South Asia

Islamic parties alliance call for hartal in Bangladesh

Members of an Islamic political group during a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, against the former telecommunication minister Abdul Latif Siddique after his criticism of the Muslim pilgrimage of Haj.

Members of an Islamic political group during a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, against the former telecommunication minister Abdul Latif Siddique after his criticism of the Muslim pilgrimage of Haj.  

Even after sacking of the minister for his comments on Haj and Tabligh Jamaat, an alliance of Islamic parties has called a day-long countrywide hartal in Bangladesh on Sunday as the government has failed to arrest the sacked minister.

Under the banner of ‘Sammilito Islami Dal Samuho’ — Coalition of Islamic parties — it gave the government a 15-day ultimatum to arrest Abdul Latif Siddique, the former posts, telecommunications and information technology minister, but later it extended the date till October 22.

“The government did not pay heed to our demand within the deadline,” Zafrullah Khan, secretary general of the alliance, said at a press conference in Dhaka on Wednesday. The secretary of the alliance has also threatened the government to go for continuous movement if it creates any obstacle during the hartal programme. The Islamists also demanded blasphemy law to be enacted.

Following the minister's comments, BNP chief Khaleda Zia has dubbed the ruling party as “a party of atheists.” As many of the alliance members are components of the BNP- and Jamaat-led opposition combine, the ruling alliance has said the hartal is a ploy to fan up street agitation against the government.

The minister drew widespread condemnation after rubbishing the practice of Haj and Tabligh Jamaat at a programme in New York on Sept 28. A video clip of his remarks triggered a controversy as it went viral on the internet.

Amid the furor, the outspoken minister was stripped of his ministerial position, party’s presidium post and suspended of his primary membership in the ruling Awami League. The party also issued showcause notice against him asking why his membership should not be cancelled?

At the programme in New York, Mr. Siddique said he was against Haj and Tabligh Jamaat more than he was against the Jamaat-e-Islami. “Haj is a waste of manpower. Those who perform Haj do not have any productivity. They deduct from the economy, spend a lot of money abroad. Criticising Tabligh Jamaat, he said, “ (The) Tabligh Jamaat brings together about 20 lakh people every year. It has no specific duties. It just clogs traffic across the country.”

Speaking about the history of Haj, he also said Prophet Muhammad was worried about the people of Arab as they were “robbers”. The prophet then made an arrangement that his followers meet at a place every year, which will generate income.

Since then, over two dozen cases have been filed against him in different courts in several districts of Bangladesh, accusing him of hurting religious sentiments. Arrest warrants have been also issued in some the cases. Media reports said, Mr. Siddique, who did not return home, is reportedly in Kolkata.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 3:46:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/islamic-parties-alliance-call-for-hartal-in-bangladesh/article6527023.ece

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