Despite a ban on the exchange of educational or cultural activities with Pakistan, ‘Dawat-e-Islami,’ a Pakistan-based religious organisation has conducted a seminar on the Dhaka University campus with support from a teacher.
Both students and teachers at the university were disgruntled over the incident and reacted to it strongly.
On Jan 3, the seminar was held under a banner titled ‘Dawat-e-Islami Education Wing, DU,’ at RC Majumdar Arts Auditorium in the Lecture Theatre of the university. Prof Abdullah Al Maruf of the Arabic Language and Literature Department supervised it.
The auditorium was rented under his supervision as well. But after the issue became controversial, he denied his involvement, saying he was just present at the seminar as a member of the audience.
Pakistani religious scholar Moulana Haji Imran Attari, chief of Dawat-e-Islami, was the key speaker at the seminar and delivered his speech in Urdu.
On Dec 14, 2015, the Dhaka University Syndicate led by former Vice Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique decided to sever all ties with Pakistan.
Dhaka University severed "all types of communication and relations including academic, research-related, cultural and sport related with Pakistan until it apologises unconditionally for the genocide in 1971". From now on, no delegation of Dhaka University teachers or students will visit Pakistan and no education exchange programme will take place, according to the syndicate meeting minutes.
Due to Pakistan's denial of the genocide in Bangladesh in 1971, the Dhaka University syndicate decided not to have any cooperative programme with any educational institution in Pakistan and also barred Pakistani students from being admitted to the university or any of its affiliated institutions, said Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique. Seminars, symposiums or any other academic programmes are not allowed as well, he said.
"I feel it's really unfortunate and reprehensible that such an incident has happened. Those responsible for it must be brought before the law and given proper punishment."
The Pakistani occupation force ruined Bangladesh in 1971 as they killed people, raped women and torched everything, said Pro-Vice Chancellor Prof Muhammad Samad. "They killed three million people and raped more than 200,000 mothers and sisters. Those people who brought in a radical organisation from Pakistan should be taken to task."
It is unexpected and also unacceptable when a teacher acts this way despite knowing all the facts (of Pakistani organisations being banned on the campus), said Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani. "I believe the authorities must probe whether those involved had any hidden agenda," he said.
"These types of actions do not match our thinking and philosophy, and they're not related to the environment and goals of our education system. I hope the university authorities will take necessary action."
Dhaka University always nurtures progressive thought and has no room for religion-based politics, said Dhaka University Chhatra League General Secretary Tanvir Hasan Saikat.
"Similarly, we don't expect any Pakistani organisation spreading political thoughts in the guise of a religious programme," the disgruntled student leader said.
“My question is how they could manage to rent the RC Majumdar Auditorium when it requires approval. How did they manage to get it?"
Prof Abdullah Al Maruf is the head of the Dhaka University section of Dawat-e-Islami and he spoke at the seminar as the head, according to a student of the Arabic Department.
When asked, Prof Maruf denied he organised the event. "I was simply part of the audience and it was the arts faculty dean who approved the rental. I have no connection with the organisation. I don't even know it," he said.
“The university has cut all relations with Pakistan by its own decision and we don't attend any seminar in Pakistan even if we're invited. But the Bangladesh government has a relationship with Pakistan. People from Pakistan attend the Tabligh Jamaat as well. They speak Urdu there. Some people, however, are creating trouble concerning this incident," he said.
Prof Maruf claimed to be a member of a sub-committee of the Awami League's religious affairs central committee. "I'm astonished that people think a person like me can favour those against the independence of Bangladesh. How can I do that? Everyone knows who I am - a part of a freedom fighters' family. We'll never favour anyone against independence."
Prof Abdul Basir, dean of the Arts Faculty, however, said the Pakistani organisation did not seek approval from them to use the auditorium.
"A teacher of the Arabic Department took permission from us to use the auditorium. His name is Abdullah Al Maruf. We allow teachers to use the auditorium as they organise different events with the students," he said.
They followed the rules for getting approval from the university, but the teacher never informed the authorities about the participants in the event, he said.
When asked, Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman said he immediately made a query with the dean when he was made aware of the incident. He was informed that a teacher in the Arabic Department was holding a programme there.
“The university is a place for knowledge. It is not a place to spread religious beliefs. There's no room for communalism here. One can nurture the study of religion but can't spread the religion itself. He has been told about it and warned."
Prof Akhtaruzzaman, however, avoided a question on whether any action would be taken against the teacher for defying the syndicate's decision.