Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured a delegation of Alems, or Islamic scholars, of meeting most of their seven-point charter of demands.
The team, under the banner of Bangladesh Khademul Islam Jamaat, had seen her a day before Hifazat-e Islam is to begin a long march towards Dhaka from Chittagong demanding punishment for ‘atheists’ bloggers.
The Prime Minister also asked the Alems to stay alert for any Jamaat-e-Islami attempts for sabotage during the Hifazat programme scheduled for Friday, after they had urged her to give permission for the long march.
Police have granted the Hifazat permission to hold a rally at Motijheel the same day amidst widespread criticism.
On Wednesday, 25 organisations including the Sector Commanders’ Forum, Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and Sammilita Sangskritik Jote called a strike from 6pm Friday to 6pm Saturday to thwart Hifazat’s long march and reinforce the demand for a ban on politics by Jamaat.
The leftist parties have also lent their support to this strike.
Several Islamist parties have also protested the Hifazat’s programme.
Hasina said everybody had the right to observe democratic programmes. “But, I fear whether any miscreants commit any misdeed taking the advantage of the situation.”
The first demandsof the Alems is the arrest of the rest of bloggers for trying to demean Prophet Mohammad and closure of their Facebook pages, blogs and websites.
They also demande formulation of law to protect Prophet Mohammad’s dignity in Parliament when it convened.
Their other demands are recognition of Kaomi madrasas, release of all Kaomi madrasa students and teachers and withdrawal of cases against them, seizure of all the books by Abul A’la Maududi, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, declaring Ahmadiyas non-Muslim and designating seperate graveyard for them and republishing books after editing out the offensive issues and correcting the mistakes in them.
Regarding their demands, Hasina said, “Our party Awami League works for Islam. But there is too much propaganda against us.”
She also mentioned Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s several initiatives after independence including closing the Race Course and founding Islami Foundation.
“The Awami League works for the development of the religion whenever it’s in power. We don’t use religion for politics.”
About taking steps against those who insulted the Prophet, she said, “We can never accept hurting religious sentiments and insulting Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH). That’s why we have formed a committee.”
“You can trust us on that. We will not tolerate these.”
After Hifazat demanded punishing the ‘atheist’ bloggers, four bloggers have been arrested over allegations of making inflammatory postings on the internet on sensitive religious issues. The Ganajagaran Mancha of Shahbagh sees the move as pandering to the zealots.
The Prime Minister also mentioned that the Information and Communications Technology Act also allows taking legal measures against those who hurt religious beliefs.
About recognising the Kaomi madrasas, she said, “The curriculum will have to be prepared for reco gnition of Kaomi madrasas. A commission has been formed. They will give the report. You can be sure that we will give the recognition.”
She agreed on banning all the books by Maududi, and republishing books after taking out the offensive issues and correcting the mistakes in them.
“Those will also be delivered in the schools.”
But she did not say anything about declaring the Ahmadiyas non-Muslim.
About banning Jamaat, the key ally to main opposition BNP, she said an executive order would not suffice as a case on the matter was pending in the High Court.
At the meeting with the Prime Minister, Khademul Islam Jamaat’s chief Mufti Ruhul Amin cleared their position in favour of trying the war criminals.
In a written statement, he said, “The programmes of Hifazat-e Islam should be allowed. Any political programmes against this programme will create chaos in the country.”
Ruhul Amin urged the 25 organisations to withdraw their strike on Saturday. “Please don’t push the country towards conflict. The nation will not forgive you, otherwise.”
After the strike for Saturday protesting Hifazat’s programme was announced, Shahbagh’s Ganajagaran Mancha on Thursday has also declared a nationwide blockades of road, rail and water transports from 6pm on Friday to 4pm on Saturday.