Signs: Misread and misinterpreted
Søren Kierkegaard's 'theory of stages' or 'the three spheres of existence' describes three different stages of becoming an individual, in other words, three different beings. The stages are: the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. To live at the aesthetic stage means to focus only on the present rejecting the notions of right, wrong and commitment, as well as to remain in different to the repentance of the past and the obligation of the future. To live at the ethical stage means not to consider oneself above the general rule of the earthly structure/s and to value the repentance of the past, the obligation of the future and the notion of commitment. Finally, to live at the religious stage means to operate within the categories of 'sin and grace' by rejecting the aesthetic (pleasure and pain) and the ethical (good and evil). Question is, can a person operate only within one or two of the three stages or within all simultaneously? According to Kierkegaard, it's impossible to operate within multiple stages simultaneously. And a person can return to one of the stages but the experience would be different because of the leap.
This writing evaluates the acts of vandalising the country's founding president Sheikh Mujib's under construction sculpture on Dec. 5 and Bagha Jatin's sculpture on Dec. 18with reference to Kierkegaard's 'theory of stages' and argues (by comparing the incidents to a 1390 years old incident that took place on both ethical and religious levels) both the incidents of vandalism are the by-products of misreading and misinterpreting of religious and ethical signs on both collective and individual levels, as well as claims that both the acts of vandalism are associated with the sphere of aesthetic, not to the ethical or the religious.
When did Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) destroy the 360 idols? Did the incident take place immediately after he became the Prophet of God in AD 610 or, in AD 630, after winning the Conquest of Mecca? It was in AD 630, after overthrowing the Quraysh tribe. What does this signify? It signifies that having political control over a territory decides a lot of things; otherwise the incident of destroying idols would have taken place right after he became the prophet. Question is; why did the process take 20 years? The answer is, to implement 'Islamic law,' the state has to be an Islamic state first. Before I move any further, I would like to claim that if those idols were situated somewhere else other than inside Kaaba, Muhammad wouldn't even bother about them.
How is Muhammad's act of destroying idols in AD 630 relevant to the acts of vandalising the country's founding president Sheikh Mujib's under construction sculpture on Dec. 5 and Bagha Jatin's sculpture on Dec. 18? It's relevant because his 1390 years old act makes it easy to understand, evaluate and criticise the recent acts of his followers in 2020 derived from their misreading and misinterpreting of Muhammad's act.
Meaning is and has always been subjective otherwise speeches of Hefazat-e-Islam joint secretary general Mamunul Haque and Islami Andolan Bangladesh senior Nayebe Amir Syed Muhammad Faizul Karim would never mean to be so different from Muhammad's understanding of 'Islamic law' on idol and sculpture. The most significant of all is that the acts of Abu Bakkar Mithun and Sabuj Islam Nahid (students of Ibne Mas-Ud Qawmi Madrassah) as well as of Anisur Rahman, Hridoy Ahmed and Sabuj Hossain (three leaders and activists of ruling Awami League's youth front, Juba League) have nothing in common with Muhammad's act.
Why and how are the acts of vandalism associated with the country's founding president Sheikh Mujib's under construction sculpture and Bagha Jatin's sculpture different from Muhammad's destroying idols? The answer lies in the words used to describe both incidents: to describe Muhammad's act, the word 'destroy' is used, on the other hand, the word 'vandalise' is used to describe the incidents associated with the country's founding president Sheikh Mujib's under construction sculpture and Bagha Jatin's sculpture.
Why isn't Muhammad's act of destroying idols tagged as vandalism when the acts involved with the country's founding president Sheikh Mujib's under construction sculpture and Bagha Jatin's sculpture are tagged as vandalism? The word vandalism stands for an 'action involving deliberate destruction or damage to public or private property.' Question is; did Muhammad destroy any public property? No, he didn't, because he had destroyed those idols after winning the Conquest of Mecca, and with that win, he gained political control over Mecca thus he could act according to 'Islamic law'. On the other hand, the acts of destroying the country's founding president Sheikh Mujib's under construction sculpture and Bagha Jatin's sculpture are vandalism because those sculptures are public property.
Question is, didn't the 'Islamic law' involved with idols and sculptures exist before Muhammad's win over Mecca? Yes, it existed, then why didn't Muhammad act immediately? The reason is, then his action would be tagged as vandalism and I believe Islam does not allow vandalism. If the Prophet could have waited until he gained full control over Mecca to implement the existing Islamic law, why couldn't his followers in Bangladesh wait? His followers couldn't wait for the change because they only saw Muhammad's act of destroying idols, not his long wait to gain political control.
Is there any chance to see these two incidents of vandalism in isolation or would these incidents make more sense if compared with the acts of vandalising four idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Gazipur took place on Sep 11, 2020, or the attack on a church in Sheikhupura, Pakistan on May 9, 2020, or religious riots of 2020 in Delhi, or The Rohingya genocide of 2017?
The constitution of Bangladesh declares it's a secular state. This is the very first sign which is misread by Hefazat-e-Islam's Mamunul Haque and Islami Andolan Bangladesh's Syed Muhammad Faizul Karim otherwise they wouldn't have delivered speeches that can provoke some people. Mamunul Haque's continuous act of justifying his claim on sculpture issue makes it clear that he and Hefazat-e-Islam don't believe in a secular Bangladesh, rather they find it conflicting with 'Islamic law'.
The second misread and misinterpreted sign is that Muhammad's action took place on both ethical and religious levels because of his win in the Conquest of Mecca. Did those directly and indirectly involved people with the incidents of vandalism think that their actions would take place on a different level? No, they did not, because they imagined that their actions would take place on the ethical or the religious levels as well. But, in reality, their activities took place on the aesthetic level because they conflict on the ethical level as they reject the constitution of Bangladesh, as well as on the religious level as Bangladesh is a secular state, not an Islamic state.
Finally, both the acts of vandalism are the signs of failure, not only the individual level, but also on the collective level. Couple of weeks back, the nation has celebrated its 50th Victory Day, but still seems to be fighting to make her people aware of their constitutional rights. Question is, why don't people take words of the constitution seriously? It's because the nation has experienced the constitution to be treated as personal property several times. One last thing is that the constitution is still out of the general education system, making it a part of the education system would bring a change as it would help to develop a collective consciousness.
Muhammad Kamruzzamann is a Student, Department of English, Jahangirnagar University