Dr. Zafar Iqbal popularly known as Zafar Iqbal sir to his millions of young and teenage readers of his popular science fictions is recovering from multiple stab injuries hurled at him on March 3, 2018 by a half educated self styled saviour of Islam, a young Madrasa student Faizur (25) .
Dr. Zafar Iqbal was stabbed in broad daylight in the presence of at least three policemen including his personal body guards deputed by the government to protect him. The incident happened at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) campus while he was observing a robotic competition of his students at the university where he teaches in the department of Computer Science and Engineering. Zafar was stabbed thrice in the rear of his head and once on his back. The injuries could have been fatal and just by sheer luck he survived. After giving the primary treatments at the MAG Osmani Medical College and Hospital in Sylhet on the same night Zafar Iqbal was airlifted by an army helicopter on a special instruction from the Prime Minister Sk. Hasina. Zafar’s condition may have deteriorated if the Prime Minister had not taken prompt and personal initiative to move Zafar from Sylhet to Dhaka. It may be mentioned here that when former, one time (1996-2001) Awami League Finance Minister Shah A M S Kibria was injured on January 27, 2005 in a grenade attack in the same Sylhet during the rule of Begum Zia he literally bled to death as no helicopter was available to move grievously injured Kibria from Sylhet to Dhaka. Strangely the then Speaker of the Jatiyo Sangsad Jamiruddin Sirkar disclosed that he heard about the attack of Kibria after his death. If Begum Zia at all heard the news is still a mystery.
Zafar Iqbal besides being a successful and popular teacher amongst his students and loved by millions of his fans across the country is also known for his secular and liberal views. His father was killed by the Al-Badar’s during 1971 and he lives under threat from the religious fanatics because he preaches liberalism and secular and scientific ideas and rationales amongst the young people. He is their pied piper. During the Ekushey Boi Mela he is one of the authors with whom his fans and readers loves to pose for photographs. Zafar usually is in the fair on a regular basis. Zafar Iqbal’s elder brother and late author and novelist Humayun Ahmed was equally popular, if not more, but Humayun wrote more for adolescents and teenagers rather than for young and children. Earlier Poet Shamsur Rahman, novelist Humayun Azad, writer Avijit Roy were also attacked by similar fanatics and though Poet Shamsur Rahman escaped with serious injurious while author Humayun Azad and researcher Avijit Roy succumbed to similar injuries caused by person similar to those like Faizur. Till now no perpetrators were brought before justice. Though Zafar Iqbal’s assailant Faizur was detained by the students of the university and handed over to the police, most people are not sure if Faizur would ever be punished for the crime he committed. Perpetrators always find loopholes in the law.
Zafar Iqbal is one of those few persons who went to the United States for higher studies and after completing his PhD could take up a lucrative job in a giant multinational corporation but he came back to Bangladesh to serve his country. Once he told me when he went to surrender his much sought after Green Card and US citizenship to US Embassy in Dhaka they were quite surprised by his gesture. His simple answer was ‘If I wanted to go to US that is possible anytime but as of now I am comfortable serving my country.’ This is not the first time that Zafar Iqbal faced such a situation. Earlier when the SUST authorities tried to name one of the female dormitories after Shahid Janani Jahanara Imam the fanatic section of students of his university along with the Jamaat and similar political parties and organisations in Sylhet not only obstructed the naming of the dormitory after Jahanara Imam they also threatened to kill him if he pursued his movement further for naming the dormitory. The dormitory was never named. When the university authorities tried to erect a sculpture honouring the martyrs of 1971 again the same group of bigots raised hue and cry. Islam was always used to obstruct anything that is good though Islam had nothing to do with any of these issues.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal’s assailant Faizur confessed that he attempted to kill Zafar Iqbal as according to him he (Zafar) tried to defame one of the prophets of Islam, Hazrat Suleiman by naming one of his best seller children fictions ‘Bhuter Baccha Suleiman.’ No reason for an attempt on Zafar Iqbal’s life could have more idiotic. Such activities by a section of madrasa students are caused due to hate, irrational and unfounded literature and stories taught to them by the half educated Mullahs in such madrasas in spite of the fact that the current government have given them so much concession to incorporate in their curriculum science, logic and reasoning. Unlike the early days of Islam present day madrasa teachers shy away from teaching their students about the golden days of Islam. When the Holy Prophet drafted the famous Charter of Medina also known as the first written constitution in human history shortly after his arrival in the city of Median in 622 following the Hijra from Mecca the city of Medina had 45% Jews divided into eight tribes and only 15% Muslims, most of whom accompanied the Holy Prophet. The charter was drafted in such a way that no tribe would be harmed and the constitution formed the basis of a multi religious Islamic state of Medina. The constitution was created to end the bitter feuding between the rival clans living in the city of Medina and to maintain peace and co-operation among all groups of the city. Protection of all people of the city was guaranteed and it was declared that no blood would be shed in the city irrespective of belief or membership of tribe. From my personal experience it is safe to say that not much are taught to the students of most madrasas about all these glorious events of early days of Islam. Students of madrasa are never told that the Holy Prophet of Islam did not throw out any non-Muslims from the Holy city of Medina. Faizur told the police that he wanted to kill Zafar Iqbal as he defamed the name of the Prophet Sulueiman. Does Faizur know that Hazrat Suleiman (R) is known as Solomon or Jedidah according to the Hebrew Bible (canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament)? Suleiman was the son of King David (Hazrat Dawood (R). He was fabulously wealthy king of Israel and thought to have reigned around 970—931 BC long before the advent of Islam. Hajrat Suleiman (R) was known for his wisdom and uprightness. He is one of the 48 Prophets who predates the Prophet Muhammad (SM) and are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Was Faizur ever taught that Tora the book of Judaism (Jews), the Bible and the Holy Qur’an have many events and characters in common and these three religions are traced back to Hazrat Ibrahim (R) and that is why these three religions are called Abrahamic religion? In course of time the three religions may have differed in many issues, sometimes in names or places. Unfortunately thousands of Faizurs are growing up in the shadow of hatred and teaching that has nothing to do with Islam. Deeds like that of Faizur have tarnished the name of Islam and today everywhere this religion of peace has a tag of militancy with it which it does not deserve. Now if someone asks Faizur and his likes that there are thousands of people carrying the name of Holy Prophets who indulges in all sorts of misdeeds and sinful acts what do we do with them? I am sure half educated Faizurs and their likes will have no answer. They just live in a world of make believe fantasy.
In the meantime let us pray for the quick recovery of Dr. Zafar Iqbal and hope that Faizur and his accomplices, if any, face the punishment they deserve.
The writer is an analyst and a commentator.