In Bangladesh, Facebook has emerged as one of the important political platforms in cyberspace. Parliamentarians, secularists, and religious extremists – everyone resorts to expressing their ideologies through Facebook. The religious extremists have been quite active and managed to instigate communal violence on several occasions, by preaching hatred, creating fake identities or hacking profiles of individuals and impersonating them.
Given this scenario, Humane First Movement, an undertaking largely based on cyberspace, has emerged as a strategic rebuttal to the growing religious fundamentalism & extremism in Bangladesh. The movement was founded by Ajanta Deb Roy, who is a prominent social media activist on issues of politics, religious fundamentalism, racism and human rights.The movement uses social media to spread the message of harmony and peace, and shares inspiring inter-faith harmony stories of individuals from different walks of life.
We, The Hague Peace Projects, have entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the movement last year. The goal of the collaboration is to promote social cohesion in Bangladesh, by highlighting some aspects of the movement which we believe are important for individuals and organizations working on peacebuilding; particularly in the areas of initiating dialogues between communities in conflict.
First and foremost, the movement is based online which is crucial given how Facebook is utilized in Bangladesh and among politically active Bangladeshi diaspora. The intention of the movement lies in promoting humanity above all, and it has been doing so quite well for a couple of years now, despite the challenges the movement continues to face.
Another impressive aspect of the movement lies in uplifting class barriers within the movement. Many a times, class barriers play a major role in political movements and only the privileged individuals from a society are given the opportunity to raise their voices. They are delegated the role of “voice of the community”. However, other individuals with equal amounts of drive and determination may not get a chance to express themselves or be assigned equally important roles. However, as we have been observing this movement closely and have been part of their campaigns on a few occasions, we noticed how the prerequisite for playing leading roles in the campaigns is equal to commitment and determination. The movement comprises of individuals from different walks of life, who may or may not be residing in Bangladesh. This is quite impressive in the context of Bangladesh, where privilege often shapes one’s position within socio-political movements and the way class barriers influence social dynamics.
The movement has a long way to go, but given how they are active and passionate, they have the potential to contribute profoundly towards making Bangladeshi society more inclusive and reducing social fragmentation and religious extremism. However, in order to do that, the movement needs allies – they require support on an international level. At The Hague Peace Projects, we are committed to work with them and provide a platform which enables them to address their concerns and challenges.
Mass reporting by extremists have been used against this movement to silence their voices. And this phenomenon is not unique to this case; mass reporting on social media has become a common way to suppress voices to dissent and is something that needs to be resolved to protect the freedom of speech and to make the process of promoting human rights and peace a little easier. As it is, the task of promoting peace and human rights is full of challenges and pitfalls all over the world.
Despite all the challenges, the movement acts as a harbinger of hope to reduce social fragmentation in Bangladesh. And it is for this reason, they deserve all the support they need from the international community of peace and justice.
To know more about Humane First Movement, you can follow them on Facebook:
You can also look them up using the following hashtags:
#BeHumaneFirst, #StandUnitedAgainstHatred, #KeepReligionOutofPolitics