The radical group’s chief also alleged the government was aiding ‘atheism’.
Speaking at a rally on Saturday, the group’s leaders threatened to bring the country to a ‘standstill’ if the ‘atheist bloggers’ demonstrating at Shahbagh were not punished.
Supposedly backed by the Jamaat-e-Islami, the group has also announced to enforce a nationwide shutdown on Monday, stage rallies in nine main cities from Apr 11 to Apr 20 and besiege the capital Dhaka on May 5.
On behalf of the Chittagong-based group’s chief Ahmed Shafi, his son Anas Ali Madani read out a written speech.
“Atheists won’t be allowed in this country. Plots are being hatched to destroy Islam,” he alleged.
He said Bangladesh was being made an anti-Islam state and there were attempts to call in foreign troops in the name of curbing militancy.
“No matter which the party is, it must give in to the 13-point charter of demands if it wants to stay in power or if any party wants to go to power,” the group’s chief was quoted as saying in the written speech.
Shafi also urged his followers to be ready to even lay down their lives for such programmes in future.
He also said, “The country will be run on the words of the religious scholars, not on the words of the ‘Murtads’.”
“Our demonstrations will get tougher,” the group’s chief added.
Alleging the government was not taking steps against the ‘anti-Islamists’, Shafi said, “The Prime Minister is aiding atheism.”
Their other demands include removing the current ‘anti-Islam women’s acts’, the ‘godless education system’, prohibiting unrestrained public mixing of men and women, and banning attempts to set up monuments and building of statues across the country.
The Hifazat held its rally from 10am at Motijheel. No women were, however, seen taking part in it.
Several media persons, including a female journalist, were attacked by the radical group’s supporters in the Baitul Mukarram area when the rally was going on.
Although the rally organisers claimed it was non-political, leaders of the opposition alliance were seen delivering speeches at the programme.
BNP chief Khaleda Zia sent a team of representatives to express solidarity. Jatiya Party Secretary General Ruhul Amin Hawlader, presidium member Kazi Zafar Ahmed and several other leaders also expressed solidarity for the cause on behalf of its chief HM Ershad.
A small group, the Hifazat, came to limelight last month after they announced to thwart the Chittagong rally of the Ganajagaran Mancha, a platform of protesters demanding maximum penalty for convicted war criminals and ban on Jamaat-e-Islami.
One of their key demands is to detain the organisers of the Mancha and making an ‘anti-atheist Act’ with provisions for maximum penalty.
All day long, they were heard chanting slogans in support of their demands. After the rally was over, the participants were seen attempting to go towards Shahbagh.
Islami Oikya Jote Secretary General and Hifazat’s Joint Secretary General Faizullah read out their 13-point charter of demands.
Its Secretary General Nogri said, “In the name of Allah, we don’t have organisational relations with the Jamaat nor with anyone else.”
He said Saturday’s programme was not held over any political issue.
An on-duty official of a law enforcing agency told bdnews24.com they had information that the Jamaat-Shibir activists had taken part in the rally.
The leaders speaking at the rally said the Ganajagaran Mancha chanted ‘Joy Bangla’ slogan. “It proves they (the Mancha) want a Bengal of gold (Sonar Bangla) talked about by Rabindranath Tagore,” Abdur Rob Yousufi said.
Its Joint Secretary General Moinuddin Ruhi said the ‘atheists’ must be driven away from the country and their graves dug here.
Another leader Mohammad Wakkas alleged the government was following a ‘dual policy’. “It (the government) is patronising the atheists and ensured their safety. This government is not on the side of Islam and has no right to stay in power.”
He said the Hifazat would not ‘sit idle’ if their demands were not met.
Islami Oikya Jote Chairman Abdul Latif Nezami claimed supporters of all Islamist parties and religious scholars had joined the Hifazat.
Nezami said the rally had proven that a party, which would get the support of the Ulamas, could only form the government.
“It’s not possible to form government excluding them.”
Mohammad Taiyab said people of all religions could speak of their rights but not the ‘atheists’. “They have no rights.”
The opposition alliance, Jatiya Party and several organisations supplied foods and drinks to the rally participants.
The rally organisers thanked them for the move.