US embassy cable - 04DHAKA4266

EXCHANGE WITH CHAIRMAN OF EXTREMIST ISLAMIST GROUP

Identifier: 04DHAKA4266
Wikileaks: View 04DHAKA4266 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Dhaka
Created: 2004-12-15 06:04:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV KISL PHUM PINR BG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 150604Z DEC 04
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6626
INFO AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 
AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 
AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 
AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMCONSUL CALCUTTA
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L  DHAKA 004266 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2014 
TAGS: PGOV, KISL, PHUM, PINR, BG 
SUBJECT: EXCHANGE WITH CHAIRMAN OF EXTREMIST ISLAMIST GROUP 
 
Classified By: P/E Counselor D.C. McCullough, reason para 1.5 d. 
 
 1. (C) Summary.  At a chance encounter with polcouns, IOJ 
Chairman Fazlul Haq Amini denounced Jamaat Islami as power 
hungry, criticized the BDG on several fronts, opposed the 
proposed USD 2 billion Tata investment in Bangladesh, 
indicated the Awami League has offered him money to quit the 
ruling alliance, and described in general terms his vision 
for Bangladesh as a truly Islamic state.  How, he asked, 
could IOJ could improve its image in the U.S. and why is the 
USG anti-madrassah?  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) At a small dinner on December 14, polcouns was 
encountered by Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini, MP and Chairman of his 
faction of Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ).  The USG, he noted, has 
negative opinions about the IOJ. During the one-hour exchange 
to clear up "misunderstandings," the affable, sometimes 
humorous Amini 
 
-- Denounced Jamaat Islami Bangladesh (JIB) as power-hungry, 
and predicted the next generation of JIB leadership, trained 
in the violent Shibir student wing, would be "extremist." 
IOJ, he claimed, is interested only in propagating Islamic 
values, not political power, and it is out-polled by JIB only 
because IOJ does not organize or operate as a political 
party.  He denied he has any interest in a cabinet seat. 
 
-- Declined to comment on the current political situation 
because, he smiled, his status as a member of the ruling 
coalition obliges him to be circumspect. 
 
-- Stated that legal and other changes would be required to 
make Bangladesh a truly Islamic state.  A Pakistan-like 
blasphemy law would be a good idea.  In this new state, women 
would have the vote, sharia/interest free banking would be 
implemented, taxes other than zakat would be lowered but not 
eliminated, and religious minorities would not be deemed as 
second class citizens.  He could think of no foreign model 
for Bangladesh or IOJ. 
 
-- Accepted women working in garment factories, but said they 
should be segregated from men. 
 
-- Saw no differences in outlook between Islamist parties in 
Pakistan and Bangladesh, or between Bangladeshi and Pakistani 
societies. 
 
-- Denied any kind of relationship with PMO Parliamentary 
Affairs Advisor S.Q. Chowdhury, one of the BNP's principal 
defenders of including IOJ in the ruling alliance. 
 
-- Characterized Ahmadis as non-Muslims attempting to deceive 
"real" Muslims, when asked why IOJ had mounted such a big 
campaign against such a small minority.  JIB, he added, has 
identical views on Ahmadis. 
 
-- Rationalized IOJ's presence in the ruling coalition, 
despite popular displeasure over corruption and poor 
governance, by saying IOJ supporters know this is preferable 
to giving political advantage to Awami League president 
Sheikh Hasina, whose actions when she was in power against 
IOJ madrassahs and allegations against him of terrorism were 
"un-Islamic." 
 
-- Characterized Hasina as unscrupulous, said he had been 
approached by AL leaders to reach a "political 
understanding,"  and indicated they had offered him money to 
quit the ruling party alliance. 
 
-- Opposed the proposed USD 2 billion steel/power investment 
in Bangladesh by the Indian Tata group because it would lead 
to Indian exploitation of a Bangladeshi natural resource. 
Asked if he opposed on similar grounds the big Chinese coal 
mine in northern Bangladesh, Amini replied that his desire 
for good relations with China precluded a direct answer. 
 
-- Blamed the August 21 attack on Sheikh Hasina on people 
wanting to destabilize Bangladesh. 
 
-- Credited the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) with improving 
law and order, but at the cost of killing many people. 
 
-- Stated he has never traveled to the U.S., but has visited 
the UK. 
 
-- Requested regular inter-action for the sake of enhanced 
understanding, but dodged the question of what he felt the 
appropriate U.S. role should be in Bangladesh.  He also 
declined to repeat his host's suggestion that he wants 
"friendly" relations with the U.S. 
 
3. (C) Asked how IOJ could better improve its image in the 
U.S., polcouns suggested that IOJ demonstrate its support for 
democracy and human rights, and in particular condemn on 
principle attacks on Ahmadis, Hindus, and the political 
opposition.  Amini claimed, weakly, that he had done this; 
polcouns urged him to give such condemnations greater 
publicity.  Amini then asked why the USG believes madrassahs 
do nothing but train terrorists.  Polcouns noted that 
madrassahs serve as a critical educational safety net in many 
countries, and that only a handful of madrassahs with a 
history of sending graduates into terrorism attract this type 
of concern. 
 
4. (C) Bio: Amini is also principal of the big Lalbagh 
madrassah in Dhaka, and president of the Ulama Parishad 
(Council of Islamic Scholars).  At the end of 2003, he 
spearheaded the anti-Ahmadiyya campaign, and before that the 
campaign against noted Bangladeshi feminist author Taslima 
Nasreen.  He is known for strong anti-U.S., anti-West, and 
anti-NGO views.  His denials aside, he is widely believed to 
want a cabinet seat, which some observers cited as the 
driving motivation behind his anti-Ahmadiyya agitation. 
 
5. (C) Comment: Amini, friendly and on his best behavior, 
steered clear of anything patently controversial, in part by 
offering virtually no opinion without direct prompting. 
IOJ-BNP animosities are well known, but the sharpness of his 
criticism of JIB was unexpected and is not reciprocated when 
we ask JIB about IOJ.  Amini lacks the polish and worldly 
knowledge of mainstream Islamist leaders, but was at ease 
with foreigners and Bangladeshis who were drinking and who 
had views contrary to his own.  Amini was summoned when the 
conversation turned to fears by a dissident BNP MP and a 
leader of Ershad's BJP that JIB, as an aggressive, "armed" 
vertically-integrated enterprise, poses a far greater threat 
to Bangladesh than does IOJ.  We are dubious but not 
completely dismissive of the notion that the AL wants to 
bribe Amini to defect from the BNP; we heard this allegation 
elsewhere two weeks ago, also from a someone with an anti-AL 
bias. 
 
 
CHAMMAS 

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