Dhaka, Saturday, November 6, 2004
Euro diplomats visit Ahmadiya mosque in city, voice concern
Some European diplomats in Dhaka Friday expressed their concern about an increased number of attacks on the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat and said they hoped that freedom of speech and protection of minorities are upheld in Bangladesh.
“We are concerned about the increasing rate of attacks on the Ahmadiyas,” Kees Beemsterboer, ambassador of the Netherlands, told newsmen after meeting the Ahmadiya leaders at Nakhalpara before the juma prayers.
Amid a threat by the International Khatme Nabuwat Movement of occupying the Nakhalpara mosque, a seven-member delegation of senior EU officials, led by the Dutch ambassador, visited the place.
The delegation included German ambassador Dietrich Andreas, French ambassador Jacques-André Costilhes, Italian ambassador Pietro Ballero, Swedish ambassador Borje Mattsson, Danish deputy head of mission Tom B Hansen and European Commission head of the delegation ambassador Esko Kentrschynskyj.
“We are here to show our respect to Bangladesh’s constitutional right to free speech and the protection of minorities, which are major features of a mature democratic society,” Beemsterboer told newsmen.
As for protection of the minorities, he said, “It is the responsibility of all of us to live up to these principles and we will continue our discussions with the government. We support all the forces which are coming out in favour liberal rights.”
Abdul Awal Khan Chowdhury, the central missionary of the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat, Bangladesh, said, “We are seriously concerned about our future as we do not what is in store for us.”
“We have lived here peacefully since 1912. But in recent times, a group of fanatic people have been spoiling Islam in the name of religion,” he said.
Awal said, “It is graceful for us that the foreigners teach us on the protection of human rights.”
“You know well who patronises them,” he said when he was asked whether elements within the government have been instigating the fanatics.
“The minister outright told her that there is no religious repression in the country, but Ahmadiya is a different issue,” Awal said, referring to a discussion of Industries Minister Matiur Rahman Nizaman and US assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca. “Such an utterance provokes the fanatics.”
A group of civil society members, led by KM Sobhan and Shahriar Kabir, also expressed their sympathy with the Ahmadiyas in the morning. They visited the mosque when the European diplomats were there.
“The element of religious fundamentalism in Bangladesh is alarmingly increasing. And the International Khatme Nabuwat Movement, a sister organisation of the coalition partner Jammat-e-Islami, attacked the Ahmadiyas with the help of the police,” said Shahriar Kabir.