The largest Qawmi madrasa education board in Bangladesh has been accused of nepotism and bending to political influence in the recent election of its new committee.
Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh (BEFAQ) is alleged to have disregarded conventions through the election of its executive committee at its 10th board council held on February 12.
BEFAQ appointed relatives of influential alems, including the son of qawmi board chief Allama Shah Ahmad Shafid, to senior posts. At the same time, political high-ups were also given responsible posts in BEFAQ.
In response, Mymensingh alems demanded the cancellation of the BEFAQ committee within two weeks of the 10th council concluding at the Jamia Imdadia Arabia Faridabad madrasa.
At a February 26 meeting of the head teachers of different madrasas, Mymensingh Majlish-e-Amela President Khaled Saifullah Sadi tabled a six-point demand which included the cancellation of the BEFAQ committee called ‘Majlish Khash’.
“The 10th council was not held democratically,” Khaled Saifullah Sadi said. “That is why we are demanding a new committee be elected.
“Members from madrasas under BEFAQ in each district should be given posts in the shura council and the Majlish-e-Amela.”
Religious leaders started expanding their influence in BEFAQ when BNP came to power after HM Ershad’s downfall in 1990. Later, religious parties also began playing an influential role in employing officials and staff of BEFAQ.
Sources from BEFAQ and different qawmi madrasas have said that according to the laws established during the establishment of BEFAQ, no senior leaders of political parties can be elected to the committee board.
According to the law, the members of BEFAQ have to be elected from among the madrasa teachers.
When asked if nepotism had played a role in the forming of the committee, BEFAQ Secretary General Mawlana Abdul Quddus accepted some “mistakes” had been made.
“Such incidents might have occurred once or twice,” he said. “We do not know about it but we intend to correct these mistakes in the next council meeting.”
BEFAQ Senior Vice-President Allama Ashraf Ali was unreachable when contacted.
Qawmi board expanded
The number of members overall was increased in the recently-announced committee.
116 members were included in the executive committee, while 242 members were elected in the shura council. The members of the executive council also have the right to stay in the shura council.
At the 9th BEFAQ council held on 2012, by comparison, there were 55 members in the executive council and 145 members in the shura council.
At the 10th BEFAQ council, Hefazat-e-Islam Amir Shah Ahmad Shafi was re-elected president to a post he has held for the past decade.
The council also elected Shah Ahmad Shafi’s son Mawlana Anas Madani as the vice president, and son-in-law Mawlana Ishaq as a member.
Secretary General Mawlana Abdul Kuddus’ brother-in-law Mufti Nurul Amin was elected as the joint secretary general, while his brother Mawlana Abdul Kadir was made a member. Such selections sparked controversy on social media.
In a similar manner, Mufti Niamatullah, the brother-in-law of another joint secretary general, Mawlana Mahfuzul Haque, was elevated to the same post.
Mawlana Mahfuzul’s brother, Mamunul Haque, was made a member. Membership was also given to Mawlana Ataullah, the son-in-law of Senior Vice-President Mawlana Ashraf Ali.
Mawlana Rashid Ahmed, the son of Vice-President Mufti Wakkas, was given the post of general secretary, while Mawlana Mahmudul Hasan and his son-in-law Mawlana Niamatullah Faridi were made executive committee vice-president and member of shura council, respectively.
However, Ahmad Shafi’s son, Anas Madani, was elected as the vice-president, bypassing the claims of Hefazat Secretary General Junaid Babunagari.
Even though Babunagari is one of the heads of Hathazari Madrasa under the control of Ahmad Shafi, complaints have been lodged against Madani for being elected as the vice-president only because of his lineage.
Politics in BEFAQ
Leaders from important religious groups are now occupying top posts in the BEFAQ council.
Leaders from religious parties including Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam, Khilafat Majlish, Islami Oikya Jote, Bangladesh Khilafat Andolon, and Bangladesh Khilafat Majlish have achieved top positions in the executive committee of BEFAQ.
Claims have been made that qawmi madrasa teachers and students are being used by these leaders in their own ploys.
A greater number of political leaders than ever before have also been elected into the executive committee this year.
Senior Vice-President of BEFAQ Allama Ashraf Ali is the chairman of advisory committee of Bangladesh Khilafat Majlish.
Among the vice-presidents of BEFAQ are Jamiat Secretary General Mawlana Nur Hossain Kashemi, Jamiat Amir Mufti Wakkas, Islami Oikya Jote leader Mawlana Muhibullah Babunagari, Islami Oikya Jote Vice-President Mawlana Abdul Hamid, Bangladesh Khilafat Andolon Amir Mawlana Ataullah Ibn Hafezi, and Islami Oikya Jote Secretary General Mufti Faziullah.
Featuring among the general secretaries of BEFAQ are Islami Oikya Jote leader Mawlana Obaidur Rahman, Islami Oikya Jote leader Anwarul Karim, Jamiat central leader Mawlana Rashid Ahmad, and Jamiat leader Mawlana Masudul Karim.
A number high-ups were also made members of the BEFAQ committee (see boxed text).
This article was first published on banglatribune.com