(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - In an interview with Ahlul Bayt News Agency, Seyed Ebrahim Khalil Razavi, Bengali Shia scholar, enlightens us on the history and situation of Shia Muslim in Bangladesh.
ABNA: How is the Shia situation in Bangladesh?
Seyed Razavi: Thanks God, there is no problem for Shia in Bangladesh, because there is equality in the constitution of Bangladesh and they treat all faiths alike. According to the constitution a Sunni who reverts to Shia will not face any prosecution. There is complete freedom, Sunni and Shia can even marry and there is no prohibition of these matters in Bangladesh.
ABNA: Can Bengali people promote his/her religion freely?
Seyed Razavi: Yes, everybody can. Bangladesh is a secular country and people can promote their religion within the law.
ABNA: How many people in Bangladesh are Shia Muslim?
Seyed Razavi: Shia population in Bangladesh is about 50 thousand which is very low in comparison with Bangladesh large population, but despite their small population, Shia have a special respect and dignity in the society and they are respected across Bangladesh. For example if you ask Bengali people about Shia centers, they'll take you to the places.
ABNA: How do you live alongside with the extremists Wahhabi?
Seyed Razavi: Wahhabism doesn’t work under the name of Wahhabi in Bangladesh. Sufism is highly respected there and also Bangladesh is known as the country of 12 Olya. We have 12 Vali (Supervisor) which through their activity Muslims made their progress. These 12 Olya were the followers of Ahlul Bayt (a.s) and some of them were Shia 12th Imam due to my researches. For this reason Wahhabis cannot work in Bangladesh under the name of Wahhabism and the government is very strict about that, so they work under the name of Sunni. Wahhabis begin their activity under the name of Sunnis by donating money to build or decorate mosques or giving money to charity infiltrate into mosques. Unfortunately, this process has just started and they have done some activities against Shia.
ABNA: Do they terrorize the people to gain their goals?
Seyed Razavi: At the beginning they did some violent acts but the government severely dealt with this issue and several people were also executed. They were active under the name of "Mujahedin Party". In Bangladesh they are called "Ahle Hadith" and they are a group of Wahhabis.
ABNA: What do the Bengali people think about Iran?
Seyed Razavi: As you know, on the one hand there was a time when Farsi was the language of Indian subcontinent, so from this point of view Persian culture is deeply embedded in Bangladesh. If you look at Bangla language you see a lot of words that they are derived from Farsi, for example we say Shaheed in Bangla as you say Shaheed in Farsi. The cultural commonalities between the two countries are very high. On the other hand after the Islamic Revolution in Iran whoever worked on Islamization in Bangladesh was greatly surprised at Iran's Islamic Revolution victory. I had a talk with the Muslim community and they said: "In the sixty years of Islamic activity we could not get over 10 seats in parliament, how Imam Khomeini could achieve this victory?” And because of that Muslims in Bangladesh look at Iran very respectfully. We have published the words of Imam Khamenei or important words of President Ahmadinejad in special places in our national newspaper.
ABNA: Are there any Shia political parties in Bangladesh?
Seyed Razavi: No, we do not have Shia party or any political activities in Bangladesh, but we have some active religious institutions.
ABNA: You participated in the 4th International Conference of Ahlul Bayt (a.s) World Assembly 4 years ago, please let us know what you had expected and whether they were able to meet your demands or not?
Seyed Razavi: Good decisions have been taken and many of them were practical, Thank God! But there are still things that we expect to be done as soon as possible, and Hojatol Islam Akhtari referred to this issue in his conversations. For example the Ahlul Bayt (a.s) News Agency - ABNA didn't support Bengal language before, and now we see this language added, but we also need a Bangla TV channel, because Bengali people care about the news of Iran. We easily can get 11 channels of Iran which none of them are in Bangla language and Press TV is the only English Channel. Therefore we expect some programs to be produced in Bangla because Bangladesh is a country with large Muslim population.
ABNA: Do you know Ahlul Bayt (a.s) News Agency - ABNA?
Seyed Razavi: Yes, I am familiar with ABNA and sometimes we cooperate with it by sending Bengali Shia News. We have our own site and magazine in this field.
ABNA: Now what do you expect from the Ahlul Bayt (a.s) World Assembly?
Seyed Razavi: Thank God! There is no problem and very good works have been done so far. Especially this time they began very important work and invited Shia businessmen. It makes the Shiite businessmen active in different countries and promotes good jobs and economic prosperity of the Shia.
Abna Reporters: Mohsen Kia & Mohammad Nikan