The Mahmudur Rahman Conundrum

Mahmudur Rahman, acting editor of Amar Desh
Nazmul works as a communications officer with a leading corporate group. He worked for several years as a journalist, notably with The Daily Star, Bangladesh.

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  1. Freedom of speech, contrary to somewhat popular belief, is neither absolute nor nonderogable. Speech can be restricted and should be restricted when it involves incitement to violence (which often includes hate speech against minority groups) and in cases of abusive injury of groups in need of special protection (censorship of child pornography for example). Both the ICCPR and the Bangladeshi constitution recognizes this. However, I do not think there is any court in Bangladesh that is competent or credible enough to take up this responsibility. When one hears how the CJ of the country was treated by some mid-level officers of a security agency, one can not maintain faith/trust on the judiciary anymore. And the judiciary is the only organ that can restrict speech. Yes, Rahman and his newspaper did propagate hate speech against atheists and even Ahmadi Muslims *but* where is the independent judiciary that can deal with that? This is a paradox.

    I am a strong opponent of- and I abhor the virulent ethnic nationalism of the Shahbagis and the virulent religious nationalism of the Hefajotis. To me, they are the two sides of the same coin of bigoted nationalism. Both groups believe and bank on the repressive, authoritarian state. Both groups want the repressive capacities of the state to be deployed in the service of their own causes. “ফাঁসী চাই” was the rallying cry for both groups. People like Mahmudur Rahman do not want a democratic, liberal, welfare society. They are fine with a repressive state as long as the repression is directed at their opponents. Same with Awami intellectuals, they are happy to cheer for the repressive state as long as the repression is directed at their opponents. When AL eventually loses its grip on power, you will see these intellectuals bloodied by the followers and fans of Mahmudur Rahman. So goes the forecast.

    You were absolutely right to preface your condemnation. It clearly showed where you stand and that your condemnation was coming from a position of principle as opposed to a position of affiliation. Apologies for the rather longish response.

  2. You are right, it’s logical to point out fundamental differences even while fully supporting the fundamental rights of victims. This should be obvious if one says that I absolutely hate rapists but I support their right for a fair trial, it should not be controversial. The evil than men do should haunt them always, even when they are being victims of evil themselves.

  3. Nazmul, as best I’m able to grasp what this is all about, and having noticed some people pull a bit of a ‘gotcha’ on your status earlier, I guess i’d only contribute:

    You’re absolutely right about Mahmudur Rahman, of course, lol how I cringe when he is held up as a brave face of journalism. I have nothing against the man, I actually liked him in his cabinet days, it’s really mostly his fanboys who don’t even get him that bother me. He is a politician thru and thru, and Amar Desh was an opposition mouthpiece, as such it published incendiary stuff about the govt often just sourced from other publications, or dodgy sourced, or inadequately sourced for the scope of the allegations they contain. E.g. you cannot press corruption charges against the PM or PM’s son based on just one individual’s testimony, that too anonymous. It’s simply not gonna fly, even if people start regarding you as the next PM. Rahman [himself doesn’t write bad] though, he is actually an op-ed writer at heart.

    That isn’t to say I would’ve felt it necessary to mention my reservations about him at that moment that you did. It wouldn’t be to ‘not take away’ from the BCL [thuggery], but I guess looking back that moment for me was just overwhelmingly about the BCL impunity. If you think about it the person at the receiving end is actually irrelevant, unless we concede there ever can be someone who they’re allowed to do that with. But there isn’t.

    In addition, I’d say you’d be better off, bro, ditching the condemn template bro -the “I condemn” or “Must be condemned” with the optional disclaimer. Something happens, just say what you feel and what you think.

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Nazmul Ahasan is a journalist and commentator based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.