Widespread protest against ban on Ahmadiya publications
In the wake of demands from a section of Muslim fundamentalists to declare the Ahmadiya community non-Muslim, the government on January 8 imposed ban on all sorts of literature published by the community.
According to the government decision, the sale, publication, distribution and retention of all books and booklets on Islam published by the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamaat, Bangladesh is prohibited.
The ban has been imposed in view of objectionable materials in such publications that hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh, a Home Ministry announcement said. It, however, did not say as to what particular material/s of which particular publication/s is objectionable.
Ahmadiya community says that the government, by imposing the ban, has bowed down to religious terrorism.
By its decision, the government has bowed down to religious terrorism and curtailed the rights of repressed and awarded the repressors, said Abdul Awwal, the spokesman of the community.
Some fundamentalist groups, including Hifazate Khatme Nabowat Andolon, Islamic Constitution Movement and Islami Oikkya Jote, a component of the BNP-led ruling alliance, have long been demanding ban on the Ahmadiyas right to claim themselves Muslims. Jamaat-e-Islami, another component of the BNP-led ruling alliance, said that the party was not a partner of the anti-Ahmadiya movement, but it supports the demand that the community be declared non-Muslim.
The supporters of Nabowat Andolon even gave the government an ultimatum to announce the Ahmadiyans non-Muslims by January 5. For over a month, the group was agitating in the citys Tejgaon area and attacked an Ahmadiyan mosque, leaving at least 30 people, including a number of cops, injured with impunity.
Different political, social and student organisations strongly protested the ban on Ahmadiya literatures, terming it a serious breach of the peoples right to religious freedom.
Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and Awami League president, Sheikh Hasina, condemned the government decision as a violation of the Constitution. It clearly violates the freedoms of religion and thought, enshrined in the constitution, the former Prime Minister said on January 11 while exchanging views with a group of journalists. She added that the ban was also against the fundamental spirit of Islam. Who are we to say whether a person is a Muslim or not. Only Allah can judge it, she observed.
In separate statements issued on January 9, a number of political parties and civil society leaders termed the ban an act of repression of the religious minorities and demanded immediate withdrawal of the government decision.
In a statement, president and general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Monzurul Ahsan Khan and Mujahidul Islam Selim, termed the government decision an infringement on the freedom of religion and a violation of human rights.
They demanded immediate withdrawal of the government decision saying that Bangladesh was not a happy hunting ground of fanatics.
The Workers Party of Bangladesh, at a meeting of its central politburo, condemned the ban saying that the government has violated the citizens rights that the Constitution guarantees by bowing down to the demands of certain fanatic clerics.
The country will be completely destabilised if the BNP-Jamaat alliance government does not stop this dangerous game involving religion, resolved the meeting with Rashed Khan Menon, the president of the party, in the chair.
The meeting observed that the government decision followed pressure from a section of religious fanatics, and it was not taken to ensure religious sanctity but rather for political gains.
President of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal Hasanul Haq Inu and general secretary Syed Sajjad Zafar in a statement said that if the reason the government had cited for banning the books and booklets stands then it should have banned the books by Moulana Moududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The state becomes undemocratic if it takes a side or represses a group taking advantage of a religious debate, the statement said.
Masud Alam Raghib Ahsan, director of Odhikar, a coalition of human rights organisations, in a statement termed the decision a violation of a constitutional right. The coalition also demanded withdrawal of the decision to save the countrys image in the international forum.
Govt served legal notice
Four human rights groups, who have served legal notice on the government, challenging its ban on Ahmadiya literatures, have started consultation with various civil society groups to mobilise supports for the religious minority group.
The human rights groups Ain O Salish Kendra, Sammilito Samajik Andolon, Naripokkho and Mahila Parishad served the legal notice on January 11. They, however, did not give any specific time frame for the government to reply to the notice.
Ahmadiyas are not alone, we stand by them. The ban imposed upon them is such a gross violation of the Constitution that it cannot go unchallenged, said Dr. Faustina Pereira of Ain O Salish Kendra. We will use all possible legal options to fight back the illegal ban.
Govt receives flaks from human rights bodies
Meanwhile, different international human rights bodies, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have criticised the government for imposing the ban on Ahmadiya publications.
Drishpat, a US-based human rights watchdog, has termed the ban as a major violation of Bangladeshs secular tradition.
Visiting US Congressman Joseph F. Crowley on January 13 termed the banning of publications of any religious sect a bad precedent in a country like Bangladesh, which is regarded as one of the most tolerant states. His observations were made at an international seminar organised at a city hotel by Probashi Bangladesh Nagorik Committee of North America - a group of expatriate Bangladeshis in the US.
Govt decision encourages fanatic groups
Meanwhile, the anti-Ahmadiya fanatic groups got further encouraged by the government decision to strengthen their movement for declaring the Ahmadiyans non-Muslims.
Moulana Mahmudul Hasan Momtazi, the ameer of the Hifazate Khatme Nabowat Andolon, announced further rallies on January 16 and 23 to drum up support for their demands.
Our movement will continue until the government declares the Ahmadiyas Non-Muslim, Momtazi, also the khatib of Rahim Metal Jameya Masjid in Tejgaon, told the gathering.
He said, The government has already banned all publications of the Ahmadiyas. It is a sign that our demands would be fulfilled. If the government does not declare them non-Muslims, we know how to attain our goal through bloodshed.