‘Govt met, meeting Hifazat demands’

Sheikh Hasina has asked the Hifazat-e Islam to shelve its Dhaka siege plans on May 5 as she said her government has met most of the 13-point charter of demands.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 3 May 2013, 02:35 PM
Updated : 4 May 2013, 06:58 AM

A major part of the Prime Minister’s press briefing on Friday dealt with the radical organisation’s demands and the government’s measures to meet them.

She read out 12 demands and urged them to call off their Sunday’s programme to facilitate rescue and rehabilitation efforts at the site of the biggest industrial disaster at Savar where 525 people, mostly readymade garment workers, have been confirmed dead.

“…Several of their (Hifazat’s) demands have already been met. Some of the logical demands are being implemented,” she said at the briefing at her official Ganabhaban residence in Dhaka.

About their first demand to reinstate ‘Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah’ in the Constitution, Hasina said the Constitution contains ‘Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim' and has Islam as the state religion. “And so, Islam has not been excluded from the Constitution,” she argued.

Hasina concurred with the Hifazat that those insulting Allah, Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and running propaganda campaign against the Muslims should be punished. She reiterated that laws to try such offences are already in place.

She said the Special Powers Act, penal codes, and Information and Communication Technology Act have provisions for punishment for defaming religion and the Prophet.

About tough punishment of ‘atheist’ bloggers and ‘anti-Islamists’ who have insulted Islam and the Prophet, she said the government had blocked YouTube as certain offensive materials on the Quran and Prophet Muhammad were run on it.

Hasina said four blog activists have been arrested and the government will ensure punishment of people if they are found guilty of such offences in future in line with recommendations by a probe committee.

Police had detained Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, Russell Parvez, and Asif Mohiuddin in the first week of April on suspicion of hurting religious sentiment through their work.

On the Hifazat’s demand to end abuse and killing of protesting Alem-Ulama, madrasa students, ‘Tauhidi Janata’ who love Prophet Muhammad, Hasina said the government had not adopted any steps to ‘oppress’ the peace-loving and innocent people talked about.

“Alems (religious scholars) are respected persons. There has been no incident of law keepers torturing, oppressing and opening fires on Alem-Ulamas.”

The Prime Minister claimed no Alem-Ulama or madrasa student had been detained. She asked for a list of innocent Alems who have been detained and said the government would release them.

Hasina agreed with the Hifazat’s demand to halt all efforts to stop religious programmes and removing obstructions to the faithful going to the national mosque Baitul Mukarram. She, however, requested them to keep an eye open so that no ‘gibata’ – the act of equating others with Allah – takes place during ‘khutbah’ or sermons.

The Hifazat had demanded prohibition of all imprudence, misconduct, adultery, public mixing of men and women, lighting of candles in the name of individual rights and freedom of speech.

She said the misconduct, adultery and such other things in the name of private space and freedom of speeches are ‘conflicting’ with the Bengalee values and the culture of Bangladesh’. “The government is always alert to stop the infiltration of such ‘foreign cultures’.”

Hasina said adultery was punishable under Section 497 of Bangladesh Penal Code. She said candles are lit in times of power cuts and gave example that torches were lit in Makkah and Madinah.

On the demand to stop attempts to turn Dhaka, the city of mosques, into a city of statues and establishing statues in the name of building sculptures in intersections and colleges, universities, the Prime Minister said there are sculptures in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and many other Muslim countries.

She said when a statue is built for worshipping purpose it becomes an idol but when it is made as an example of something it becomes a statue. Hasina said the government would not let anyone build any ‘obscene’ statues.

Regarding the demand for scrapping ‘anti-Islam women’s Acts’, the ‘godless education system’ and mandatory Islamic religious studies starting at the primary school, the Prime Minister said the education policy has provisions for mandatory religious education until secondary level.

About the women policy, she said a line had been added in the amendment which prohibited anti-Islam or anti-Quran policies.

She pointed out that Islam granted the highest rights to women and argued it was not the religion’s policy to curb that right.

About the demand to stop ‘conspiring’ against teachers and students of Kawmi Madrasa, Ulamas and Imam for mosques, Hasina said the government was not issuing threats to them.

Hasina ‘fully agreed’ with the Hifazat’s demand to prohibit all jokes about beards, caps and Islamic culture in the visual media along with negative characterisation of actors in religious attire.

“The matter moves forward when moves are made to identify the Razakars. It is right that anyone with caps and beards are not Razakars. The Awami League has the largest number of people with beards and caps.”

She urged the visual media to refrain from cracking jokes that hurt religious feelings.

Hifazat demanded the government brought an end to all activities by NGOs, Christian missionaries and attempts of conversion including in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Prime Minister Hasina said proselytising was a punishable act. She said the government was working for the development of the people and their lives in the Hill Tracts and added that the law-enforcing agencies were alert so that no NGO or any organisation could exploit the people’s poverty and their helplessness.

“Come, let us all carry Islam, the religion of peace, in our hearts and work together for the development of the country and the people,” she urged the Chittagong-based organisation.

Hasina urged the religious scholars to keep an eye and take proper steps so that no one can defame Islam in the name of militancy and terrorist activities.

“The country, the nation and democracy can be harmed by the imprudence or senseless acts or speeches. None of us expects it,” the Prime Minister reminded all.