Since the government has made Mongol Shobhajatra compulsory in every school in the country, fundamentalist Islamic parties and organisations including Jamaat-e-Islam and Hefazat-e-Islam has been protesting the government’s decision for the past one week.
Nayeb-e-Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, Mujibur Rahman in a press release said: “The constitution begins with Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim and Islam is our state religion so isn't the compulsory celebration of Pohela Boishak with Mongol Shobhajatra contradictory to the constitution?”
Recognised by Unesco as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Mongol Shobhajatra has long been a contentious issue for Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh who claim it is not Bangla culture but a vestige of Hindu culture that is incompatible with Muslim majority Bangladesh.
Mongol Shobhajatra began in 1989 as a resistance to military dictatorship by teachers and students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University using traditional folk art to usher in the Bangla New Year.
In his statement Mujibur also alleged the government was forcing students to bring out Mongol Shobhajatra to please some vested interest quarters.
Much of the rhetoric about Mongol Shobhajatra consistently circles around conspiracy theories.
“Influential atheist groups are conspiring to remove Islam and Islamic culture from Bangladesh,” Islami Oikya Jote Secretary General Mufti Fayzullah told Dhaka Tribune told during a demonstration on April 7, after Friday prayers, protesting the government's decision.
Chormonai Pir Syed Rezaul Karim, also the ameer of Islami Andolon Bangladesh, told Dhaka Tribune: “A few months ago the government installed a Greek idol in front of the Supreme Court and now they have made Mongol Shobhajatra compulsory in schools. We really do not understand why the government is doing this.
“We guess it is part of a bigger conspiracy against Islam and Muslim people will not tolerate this type of anti-Islamic decision.”