The Bangladeshi police arrested Shariat Sarkar, a famous 40-year-old Baul (folklore Sufi) artist, allegedly for commenting that affects the “religious feeling” of Muslims. He was accused of violating section 28 of the draconian digital security law.
During a concert at the end of December 2019, he allegedly criticized Muslim clerics who oppose the chants and offered a challenge of five million taka ($ 58,800) for anyone who can prove that music is forbidden according to Islamic scriptures.
Baul Shariat Sarkar arrested under digital security act-454009 https://t.co/mD0uZQHdj6
– Daily-Sun (@dailysunbd) January 13, 2020
Baul artist Shariat Sarkar is arrested according to the digital security law.
Outstanding Sufi folk singer known as baul has been arrested according to the digital security law, which critics say is used to suppress free expression, for his alleged comments against Islam. This generated protests, says the Police.
Shariat Sarkar is arrested under digital security law.
A video of his performance was posted on YouTube (and then deleted) and went viral on social media. However, others continued publishing the video.
Some conservatives, led by Muslim clerics, took to the streets in different places in protest against their alleged derogatory comments about Islam, the Koran and Muslim clerics. A person from his town in the Tangail district (one hundred kilometers from the capital, Dhaka) sued him on January 9, allegedly for hurting the religious feeling, which led to his arrest.
The court sent him to judicial custody after completing three days of interrogation in police custody. By the second half of January, his bail had not been set.
Is music prohibited in Islam?
The question of whether music is allowed in Islam is a historical controversy and the practice varies in the regions. The famous Muslim scholar Imam al-Ghazzali commented centuries ago that, citing the scriptures, that music is allowed. However, some Salafist and Wahhabist groups of Muslims interpret some verses in the Qur'an as evidence of music is haram (forbidden).
Who are the bauls?
The bauls are a group of mystical ministers from Bangladesh who have a strong musical tradition. It is a very heterogeneous group, with many sects. However, the majority belong to the Vaishnava Hindu and Sufi Muslim religions. Baul music is a particular type of folk song, which can be philosophical and devotional, and often celebrates divine love.
The songs sung by the trunk Shariat Sarker are inserted in the Sufi genre. The history of Sufism in Bangladesh is ancient. Islam was spread in Bangladesh especially because of the work of the Sufis.
Generalized protests against his detention
Progressive and cultural artists in the country have reacted furiously to the arrest of the baul artist according to the digital security law. Various artistic organizations organized human chains and protest demonstrations to demand their release.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNC3OPcv80c (/ embed)
The writer Swakrito Noman highlighted the spirituality of Islam and mentioned that Shariat Sarkar's arrest is a mistake:
শরিয়ত বয়াতির পুরো ভিডিও ক্লিপটি শুনেছি। তিনি কোথাও ধর্মের বিরুদ্ধে কিছু বলেননি। তিনি কোথাও আপত্তিকর কিছু বলেননি। তিনি ধর্মের নামে ভণ্ডামির বিরুদ্ধে বলেছেন, ধর্মব্যবসার বিরুদ্ধে বলেছেন। তার কথা বুঝতে হলে আগে বুঝতে হবে ইসলামের অধ্যাত্মিক দিকটিকে। শাস্ত্রের পাশাপাশি ইসলামে অধ্যাত্মও স্বীকৃত। বুঝতে হবে বহুধা বিভক্ত ইসলামকে। শরিয়ত বয়াতিরা ইসলামের অধ্যাত্ম ধারার অনুসারী। তাকে শাস্ত্র দিয়ে বিচার করাটা মূর্খতা। রক্ষণশীল মোল্লা-মৌলবিদের কথায় তাকে গ্রেপ্তার করাটা অন্যায়।
I have heard the whole video of (singer) Shariat Bayati. It says nothing derogatory or anything offensive against religion. He speaks of hypocrisy in the name of religion, against fraudulent religious practices. To understand his words, one must first understand the spiritual side of Islam and the many divided sects of Islam. Bauls like Shariat follow the spiritual interpretation of Islam (Sufism). It is silly to judge them by the words of scrutiny. It is unfair to arrest him listening to accusations of conservative Muslim clerics.
Journalist Kabir Ahmed believes that the arrest was not appropriate, although music is banned in Islam because Bangladesh is supposed to be a democracy:
‘কেতাবে’ যদি গান-বাজনা ‘হারাম’ লেখা থাকে তবে কি শরিয়ত সরকার বাউলের গ্রেপ্তার জায়েজ হয়ে যাবে? আমার উত্তর- ‘না’!
আপনি যে কেতাবকে উদ্দিষ্ট ভাবছেন সেটা আপনার-আমার ব্যক্তিগত বিশ্বাসের, স্রেফ ব্যক্তিগত; রাষ্ট্রীয় নয়।… https://t.co/8gBHJO20iF
– কবির য়াহমদ (@kabiraahmed) January 13, 2020
Can Baul Shariat Sarker's arrest be justified if he was specified in the Quran as ‘haram’ (prohibited)? M answer is – no! How you perceive the sacred book is your personal belief, only personal; It is not a national matter.
The journalist and author Raju Alauddin wants to know on what basis or criteria the conservatives believe the statement is offensive:
শরিয়ত বয়াতির কথাটা কী কারণে আপত্তিকর, সেটা কোন মানদণ্ডের ভিত্তিতে আপত্তিকর বা কুরুচিপূর্ণ তার কোনোই ব্যাখ্যা নেই। কিন্তু তাকে রিমান্ডে নেয়া হয়েছে, এখন হাজতে তিনি। হায়, অন্ধকারে নিমজ্জিত আমার স্বদেশ!
I don't see a clear explanation as to why Shariat Bayati's words were considered offensive; Malicious according to what parameters? However, he was arrested and is in prison. Too bad, my country is immersed in darkness!
Journalist and development activist Shariful Hassan urged the country's intellectuals to take on the challenge of Shariat Sarker instead of demanding or harming him:
বয়াতি শরিয়ত সরকার উন্মুক্ত চ্যালেঞ্জ জানিয়েছিলেন – কেউ যদি কোরআনের রেফারেন্স দিয়ে প্রমান করতে পারে, গান-বাজনা হারাম; তিনি তাকে ৫০ লক্ষ টাকা দেবেন। মামলা বা গ্রেপ্তার না করে চ্যালেঞ্জটা নেন কোন আলেম ভাই। https://t.co/V9xbNLcEt3
– Shariful Hasan (@ hasan06du) January 12, 2020
Shariat Sarker openly challenged – if anyone can offer a reference in the Qur'an that music is prohibited, he will pay that person five million Bangladeshi takas ($ 58,800). Without denouncing it or asking for your detention, any Islamic intellectual can take the challenge and earn the money (if Sarker is wrong).
Opinions are divided into social media. Some netizens have continued to mention verses from the Qur'an and the hadith as a reference that music is forbidden in Islam.
Challenge to the Sufi tradition in Bangladesh
The liberal policies of Sufism have had a significant impact on the people of Bangladesh who learned to mix culture and religion. However, in recent decades, a hostile environment against the Sufis emerged due to threats from conservatives who believe the Sufis are “deviations from traditional Islam.” Simon Zakaria, a folk music researcher at the Bengali Academy, told the Bengali BBC:
বাংলাদেশ স্বাধীন হবার পরে একটি ধর্মীয় গোষ্ঠী ব্যাপক ভাবে পৃষ্ঠপোষকতা পেয়েছে, আমাদের সাংস্কৃতিক মনস্তত্ব পরিবর্তিত হয়ে গেছে, আমাদের শিক্ষায় ও প্রশাসনে এসব বিষয় প্রাধান্য পাচ্ছে।
Following the liberation of Bangladesh, a specific religious group (conservatives) has been greatly underestimated and our cultural mentality has gradually changed. These influences are gaining prominent place in our education and administration.
Controversial digital security law
The 2018 digital security law penalizes various types of online discourse, ranging from defamatory messages to statements that “hurt values or feel religious.” Section 28 of the law says:
If any person or group intentionally or knowingly with the aim of hurting religious sentiments or values or with the intention to provoke publish or broadcast anything by means of any website or any electronic format which hurts religious sentiment or values, then such activity of that person will Be considered an offence.
If a person or group intentionally or knowingly with the purpose of hurting the religious feeling or values or with the intention of provoking in public or transmission of something through a website or electronic format that hurts religious values or feelings, then that activity or That person will be considered an offense.
Journalists and law activists expressed concern about the act from the beginning, and many lawsuits were filed against writers, poets and activists who use this law. In addition to condemning the arrest of Shariat Sarker, many have demanded the repeal of the controversial law.
Human Rights Forum Bangladesh, a newly formed group of activists, expressed much concern about Sarker's arrest and demanded his immediate release.
If convicted, Sarker could spend three to seven years behind bars, according to the digital security law.