Statue pull-down threat

Bangladesh‘s leading radical Islamist leader has warned Prime Minister Hasina with ‘dire consequences’ if her government did not stop the proposed installation of a statue of her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Junaid Babunagari, the new chief of radical Islamist group Hifazat-e Islam, has threatened to pull down ‘all statues no matter which party erects them.’

“We are confronted with a Taliban leader in our midst. Choice before PM Hasina is either your government stops him or let the Republic become another Pakistan,” said Shahriar Kabir , leader of the Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, which has pushed hard for War Crimes trials to punish Islamists who perpetrated horrible atrocities  during the 1971 Liberation War.

Kabir was alluding to the destruction of the Bamiyan Cave sculptures in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime in that country.

Babunagari has also asked PM Hasina to stop ISKCON’s activities in Bangladesh, officially declare Ahmadiyas as ‘non-Muslim’, close the Embassy of France and expel the French ambassador, and pass a resolution condemning France in parliament.

“Statues are against Sharia, no matter whose statue it is. I won’t name a party or leader,” said Babunagari. “But I swear by Allah, if someone erects a statue, even of my father, I will be the first person to pull it down. I will pull down statues no matter which party erects them.”

He made four demands to the government from the Hathazari mahfil on Friday night.

* to stop ISKCON’s activities in Bangladesh

* to officially declare the Ahmadiyas as ‘non-Muslim’

* to close Embassy of France and expel the French ambassador

* to pass a resolution condemning France in parliament.

“I am warning you. The atheists who are sitting on your neck will harm you, they will kill you. We are not your enemy. We want ‘peace and order’ in the country,” Hefazat chief Babunagari warned Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He made the threat at a gathering of the radical groups covertly organised by Jamat- e-Islam fronting ‘Al Amin Sangstha’ on the premises of Parboty Government High School in Chattogram’s Hathazari on Friday night.

Mamunul Haque, joint secretary general of Hifazat, was supposed to join the three-day programme on the closing day, but he could not due to protests for two days by the affiliates of the ruling Awami League over his past remarks against a statue of independence hero Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka.

“The prime minister (Sheikh Hasina) has said that Bangladesh will be run in line with the Charter of Madinah. If it is true, then nothing can be done against Islam in this country. Inshallah, the prime minister will not let it (setting up statues) happen,” said Babunagari.

“There cannot be any statue in the country if it is run in line with the Charter of Madinah. Is there any statue in Madinah?” he asked.

Hasina had delivered a speech at an Hifazat congregation before the 2019 Parliament elections, sparking secularist criticism that she was ‘needlessly pandering’  to this radical group to cut down Jamait-e-Islami which is aligned to Awami League’s principal opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP.

Earlier on November 13, a rally of the fundamentalists under the banner of ‘Touhidi Janata Oikya Parishad’ was held at Dhupkhola ground in Gandaria, Dhaka to oppose the installation of a sculpture of Bangabandhu on the occasion of Mujib Year.

On the same day, Mamunul Haque, acting secretary general of Bangladesh Khilafat Jub Majlis and central president of Bangladesh Khilafat Jub Majlis, also publicly opposed the installation of Bangabandhu’s sculpture at the Shane Risalat Conference organized and led by Jamat leaders Bangladesh Khilafat Jubo Majlis Dhaka Metropolitan at BMA Auditorium in the capital.

Addressing the Bangladesh Prime Minister, he said: “I love Bangabandhu from the bottom of my heart. Your father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, we respect him. Who killed this Bangabandhu? Students of a madrasa? No, no. Bangabandhu has been killed by the people of Bangabandhu.”

The Awami League had maintained a studied silence on the issue.

Its ally, Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal fired a critical note even as it opposed the radicals on the statue issue.

“By shifting the sculpture (Themis) from in front of the Supreme Court, (the government) has allowed this evil force to show the courage to oppose the installation of the sculpture of Bangabandhu.”

The Committee for the Elimination of the Deadly collaborators of 1971 has expressed fears of a “catastrophe” for the country and the nation if legal action is not taken against the fundamentalists who have demanded the removal of the Father of the Nation sculpture.

Later, at a function in Chittagong on November 15, Deputy Minister for Education and Chittagong-9 MP Mahibul Hasan Chowdhury Nawfel said strict action would be taken if those opposed to the installation of Bangabandhu’s sculpture did not apologize.

Warning the “fundamentalist group” not to go too far, Nawfel threatened them   with ‘broken necks’.

Although the three-day gathering near Hathazari Madrasa was organized by an organization called ‘Al Amin Sangstha’, mainly those associated with Jamat-e-Islam and Hifazat were involved in this organization.

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