SAN FRANCISCO: Expatriate Bangladeshi, sympathizers of the Shahbagh youth movement, in the San Francisco Bay Area has led organizers to cancel a lecture apparently sympathetic to the Jamaat-e-Islami at the Muslim Community Association here.
MCA is an influential community organization with a 90,000 sq ft facility in Santa Clara where about 3,000 attend Friday prayers.
This is a significant victory for Shahbagh sympathizers, because
mosques typically tend to be bastions of pro-Jamaat support.
The Bangladeshi sympathizers were upset when news came out that a lecture was scheduled to be delivered March 3 entitled ‘Behind the Facade of War Crimes Trials: Shocking Repression of Islamic Movements in Bangladesh’ by Cal State LA communications Professor Mohammad A Auwal.
Among these Bangladeshis, many have participated in an earlier demonstration at the Golden Gate Bridge, a candlelight vigil in support of Shahbagh protesters at the University of California at Berkeley. They helped spearhead a $6,000 Facebook fundraising campaign for Shahbagh activists.
Now, led by activists under 40, they started a vigorous email and
phone campaign to organize a demonstration against the lecture.
MCA has said it was not the organizer of the lecture. An email signed by MCA president Fouad Khatib promoted Auwal’s lecture with an appeal to “please circulate and forward to as many people as you can.”
The letter included an abstract of the proposed lecture, which accused the International War Crimes Tribunal of “violations of international norms of justice,” and said a massive scandal at the ICT “prompted massive protests throughout the country.”
It added that “the scenes of repression during the protests look like those in Gaza under the Israeli occupation.”
The massive protests at Shahbagh square, meanwhile, were dismissed in the abstract as “counter protests by the so-called Shahbagh movement, obviously led by the government supporters”.
Emails to MCA general secretary Junaid Sheikh and the executive committee did not receive a response at press time. A phone call to Sheikh was not returned.
Unsure of whether the lecture was actually canceled, some 50
Bangladeshis showed up at MCA March 3.
“We found out that the talk was indeed cancelled to take place at the premises. It is possible that it took place at an alternate venue,” said Tina Jabeen, one of the organizers of the protest said.
She added: “We also wanted to meet MCA board of directors members and communicate our concern and engage with them in a dialogue. But nobody was present.”
Jabeen said she was happy that MCA had realized the sensitivity of the issue.
“We are very happy that this very misleading lecture was canceled,” she said, “We thank MCA and look forward to meeting MCA officials in future and continue a dialogue to explore ways to educate Bay Area non- Bangladesh muslims about Bangladesh in an atmosphere of mutual respect."
BDST: 2025 HRS, MAR 05, 2013
AKA/ MMA/ SMS/
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