Photo: Nashirul Islam/ bdnews24.com/ Activists of Islamic Law Implementation Committee block Dhaka-Chittagong highway at Signboard area of Narayanganj on Monday during the countrywide general strike
ISLAMIC BIGOTS along with students of Koranic schools in Bangladesh clashed with riot police on Monday while enforcing country-wide shut down protesting government’s decision of gender equality of women, which zealots interpret as anti-Islamic.
Police said the day-long shut down turned violent when the Islamists and students sporting Koran and shroud, were armed with welding sticks, rocks and home-made bombs clashed with riot police in many towns and cities of Bangladesh.
The clashes with law enforcers left nearly 250 injured and another 500 activists detained.
Striking Islamic bigots supported by Islamist students went on a rampage and vandalized more than a hundred buses carrying hundreds of Muslim devotees in Chittagong and Khulna cities, blocked highway’s main artery between the capital Dhaka with the eastern region for several hours.
Even the lawmakers came under attack. The activists stormed the vehicles carrying them separately in two towns, east of the capital. Lawmakers Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and RMA Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury, however, escaped unhurt.
Ruling Awami League general secretary and Minister Syed Ashraful Islam on Monday termed the strike enforced by an Islamic coalition as ‘politically’ motivated. The ruling-party leader instead blamed opposition alliance for instigating the Islamist.
Minister for Religious Affairs Mohammad Shahjahan on the eve of the nation-wide strike by Muslim zealots termed Bangladesh as a secular country where people have been enjoying equal rights irrespective of their caste, creed and religion. He challenged the Islamist leaders into a debate to prove that the policy contradicts to the principles of Koran.
Further he said the women development policy envisages equal opportunities for women and their share in property, employment and trading for all religion including Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist.
Islamist parties including Jamaat-e-Islami have long been protesting the policy which mentions gender equality.
Slamming the government for arresting anti-women policy supporters, Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini, chairman of a faction of Islamic Oikkya Jote (United Islamic Alliance) on Monday warned of a tougher anti-government agitation unless the arrestees are freed within 24 hours deadline.
Amini, leader of Islamic Law Implementation Committee which called for the country-wide shut down told journalist that the “strike was a perfect reply against the government’s anti-Islamic policy like High Court banning of Fatwa (Islamic edict), National Education Policy, and National Women Development Policy 2011,” he said.
Police detectives raided a Koranic school in Brahmanbaria, founded by striking leader Amini, and recovered five home-made bombs and detained eight students.
Earlier on eve of the shut down, the Muslim chauvinist Amini, also major partner of the opposition alliance threatened non-stop shut down if the government resisted the strike, called to protest the proposed National Women Development Policy 2011, which recommends for gender equality and equal share by women in parental properties.
The Islamist leader also announced countrywide agitation programme which begins from Apr 5 until May 27.
He cautioned that nobody will remain in state power of this country after taking position against Koran and Sharia. Responding to a query regarding ongoing hearing on the banning of Fatwa in the apex court, he said: “The whole country will be on fire if the court verdict goes against Fatwa.”
Leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia who returned from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia on the eve of the strike called by her alliance partner United Islamic Alliance, cautioned the government not do anything that might hurt the religious sentiment of the people and create chaos. It needs time and it would not be wise to do something by applying force, she observed.
Khaleda Zia who was twice prime minister of the country is apprehensive that any move hurting religious sentiments may lead to anarchy in the country. She, however, lauded that Bangladesh has made significant progress in women's development. [ENDS]
Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org