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It is wrong to ban the good, the bad and Maududi

This is a cross post by Faisal of The Spittoon

The Bangladeshi government has banned the works of Maududi and has ordered mosques and libraries to remove all books written by the Islamic scholar and South Asia’s pre-eminent formulist of Islamic clerical fascism.

From a BBC news report:

The Bangladeshi government has ordered mosques and libraries across the country to remove all books written by a controversial Islamic scholar.

The chief of the government-funded Islamic Foundation told the BBC that the books by Syed Abul Ala Maududi encouraged “militancy and terrorism”.

The chief of the government-funded Islamic Foundation told the BBC that the books by Syed Abul Ala Maududi encouraged “militancy and terrorism”.

Mr Maududi – who died in 1979 – is the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

His works are essential reading for supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party in the region.

The BBC report’s description of Abul Ala Maududi as a “controversial Islamic scholar” is an amusing piece of journalistic understatement. Maududi was unashamedly ”controversial”;  the party he created, the Jamaat-e-Islam (JI) was and continues to be a far-right religious supremacist party. He used both the pulpit and the political platform to become the foremost South Asian Islamist ideologue whose ideas were quickly absorbed into the “mainstream” of Islamist discourse spanning the Middle East and Far East Asia. You could say he is Pakistan’s first cross-over Islamist icon. And of course, he was a rabble rouser par excellence.

Maududi urged Muslims to assert themselves over non-Muslims because non-Muslims, he said, have:

“absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.”

Because if they do:

“the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”

Bangladesh is the first country to ban Maududi’s texts and there are social, historical and political reasons behind the ban. Maududi constructed the religious framework which Jamaat-e-Islam implemented to justify its role in the war-crimes of Bangladesh in 1971. Clerical fascism continues to underpin the ideology of the JI and its various political factions and student-wings. The Awami League, who have imposed this ban, is diametrically opposed to JI’s politics both ideologically and strategically. JI also has the propensity to form easy mutually beneficial alliances with military juntas whenever the country has plunged into bouts of military dictatorship – which has been more often than not.

One positive effect of the ban is that it has set a precedent and identified Maududi as an iconoclast and his sectarian ideas as a danger to pluralism. Unfortunately, banning also has equally dangerous blowback effects. The BBC report quotes

A senior official from Jamaat-e-Islami, ATM Azharul Islam, described the move as an attack on Islam.

“Mr Maududi’s books are being published in many countries and there have been no complaints against his writings so far,” he said.

Bangladesh has set an important precedent and identified what Maududi stands for, however the decision to ban Maududi’s texts is wrongheaded.

Notwithstanding the fact that banning any literature is an assault on the principle of freedom of speech, there are other effects which would be foolhardy to ignore. Whenever extremist religious literature has been banned, it has the unfortunate effect of fetishising the material. Islamists will seek to exaggerate Maududi’s religious significance, which is why banning Maududi will be argued as an “attack on Islam” itself.

The Bangladesh government could do worse than to look to Israel, where Hitler’sMein Kampf is published as well as translated into English and Hebrew.

The Spittoon contributor Raziq has written about of the legacy of Maududi:

In the UK today there are many organisations which have links to JI or actively support and propagate Mawdudi’s ideas. They include the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, East London MosqueUK Islamic MissionIslamic Forum Europe and leading figures in the Muslim Council of Britain. It is a shame that today in Britain we have organisations promoting Mawdudi’s hate-filled works and, if we are serious about defeating extremism in the UK, they must be exposed and challenged.

Analysis and argument of Islamist ideology should be the way to oppose clerical fascism, not by banning it.