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World Renowned Scholar Dies During State Persecution

10 23 14



(NEW YORK, NY, Oct. 23, 2014) – The Islamic Circle of North America is saddened by the loss of Professor Ghulam Azam of Bangladesh, one of the foremost Muslim activists in the world, who died on Thursday while serving a politically motivated conviction for war crimes.

Azam was a prominent political and religious leader in Bangladesh and played a crucial role in various sociopolitical and religious movements throughout the years.

He received a master’s in political science from Dhaka University and actively participated in and led representative student organizations. His academic and practical political foundation served him well in confronting the issues plaguing his society at the time.

In 1948, shortly after the independence of Pakistan, Azam submitted a memorandum to Liaquat Ali Khan, then prime minister of Pakistan, and demanded state language status for Bengali. His active role in the Language Movement placed him in prison several times and resulted in the loss of his position as assistant professor at Rangpur Carmichael College.

Shortly thereafter, Azam dedicated himself to the cause of Islamic activism. His previous experience in the socio-political Islamic organization, Tamaddun Mozlish, and the spiritually focused Tabligh Jamaat, compelled him to find something that combined aspects of both. He joined Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, and eventually became secretary general and president of the party.

His religious and political leanings had him thrown into prison by General Ayub Khan, the military leader of Pakistan. He jointly formed the Pakistan Democratic Alliance, a movement against Khan’s military dictatorship of the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the fore coming prime minister of a soon to emerge Bangladesh, was also a member.

Azam was against the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan because he felt it was not a solution to the state’s problems. He felt that India’s proximity would be detrimental to an independently functioning government. However, during the war of 1971, the violence of the Pakistani army against the population of Bangladesh troubled Azam greatly. He appealed to the army to safeguard the people but he was ignored.

In a continuation of politically motivated persecution, Azam was forced into exile and revoked citizenship of Bangladesh after it gained independence under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was able to return to the country several years later as a visitor, deprived of political rights. In the early 90’s the government imprisoned him once again for overstaying his visit, and he appealed for a restoration of his citizenship. The Supreme Court ruled for its reinstatement.

In the recent War Crimes Tribunal set up by the Awami League government, Azam was arrested for alleged crimes against humanity during the 1971 war. The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued statements against the tribunal because of its failure to adhere to international standards and due process of law.

Azam lived the last several years of his life retired from active political activity. He wrote a memoir, Jibone Ja Dekhlam, What I Witnessed in Life, and served as an adviser to Islamic thinkers and politicians within his homeland. His loss will be felt not only within Bangladesh, but also within the global Muslim community.

“Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow [to the death], and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration.” [Al-Ahzab:23]

The Islamic Circle of North America is a leading American Muslim organization dedicated to the betterment of society through the application of Islamic values. Since 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts.


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  • MSA

    Come on ICNA you know better not to paint a war criminal as a Saint. He is dead, from all that I hear if half of it is true, he has a lot off explanation to do. Don’t taint this good institution, don’t divide your members. Take his picture off the front page. Show some respect to Bangladesh’s judicial system, this guy Golam Azam got 90 to life, they speared him for his old aga. He ain’t a saint.

  • Ahmed

    A very sad day for Islam, Bangladesh and all Muslims. Truly, the real victory is that of the hereafter and in this life, Allah grants reprieve to people who claim righteousness while acting against it and Allah tests people who are labeled unjust or extreme, but act with character. Everyone is accountable to Allah and we hope that Maulana’s fight will continue through his legacy.

  • Cyra Choudhury

    This is a ridiculously one-sided characterization of Ghulam Azam and an insult to the many survivors of the horrors of the 1971 struggle. While I do not dispute the international characterization of the war crimes tribunal, I do take great issue with the white washing of Azam’s role. It is ironic that while leading with a tribute to someone who actively participated in the violence against his fellow Bengalis, this group has the temerity to also publish a piece about how violence is a contradiction to Islam. Remarkable. Undoubtedly this article is written by someone who sympathizes with the Pakistani position and can do no better than to offer an apology for its well-documented role in the massacre of thousands of civilians. And thus, we understand why it is that so many accuse organizations like this of talking out of both sides of their mouths. As a Bengali Muslim, I call for the organization to remove this post. It is not meet for an American organization to take such a partisan view in support of a person accused by many of the survivors of the war as having a hand in genocide. No matter how flawed the process of his prosecution was, it does not change the facts or history.

  • amina

    The credentials of Professor Azam sab are unquestionable, his determination to stand for the truth till death is a beacon of hope and guide for the rest of us to follow. Islamic Circle of North America has highlighted the struggle and cause -a commendable effort mashallah.

    Amina Masood Janjua
    Chairperson Defence of Human Rights Pakistan

  • Anti-Rajakar

    “In 1948, shortly after the independence of Pakistan, Azam submitted a memorandum to Liaquat Ali Khan, then prime minister of Pakistan, and demanded state language status for Bengali.” You must be joking, right?? He is the biggest war criminal and most hated individual in the history of Bangladesh!! One of the very few self claimed Rajakars. Its a shame on the nation of Bangladesh that he was not executed for the things that he did during the liberation war. And you should be ashamed of posting such lies in a so called “non-political” institution. Such a shame!

  • Asif Kabir
  • Asif Kabir

    I have a question to ask to ICNA, please answer it straight forward : Does ICNA support killing of innocent people and rapes of inocent mothers and sisters??? Does ICNA support lies??? If not then why is a convicted war criminal is stated as an Islamic scholar by ICNA?? If you have the courage, if you are true to yourself, please answer it.

  • riazo

    The Muslim world never supported the creation of Bangladesh and had no understanding of the legitimate aspirations of the Bengali people that arose from the creation of a divided Pakistan, and the resultant political and economical subjugation of the Bengalis in the East by the West Pakistanis. It is no surprise to see such a factually erroneous statement from ICNA regarding Ghulam Azam’s life. First of all, he was not involved in the Bengali language movement. His role there has not been confirmed. Secondly, in the name of “safe guarding” Islam in the Bengali land, he actively created Al-Badr and Al-Shams militia to aid and participating in the genocide and rape of Bengalis in the Bangladesh’s Independence war in 1971, by the Pakistani army. His role has been proven by Bangladesh’s War Crime Tribunal.

    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty never sent any representatives to follow the open and recorded proceedings of the court in Dhaka, but instead gave press releases based on the strong lobbying carried out by Jamaat-e-Islami which Azam was the leader of. It was Jamaat’s unsurprising allegation that the trials have been politically motivated. Really? When most Bangladeshis thought otherwise and knew of Azam’s role in 1971? He deserved nothing but the highest punishment of the law of the land (Bangladesh) and that was the death penalty. All (or most) charges against him were proven without a shadow of a doubt. The court however took leniency and gave him 90 years of prison term because of his age. Both the prosecution and defence appealed against this decision, the first for the awarding of the death penalty and the second for complete acquittal. Sadly (or not for some), he passed away before the appeals process started. Your failure to see war criminals as they are just because the accused is an “Islamic Scholar” smacks of hypocrisy of the highest kind in that a Muslim can possibly do no wrong.

  • Ahmed

    Exactly what makes him scholar? What is his contribution to Islam even? I’m really surprised ICNA can publish this type of thing without any investigation. He helped Pakistani Military killed and raped thousands of people. He is a mass murderer. ICNA should stop publishing this type of thing. Otherwise they will stop gaining trust from the Muslim community.

  • furious

    I am a victim of
    1971. My father was abducted, tortured and killed just a day before liberation.
    This man was one of the masterminds of that blue-print to abduct the top
    intellectuals who were against their heinous acts. Despite his criminal past If he is considered ”… the
    foremost Muslim activists in the world…” then ICNA is either misinformed or complicit.

    Golam Azam and his gang unleashed atrocities similar to what ISIS is doing
    today. ICNA was quick to condemn the activities of ISIS and keeps a blind eye
    to this? Hypocrisy much?

    Did you put on “Moderate” cloaks before acting all liberal and giving the
    statement against ISIS? Is it because
    you have to act moderate and enjoy the benefits of a liberal democracy? So much
    double-standard and hypocrisy in the self-proclaimed “leading American Muslim organization”!

    Well, we have seen how hypocritical “Muslim-leaders” around the World kept mum about
    Gaza and the desecration of historical sites in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. And we still wonder why Muslim Ummah is suffering?

  • winter32842

    Shame on ICNA for supporting war criminals who killed and raped thousands.

  • irfan

    How do you compare ISIS’ condemnation by ICNA and support of ICNA for JI’s actions in 1970-71 in Bangladesh?

  • Abu Hima

    I wonder going through the comments passed by some critics of Prof. Ghulam Azam. Br. please tell me if you really know him, what is your source of information? Do you think millions of Bangladeshis who offered the funeral are misled? Now, many of us realize what Jamaat feared regarding the role of India in our liberation movement is true. It is the media and ignorant which are misleading the truth. Ghulam Azam was a great Islamic scholar and a farsighted leader of the country. Please read some of his literature or listen to his recordings which will help you to have a clear understanding about the man regarding whom you are passing comments. Each of us will be accountable for our comments on the Day of Judgement. Thanks for ICNA

  • K. A.

    This article is biased in favor of Golam Azam and full of distortion of facts. From the previous comments it clearly appear how it offended the vast majority of moderate Muslims in Bangladesh whom ICNA claims to represent. Golam Azam is undoubtedly favorite among a section of Muslims like ISIS, Muslim brotherhood, Jamat-e- islami etc. but moderate Muslims don’t believe in his interpretation of Islam. Sorry ICNA, this is not representing moderate Islam.

  • Pathik Rasel

    Thanks a lot for the news! It is indeed very saddening that such a prominent Islamic figure, and an innocent citizen of a free state have been victimized by the vengeance of politics and power, but nothing else. Professor Azam was proven innocent during his citizenship trial in the early 90s. The highest court of the country conferred him legal rights as a citizen, and hence his so called ‘involvement’ with the Razakars and Al Badr aiding the Pakistani Army during the 1971 war of Bangladesh independence was proven wrong and false! After such declaration by the court, he cannot be made guilty of the same crime again! That is probably only possible in a state of amnesia like that of Bangladesh! He has contributions in the language movement, while was a prominent student leader in the 1950s. Had he not been involved with the Islamic political movements, he would have definitely been recognized as one of the Best Bangladeshis ever to have born on the face of earth! May Allah bless his soul and free him from all accusations brought against him! Aameen!

  • Yusuf

    we deeply saddened by the loss of such a Islamic scholar, who fight for justice and equality for all of his life. he wrote more then 50 books on Islamic ruling on difficult subjects that arise in the modern world. he made it simple and easy on how to follow Islam on day to day basis.

    he is the one and only leader in the history of Bangladesh who left the party presidency without passing it to his children. its unprecedented in the history of Bangladesh. He is the guy who invented the idea of Caretaker govt in Bangladesh to have a free and fare election which been widely accepted amongst Bangladeshi people and rest of the world. this caretake govt system been wiped out by current Hasina regime which is going towards dictatorship as her father did.

    Human Rights Watch had a report about his sentencing by the so called War Crimes tribunal, it clearly indicates how flawed the trial was and how openly govt interfered the trial process and how judges been motivated by the govt and by the political views of Mr Azam.

    this one report is good enough to understand his innocence on 1971 and he been sentenced just because his political views.

    we all Bangladeshis who believe on fare trail and justice for all, strongly condemn this so called war crimes tribunal and demand it to shut down and release all the Islamic leaders been arrested by the current dictator Hasina govt.

  • Raju

    May Allah grant him the highest place in Jannah, and give rewards for his lifelong service to Islam. May he receive the status of a shahid as he died as a majloom for the sake of Islam.

  • Qurban S. Choudhury

    We are thankful to ICNA for stand by the millions of people at the death of Prof. Golam Azom. May Allah bless us here and here after. He is a iconic figure in Bangladesh language movement and politics of Bangladesh. He fought against military rule from General Ayub Khan to General Ershad. Hashian , became the opposition leader in dictator Ershad government. The same Ershad recently certified that Hahina is the founder of democracy in Bangladesh.
    The Jammati Islami Bangladesh ( JIB) has again and again demanded a free and fair trial of 1971 war crime. The Bangladesh Awami League ( BAL) has created a political court to eliminate oppositions leaders and workers. The every opposition political leaders and workers are facing hundreds of fabricated cases, so they will be busy at BAL’s courts. The Hahina regime and her son Joy has misuse the 1971 again and again. Whoever against BAL he is the Enemy of the state. General Zia, Major Zia, A.K. Khandoker, Dr. Kamal, Sarmin, daughter of lateTazuddin …..all are war criminals because they are against BAL’s fascism.
    The BAL again and again fail to run a progressive and dynamic government. The BAL government had killed thousand of oppositions leaders 1972-75. The door of democracy was closed. The government had killed thousands of Islamic scholars. They closed every newspapers except four. There were millions of people died out of hunger. The BAL is again in power but unfortunately they did not learn anything. They are more brutal. The current Hshian regime comes to power without election. Our Bangladesh has on election, on human rights, on civic right, no justice, no political rights, no freedom press or speech. There are three million small investors have lost everything in our stock market which is control by our neighboring country, when Hahina is paying millions of dollars salary to his son Joy as her IT ( intellectually terminated ) adviser. The country is facing unprecedented crime, corruption, and police brutality. The police is brutal than government paid cadets.
    The Pakistan Supreme court has restore democracy while our supreme court is sub-servant of Hahina. The Pakistan peoples party leaders can practice and promote Islamic culture, while it is forbidden by BAL in Bangladesh. The fundamentalist Hindu party BJP in power in India. The Indian secular party Congress in museum. The day of secularism is over , but Inu and Manon are giving advise to Hahian that the days of secularist is coming. Latif Sidiq, the former cabent minister of Hahina realized that Bangladesh will never ready for secularism. Hahina is using 1971 card, but she clearly against the Islam. The late President Zia had introduce Bismillah in the Beginning of the Constitution, and She took it off. Zia also introduced Allah’s sovereignty as fundamental principle of Constitution, and she took it off. Muslims live in fear of daily prosecution. Thousands of Islamic activists were murdered by Hahian at Shapla Chator, Matiljil, Dhaka. The world has recognized Bangladesh as the largest prison. Prof. Golam Azom’s biggest achievement , he has presented Islam as a way of life to million of people of Bangladesh.
    The America great president Abraham Lincoln at the end of Civil War had come up with bigger idea, ” the government by the people, of the people, for the people.” He didn’t come up with the war tribunal. Let us stand for security, unity, democracy, liberty, freedom of press, speech, judicial of Bangladesh. May Allah bless our nation.

  • Ahsan
    Just read this for a brief intro about this culprit.

  • ConcernedBangladeshi

    This man is a rapist/ murderer/ ill-reputed war criminal and should not be painted in this way in the name of any religion! These evil-doers hide behind religion to save their sorry asses! Shame on this website for posting such misleading information!!

  • Atif Ahmed Choudhury

    To understand why this one-sided editorial is so divisive/polarizing/insulting to many Bangladeshi brothers and sisters around the world, the best analogy I can use is that Azam was West Pakistan’s version of “Grand Mufti” Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun-i.e. a man who turned his back on his own community and instead used his theological credentials and standing to lend support to a regime which brutalized its own people. He’s widely seen as a man who hypocritically abused Islam (i.e. condemned Bangladeshi nationalism as “unIslamic” while in the same breadth supporting Pakistani nationalism) in order to justify a range of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and outright ethnic and religious genocide.

    Now suppose in a post-Assad Syria that Hassoun was tried for assisting the Assad regime, sentenced to imprisonment (and spared the death penalty for his age), died of a stroke/heart attack (as confirmed by an official autopsy), and then given the state honor of being being buried and having a janaza in Syria’s national mosque. Then imagine that a North American Muslim organization-one that you and your family were members have supported for years- then praised him while condemning the post-Assad government’s actions as “state persecution”, how would millions of Syrian, Middle Eastern, and justice-loving Muslims around the world feel?

  • AIC

    Please do not support war criminals in the name of Islam.

  • Bengali

    We are sad on the passing of a great Islamic scholar Ghulam Azam. Certainly, he is not the only one who died in the prisoner for speaking and defending the truth. Many in history have suffered this fate like Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ibn Hanbal. Well, this is the reason, Allah created judgement day where people will get real justice.

  • Maghazi

    Why after all the controversies has ICNA not removed this post? ICNA cannot be run by political apologists.

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