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Brussels conference calls for concerted efforts to thwart rise of religious fundamentalism in South Asia and beyond


Bangla Mirror Desk:


Brussels, 23 June 2024: Speakers at an international conference on the ‘Rise of fundamentalism:

Implications, challenges and threats’ held at the European Press Club in Brussels on 23 June said,

fundamentalists are that section of the population that aggressively attempts to make religious

dictums mandatory by virtue of religious majority population. Sane people everywhere must raise

their strong voices against any form of extremism, specially religious ones, since they are very

sensitive and can flare up very quickly. These type of fundamentalist radicalism has brought about

various atrocities including genocides around the world in the past and also in recent years.

The conference was organized by the Europe-based Bengali diaspora organisation, European

Bangladesh Forum (EBF) in collaboration with the Belgium-based human rights organisation, Global

Solidarity for Peace and Switzerland-based International Human Rights Commission Bangladesh.

Chaired by Ansar Ahmed Ullah, President of EBF-UK, the conference was addressed among others by

Harry van Bommel, former Member of the Dutch Parliament, Niels van den Berge, former Member

of the Dutch Parliament, Professor Dr. Tazeen Murshid, Director, Development Research

Cooperation, Brussels, Dr Tommaso Virgili, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the WZB Berlin Social

Science Center, Germany, Chris Blackburn, British Political Analyst, UK & recipient of ‘Friend of

Bangladesh’ award, Andy Vermaut, President of the World Council for Public Diplomacy and

Community Dialogue and EU Climate Pact Ambassador, Belgium, Preeti Rahman, Deputy Head of

Bangladesh Mission in Belgium, Pradip Kumar Dutta, Columnist and human rights activist from

Aamra Ekattor, Bangladesh, M M Murshed, President of Global Solidarity for Peace, Belgium, Khalilur

Rahman Mamun, President of International Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, Switzerland,

Jahangir Chowdhury Ratan, General Secretary of Belgium Awami League and Bikash Chowdhury,

President, EBF, Netherlands. Tanim Chowdhury gave the opening speech.

The speakers said, charities in Europe and North America are being abused by radical Islamist

political movements abroad. These connections they said, raise significant concerns about the use of

charitable fronts to further radical ideologies and support militant activities. The ongoing

investigations and revelations highlight the need for greater scrutiny and accountability for

organisations with potential links to extremist groups. In Bangladesh and elsewhere we find a

tendency by some quarters to show the rise of religious fundamentalism as non-significant. But in

real terms it is growing alarmingly fast. There is no reason to put it under the carpet, rather should

be faced and done away with upfront, they continued.

In his paper veteran Dutch Member of the Parliament Harry van Bommel suggested that the

European Union and the United States should put more pressure on the government of Pakistan to

ensure that the educational system is based on human rights and basic freedoms. Pakistan needs

the free world for various reasons. The world would be a better place with a free and democratic

Pakistan, he continued. Referring to the rise of extreme religious fundamentalism the veteran Dutch

politician who was for nearly 20 years an MP in the Dutch parliament said, developments that let to

the 9/11 attacks can not be understood by solely looking at Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan is an important root cause in this respect, he added.

Addressing the conference Chris Blackburn said, Jamaat e Islami has powerful allies, funded and

aided by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and were once patronised by the Gulf States,

notably Saudi Arabia. These funds, he added, have fueled their Dawah activities, including public

relations with Western academics, diplomats, and politicians who have been misled by Jamaat’s

duplicity. This has had a devastating effect on social cohesion and security policy in Europe and

North America.

European academics, researchers, human rights activists from other civil society organisations and

members of the Bangladesh community in different European countries including UK, Belgium,

Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany participated in the programme.