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Mizanur Rahman's Exploitation of Faith: A Betrayal of the Rohingya and His Public Duty
Twisting Religious Narratives to Implement Policy - a Dangerous Precedent in Bangladesh's Civil Service
In a world grappling with the humanitarian crisis of displacement, the Rohingya refugee situation remains one of the most dire. At the heart of this struggle is Bangladesh, where the majority of these refugees have found temporary sanctuary. In this delicate landscape, Mizanur Rahman, the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), has emerged as a key figure. However, in a recent address to Rohingya refugee women, Rahman appears to have profoundly misused religious scripture to manipulate the sentiments of this beleaguered community. His cunning intertwining of migration tales from Islamic history with the current predicament of the Rohingya refugees blatantly exploits their deep-seated faith to further his department’s agenda.
The subtext of his speech (see video below and full translation) asserts that returning to Myanmar is the sole way for these refugees to change their destiny, a claim audaciously rooted in religious conviction. Alarmingly, Rahman glosses over the extreme danger a return to Myanmar signifies for these refugees, who fled a ruthless military junta accused of widespread atrocities and, indeed, genocide against the Rohingya. Such barefaced neglect of the refugees' safety, in pursuit of policy objectives and enforcement, is deplorable and deeply unsettling.
Rahman's references to Islamic history and scripture are carefully calculated to appeal to his predominantly religious audience. Invoking the Prophet's migration and subsequent trials serves as a powerful tool to sway his audience. By equating the refugees' plight with that of the Prophet, he indirectly suggests their return to Myanmar is divinely ordained, a manipulative and flagrantly disrespectful notion.
Furthermore, the speech employs gendered narratives as a mechanism of persuasion. By paralleling the Prophet's wife, Bibi Khatiza, with the Rohingya women, Mr. Rahman assigns them a duty and role in this 'divine journey' back to Myanmar. This not only exerts emotional pressure but also places an unjust burden of responsibility on these women, already grappling with severe hardships.
The latter part of his speech, where he insists the camp is not a place to stay and is unhealthy, seems to be a callous attempt to justify his stance on their return to Myanmar. The grim conditions of the camp reflect the authorities' failure to provide the refugees with basic amenities and sustainable living conditions. Using this as a tool to urge the refugees back to their dangerous homeland displays a gross lack of empathy and understanding.
Perhaps most strikingly, Mizanur Rahman's address to the Rohingya refugee women stands in stark violation of Section 26 of the Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1979. This critical set of "Conduct Rules" expressly forbids government servants from propagating sectarian religious doctrines or engaging in controversies that could jeopardize their impartiality or compromise administrative efficiency. Rahman's calculated use of religious narratives to manipulate the sentiments of this refugee population starkly indicates a flagrant disregard for the professional conduct expected of a public servant.
Moreover, such actions go against the spirit of a secular state, a cherished ideal established by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. The secular nature of the state aims to ensure that religion remains personal and does not intersect with the administrative functioning of the state.
In conclusion, Rahman's speech is a masterstroke of emotional manipulation, shrouded in religious narratives, betraying a deep-seated disregard for the wellbeing and safety of the Rohingya refugees. His suggestion that their return to Myanmar is divinely ordained, coupled with the evocation of gendered narratives, exemplifies a dangerous misuse of authority and religious scripture. It is imperative that observers call out such conduct and demand greater accountability from public servants. Rahman's heavy reliance on religious sentiments to persuade Rohingya refugees towards a particular course of action raises questions not only about his ethics but also about his understanding of his role as a civil servant.
This video was sent to me by WhatsApp and is used in this article under the guidelines of 'fair use.' This doctrine permits the limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders, serving purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, or scholarship.
Below is a translation of a portion of Mizanur Rahman’s speech (speech was delivered at a meeting of the newly constituted "Forcibly Displaced Myanmar National Representative Committee" held in Camp 1, 27 July 2023.)
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the organisers for arranging this ceremony and inviting the mothers and sisters present. I believe it holds utmost importance. Our prophet migrated, as did you, am I correct?
Among the people of our prophet, there were instances of conflict, disputes, and years of war. During that solemn period, the prophet would retreat to the cave of Hira, seeking forgiveness from the Almighty Allah and guidance to illuminate the right path for his people.
In that period, the archangel Gabriel came and revealed the Quran to the prophet, affirming that as long as his people adhered to its teachings, they would find solace and guidance. The Messenger of Allah felt profound awe upon encountering Gabriel. Do you know whom he sought for advice and refuge afterward? Indeed, it is said that he sought advice and refuge solely from Bibi Khatiza, not turning to his uncle Abu Taleb or any other relatives. He disclosed everything he saw to his wife, who was exceptionally intelligent and resourceful. She comforted him, assuring him of her knowledge of his honesty, unwavering beliefs, and commitment to the right path. You can't be influenced by Jinns and ghosts.
Without a doubt, it must have been the beloved messenger from Allah Almighty. The prophet had a cousin who was a devoted Christian and renowned for his virtuousness. This cousin was privy to the prophet's experience and acknowledged that the figure who visited the prophet had also visited Jesus and Moses.
Your people would have to leave this place, and know that if I am alive, I will stand by you during that time.
What does that mean and who was the first to die for the sake of Allah’s Messenger? Could you specify the gender, male or female? Female. What was her name? Sumaya. From this, I gather that women hold significant importance. Maulana Shaheb echoed this sentiment in the song he performed.
Now is the time for you to take responsibility, as you have endured oppression, torture, genocide, and various hardships. You must now decide what to do. Allah decrees that those who do not strive to change their destiny will not have their destiny changed.
So, are you making an effort, as stated in the Quran? It appears to me that there might be some basic actions to undertake. This camp is not a sustainable living environment, nor is it conducive to health.
The camp is not a suitable living place, not at all. I cannot provide you with a sustainable, comfortable, and liveable environment in the camp. I simply cannot (this paragraph delivered in English).
Note: This is the second time in less than a week that I am writing about Mizanur Rahman. Read my other post about his unacceptable comments in an interview with The Business Standard.