make this world a little bit better.

But I would like to urge others to come forward even further. As far as the fundamental stance of Marx and the Marxists against injustice, exploitation and oppression, Muslims should  naturally feel harmony with them on this account - without ignoring those irreducible differences. Had we done so, then our mutual relationship would have been different, and our societies would have been served better. One can't be sure that such attitude of Muslims to seek common ground would be reciprocated by their Marxist counterparts, but both pragmatism as well as (and more importantly) Islamic teachings suggest that Muslims should take the lead in this regard. The fact of the matter is that in many cases they have.

In an earlier posting on Shetubondhon "Young Marx's thoughts on choice and profession" (1/13/2000), I mentioned that "At least in one respect I had high respect for Marx since I was young..." That had to do with the fact that regardless of his theories and analyses, I always had a soft corner for those with humanistic perspective, those who cared about others, those who were voices against injustice, oppression, and exploitation. Of course, Marx definitely was among those.

Indeed, most socially-conscious people, including among Muslims, can't but feel a sense of harmony with Marx on this account (once again, regardless of some of the irreducible differences). Indeed, there are respectable voices from within Muslims and the domain of Bangla language who have done so quite effectively and eloquently.

The rebel one, Kazi Nazrul Islam, was not a Marxist nor did he believe in any other specific ideology (and one should not confuse his Shammyobad with Communism) had this to say in regard to Marx in one of his writings: "... Does he not know that hardly any labor of any country would understand Das Capital of Karl Marx. Those who would read and understand such works would not be farmers/labors, rather people like Lenin or Lansbury (spelling?). Even if the labor class in general does not understand, THE THEORIES OF KARL MARX HAVE DONE GOOD, CONTINUES TO DO SO AND WILL DO IN FUTURE. HIS IDEOLOGY HAS BRED A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT WANT TO TRANSFORM THE WHOLE WORLD." (http://www.globalwebpost.com/nazrul/nazrul_works/articles/muzaffar.htm) Indeed, this is the spirit with which positive aspects of anyone or anything should be duly recognized.

Another profound statement in recognition of the Marx's positive contribution was lost in the overall assessment by Allamah Muhammad Iqbal in his Javed Namah, in Persian, where he wrote (this has been forwarded by someone who maintains a site on Iqbal):

"... The founder of socialism was a descendant of Prophet Abraham
He was a Prophet without inspiration from angel Gabriel.

Because in this book the truth and the falsehood have been merged
It can be said that he was a MUMIN AT HEART and an atheist in the mind...."

This is a part that touches me particularly. While Iqbal states the fact that Marx was an atheist - and who doesn't know that - he makes a statement that is worthy of our attention. Marx is MUMIN AT HEART. A Mumin's heart is a caring heart; it is agonized over the suffering of others; it also wants to do something about it. That he was an atheist is a difference between us; but what  should prevent us, the Muslims, to recognize someone who is MUMIN AT HEART and offer him and those inspired by him the due to respect and cordiality for the HEART CONNECTION?
 
Well, as we are discussing the Topic of the Month (Reducing intolerance ...) on Shetubondhon, a forum dedicated to the mission of bridge-building, I do find a bridge between my heart as a  Muslim and the heart of Marx, an atheist. The point again is simply this: Should the Muslims hesitate to offer the respect to those who mirror the feelings of those who are believers in heart, or
should they simply alienate them who are atheists? The same goes for the Marxists: That Muslims respect them as the fellow MUMIN AT HEART (with full awareness that there is an irreducible difference on the basis of theism and atheism), do they - should they - find some reason to seek and strengthen the common grounds with Muslims?

That our hearts feel and empathize with the agony and suffering of those who are victims of injustice, oppression, and exploitation is a very powerful bond that needs to nourished. I can't speak for others, but that's my understanding as a Muslim and a human being.


IV. From our past experience

I have a personal story to share. In 1979, while a student of the University of Dhaka, I was a participant in the National TV Debate Championship as a part of the Salimullah Muslim Hall. It just happened that the team to represent S.M. Hall that was selected through a competitive process consisted of a rather interesting combination of individuals. There was one who was ideologically nonentity, myself from an Islamic background, and the team leader, a central leader of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, the student wing of Bangladesh Communist Party (currently, a faculty with the Department of Economics at the University of Dhaka).

As we began to prepare for our first scheduled event, soon it was apparent that our team leader was bringing in his ideological framework explicitly into the debate presentation itself. This also provoked me to bring in my ideological leaning into debate, causing us to struggle for synergy and coherence that is so essential for a TEAM. After a few futile attempts I suggested to the team, and particularly the team leader, that this debate competition is not and should not be treated as a part of an ideological battleground. Therefore, instead of trying to analyze every thing from our "own" ideological background, let's examine the topic and explore what might be an "winning" approach or line of argument.

With some hesitation, ultimately we were a TEAM. focused not on trying to use arguments based on our "superior" ideology, but on arguments that might be superior in that particular context. Guess what? It worked. The S.M. Hall won the national championship that year. For me it was more than winning the competition; it left a lasting impression on my mind regarding the "winning" approach. Too often we use our ideological/religious background ineffectively, inefficiently or inappropriately where neither the ideology/religion nor the adherents/faithfuls are positively served. Streamlining our culture, away from our focus on differences to commonalities, provides the valuable foundation for positive dynamics. [Note: Seeking common ground does not mean eliminating all the differences, as that would neither be natural nor practical. Certain differences as well certain amount of differences are ESSENTIAL to our positive dynamics.]

Since then I have tried (not necessarily always succeeded) to emphasize common grounds (at least as the starting point) than the differences. Remember cooperation, synergy, teamwork, etc. has more to do with common ground. Respect, tolerance, fellow-feeling etc. also goes more with common grounds. Once we start from differences and tend to emphasize differences, then all differences can be elevated to an IRREDUCIBLE level. Once we take that route, there won't be anything common between me and everyone else.

Am I talking about something utopian? No. First, as a Muslim this should be the modus operandi of Muslims. Just look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s) the way he saved the Arab tribes from beginning another internecine war on the issue of who would reposition the Hajre Aswad, the Black Stone in Ka'ba, during its reconstruction. A little bit of care and ingenuity in bringing people together avoided an impending bloodshed.

But some might say that those are "lofty" examples of people who are considered prophets. How can we practically follow their examples? Well, let me give a more down to earth example from within the domain of our language and land. Also, this time I would like to give an example from the sides of the Marxists that there are people to whom seeking common ground was so natural.

I don't how many of you know about Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed (1989-1973). He was a well-known leftist figure of Bengal (originally from Sandeep, Bangladesh). He was one of the founders in Communist Movement in India. He was among many other Marxists who, in adherence to their ideology, did not seek to emphasize or accentuate differences.

Who was among the main founders of Bongio MUSSALMAN Shahitto Shomiti (Bengal Muslim Literary Association)? It was comrade Muzaffar Ahmad and he patronized it all along his life, even when the stewardship of the association changed that was unwilling to recognize comrade Muzaffar's initial contribution. Many a non-communists, including the Rebel one, Kazi Nazrul Islam received valuable, critical and unreserved support and patronage. Nazrul received such patronage and affection from the comrade not just when he was writing "Bidrohi" (rebel), "Shammyobadi" (egalitarian) or "Shayma Sangeet" (Shyama songs; Hindu hymns). The comrade's patronage and affection were unabated when Nazrul was writing Hamd/Naat (Islamic hymns) or Islamic poems.

It wasn't that comrade Muzaffar was a very resourceful person. But he definitely was in Iqbal's term a great Mumin-in-heart, where the suffering the less fortunate ones used to play the most melancholy tune. Many different voices came together in that chorus to serve humanity, not in conflict but in unison, whenever and wherever possible.

In one of his articles, Nazrul wrote elaborately which is at the same time a defense of the comrade as well as tribute to him.

My eyes become full of tears when I see the CEO of Gonobani, Muzaffar Ahmed. ... The condition of his body is deplorable. He is a walking symbol of protesting humanity. I swear if, seeing Muzaffar, one's dry eyes don't become wet. Such a selfless, unassuming, quiet worker, such a wonderful heart, such a saintly vision, a shining talent ... Many Muslim leaders have cashed in during this fad of communal environment, many of whom don't deserve even to be disciple at his feet; yet only Muzaffar is virtually starving to death. ... Even Tom-Dick-Harry (Budhdhu Mian) is a leader, while Muzaffar is dying from vomiting blood. Yet, I have not seen a soul to love this Bharat-borsho (Greater India), this nation, so wholeheartedly - let alone any Muslim leader, not even Hindu leaders." [You can read the full excerpt at http://www.globalfront.com/nazrul/nazrul_works/articles/muzaffar.htm].

This dedicated comrade enjoyed relationship with all others who either ideologically or heartwise were close to him. Based on the information comrade Muzaffar had, when he came to know about the hasty decision of Nazrul to get married in Comilla, he tried to dissuade Nazrul from the trap of his cunning, future father-in-law Ali Akbar Khan. Being a Marxist/Comrade was not a problem for him to write a letter to Nazrul like this:

"I have not received any letter from you recently. From the letter sent to Wajed Mian, I learnt that your wedding is set for 3rd Ashar. ... There is very little time
...
Therefore, it doesn't seem that I would be able to make it. ... However, let everything go well, I OFFER THIS PRAYER TO KHODAR DARGAHE. [I pray to God for this]" [Gupta, p. 54]

Indeed, the inspiring and selfless role he has played for the exploited working poor of our society remains exemplary for all - most Muslims as well as most Marxists of today.

I offer the above information with the hope that we always can find ways to build-bridges or to bridge gaps whenever we have desire for it. I can't say that most Muslims understand the importance of this attitude and approach in this way (even though, it definitely is rooted in the Qur'an and the Prophetic legacy), but on the other hand, the Marxists, who claim to be superior from intellectual or scientific point of view, I am afraid that I don't see them much differently in this respect either.

It is my hope and desire that a different future can be charted, if we are all willing.

V. Conclusion

As C. Wright Mills (1960) puts it: "Before the world is made safe again for American capitalism or Soviet communism or anything else, it had better be made safe for human life." [Smith, p. 86]

Human life might be the starting point for all of us to refocus. The life, property, and honor of every individual is sacrosanct. Respecting and defending each other's rights as human beings is essential for a viable and better future of all of us. [A person asked, O Prophet of God (p), whose Islam is excellent or the best (afdal)? He replied: "From whose tongue and hands the people (an-nas: irrespective of Muslims or non-Muslims) are safe." Musnad-i-Ahmad, #6762; narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr]

The problems do not lie as much in most of the religions/philosophies as in its practice/praxis. Otherwise, parallel to the unselfish and dedicated comrade Muzaffar there are so many other comrades that are just comrades by identity. Similarly, there are Muslims who are supposed to be "not a believer who fills his tummy while his/her neighbors go hungry", yet there are so many among us who are Muslims, but couldn't care less about others.

I am not sure how this message of dialog would be taken by others. I won't be surprised if a good number of Muslims find such a message unworthy of their attention; indeed, the same probably could be said about others (including Marxists) as well.

The purpose of this introductory series was not to deal with the topic exhaustively. Rather, it is merely an invitation to recognize and appreciate the issue at hand, particularly in the context of the conflict-ridden society of Bangladesh (as well as elsewhere). We need a new, reinvigorated culture that de-emphasizes differences. Whether this series makes any contribution in this regard or not, we would need to think more and even harder to address our problems.

One can just see successful businesses and their products. Just look up the time on your watch/clock, NOW, and it should remind you of the fact that the watch is working containing parts as well as workmanship drawn from a vast array of individuals, groups and even countries that do not necessarily ideologically are in unison. Just think how their coming together has made that watch - or simply watch many other things around you - possible. The same possibilities are there for Bangladesh or any other country or people. But it would REQUIRE streamlining our culture to reduce our differences to a minimum, and it would also REQUIRE that our religion or ideology does not stand in the way coming together for worth, common causes, whenever we can and we need.

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"We have a Bill of rights. What we need is a Bill of responsibilities."
~ Bill Maher ~

"The world basically and fundamentally is constituted on the basis of harmony. Everything works in co-operation with something else."
~ Preston Bradley ~

"Always try to do something for the other fellow and you will be agreeably surprised how things come your way -- how many pleasing things are done for you.     
~ Claude M. Bristol ~

Reference: 

Stanley Aronowitz, The Crisis in Historical Materialism: Class, Politics and Culture in Marxist Theory (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, 2nd ed.)

Dr. Sushilkumar Gupta, Nazrul Choritmanosh (Calcutta: Dej Publishing, 1988)

Marx-Engels Archive (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1837-pre/1835-ref.htm )

Ali Shariati, Marxism and Other Western Fallacies: An Islamic Critique
(Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1980)

Clagett Smith (ed.), Conflict Resolution: Contributions of the Behavioral Sciences (London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1971)

Robert Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader (Norton, 2nd Edition, 1978).


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Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati
Marxism Islam Muzaffar Marx Lenin Communism Socialism Common Grounds Building Bridges Iqbal Ali Shariati