The Hefazat chief alleges that a vested quarter is trying to make him controversial
Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmed Shafi has claimed that his statement regarding women’s education has been “distorted,” claiming that he is against the co-education system and not against women’s education.
His call made on Friday about not allowing girls to study had sparked widespread controversy, drawing criticisms from different quarters including government ministers.
In a media statement issued on Sunday, known Islamic hardliner Shafi urged the mass media not to “distort” his comments when publishing them. “Because that leads to confusion and misunderstanding among the general people... Do not spread lies against anyone.”
“Reaching a conclusion without understanding someone’s remarks is a crime. And using a part of a remark for one’s own interest is a bigger crime,” he said in the statement.
Shafi also claimed that a vested quarter was out to desperately make him sound controversial. “They are trying to present me as a person who is against women and women’s education.
“I have responded to that. Read that and try to understand. Do not spread lies,” he said.
“I am saying again – create a safe environment for women’s education and ensure security of their lives and honour. No one should send their daughters to an unsafe environment.”
He said that his remarks were made in the backdrop of rapes and murders of women around the country that are taking place every day. These crimes and discrimination against women would not stop if people do not have any morale, he added.
The chief of fundamentalist Islamist group Hefazat also added: “The summary of what I said is that they [girls or women] should wear burkas if they go to colleges and universities for higher education and their teachers should be women too.”
Remarks and rebuttal
On Friday, the 99-year-old had asked his followers to take oath to restrain girls from studying at schools and colleges, while addressing an annual religious gathering at Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasa, also known as Hathazari Madrasa, in Chittagong.
“Do not let girls study at schools and colleges. At best, you can allow them to study up to fourth or fifth grade. If you let them study any more... You have seen in the newspapers that... If you educate your girl up to ninth, tenth, MA, BA levels then that girl will not remain yours.
“If you educate your girls, other men will snatch them away,” he said.
After media reports on his remarks led to controversy and harsh criticism, Shafi on Saturday had issued another statement, where had claimed that his comments were published partially in different media outlets.
He said: "In my speech, I tried to say that girls should not be sent to any educational institution which goes any against basic tenets of Islam. You should bear in mind that Islam is a complete code, which encompasses every aspect of life. Islam encouraged girls' education and every one of you knows that Bibi Ayesha (R) was a renowned interpreter of Hadith. If she did not receive education, then we would remain deprived from many valuable sayings of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).”
"Purdah is a fundamental principle in Islam. I wanted to say that the fundamental principle of purdah should not be violated when receiving education, as most of our educational institutions follow a co-curricular system, which goes against purdah. As a matter of fact, I tried to caution people about the co-curricular activities.
"I have come to know that many media outlets are portraying me as a misogynist and hater of girls' education, which is regrettable. They are misconstruing my point of view. As you know I am now serving as the chairman of Al-Hiyatul Ulya Lil-Zami'atil Qawmiya Bangladesh. Hundreds of girls receive higher education every year from the institution," said Shafi.
"How can I go against women’s education when I am the chairman of an education board under which hundreds of girls receive education and sit for examinations?'" he asked.
"I want to reiterate that I am not against girls' education. However, I want to caution everyone again about the safe educational institutions for women. We are in favour of girls' education but that should have a safe environment, which does not go against the basic tenet of Islam. Education is important but we cannot send our daughters to an unsafe environment," he added.
He also urged the authorities to ensure an environment congenial for girls' education where all officials from top to bottom would be women, and requested the mass media to not mislead people by publicizing his comments partially.