A Picture Of And Some Thoughts On Ershad’s “Beard”


The election’s a foot. Or a beard. The election’s a beard.

New reports suggest his former most Excellent Bloodless Presidio, the Great Dictator and current villainous penciled mustachioed Husain Muhammad Ershad has been arrested and detained. Though he promised he’d do himself in if he were arrested, nevertheless he was arrested and his arrest may have something to do with the fact that he earlier visited the Ameeri Ameer of Hefazat-e-Islam, the 90-year old Shah Ahmed Shafi, to get his blessings for this, the once and future Chief’s most recent run at seizing power, aka the run up to the national elections in Bangladesh early next year.

The election and pre-electioneering contest for hearts and minds, for righteous blood spilled and the right blame assigned for that righteous blood spilled blood coming up looks geared to go this way and that. It’s really anyone’s guess who’ll turn up the winner, who’ll clear the table. Still, the next election stands as the Awami League’s first shot in holding onto power to put into place the marginally internationally respected moves it has made. This, even if most of its moves on the domestic policy front look a lot like the moves made by the BNP and its cronies.

Whatever the case, it would be a good thing if electoral democracy were consolidated under the rubric of some free and fair contest; Bangladesh has had no real experience of that. And, at least on those grounds, the AL’s re-election as the head of a ruling coalition would seem to beckon somewhat fair tides.  And, then, say you, say me, let’s figure out how to get that coalition to actually implement policies that might actually do that democracy and its people some good.

Because of this, the BNP opposition has put whatever charges it deems fit to spoil whatever fun there might be in this whole democratic consolidation project. What’s more, the Rightist Opposition now includes Ershad, until recently a leader within the recently ruling Grand Coalition. If he wins–a MOST unlikely turn– he looks set to force Bangladesh back to the dark ages, well before the Prophet Muhammad actually instituted policies that nowadays read as fair and balanced. Thus the opposition has taken up the entire space of whatever consists in the Right spectrum. (Were that the AL coalition would take up whatever consists in the Left in Bangladesh. But that seems a bridge too far.)

So, back to Ershad’s, “Nearly 100-year old Mufti Connection”: Ameer Shafi sports the gruesome long beard of the pious-privileged-sanctified, the kind of beard that demonstrates that he knows god better than you or me. Certainly he must think that he has known god a good century longer than you or me. So, the beard.

The beard. The beard’s the kind of thing that cloaks cloak and dagger politics, and purifies all that stabbing and killing into something that allows one to be a self-proclaimed defender of the good words recited, apparently under duress, by an illiterate merchant some centuries ago somewhere that is not and never will be Bangladesh.  And Ershad seems ready to put on that beard, the rubber band taut round his preternaturally jet black haired head.

Now, I tried to capture that sense of dramatic-natok change for something entirely 7th Century-retrograde in a drawing, or better, a political cartoon. The first attempt at that cartoon took seriously Ershad’s change into something like an Ameer Jr. or a Huzur-lite. But that didn’t quite get to what I wanted to convey. That Ershad’s embrace of the Hardcore Salafi Right is a bit of a beard to hide his true intentions: to just straight up take over again by taking the Right vote from both the military and the Fascist Islamists. To just choke off whatever democratic impulse might have survived Bangladesh’ spasmodic early 70s turn toward and then away from democracy. So, here, along with a drawing of Ershad’s Huzuri turn, a drawing of Ershad as is. And the beard. The beard, beard.  A beard: the refuge of the impious and the impish.

I now wonder when we’ll see Mufti Ershad appear before us, both a king and a servant to god’s will, a god that, by my lights, you’d think had failed the people of Bangladesh.

~ by Faheem Haider on December 21, 2013.

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