The government has indulged Hefazat-e-Islam too far, civil society members, intellectuals and politicians have said in reaction to the threatening remarks made by the fundamentalist group against rights activist Sultana Kamal.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s indulgence of Hefazat’s many demands has led to them crossing the limit,” physicist Ajoy Roy said on Saturday.
“If she continues to show them such lenience despite being the head of a secular state, Hefazat may put a veil on her someday,” the retired Dhaka University professor warned.
The Qawmi madrasa-based platform on Friday claimed that Sultana Kamal wanted all mosques removed from the country and called for her arrest within 24 hours.
“Sultana Kamal can make any comment enjoying her freedom of speech, but what Hefazat is doing will make Bangladesh to an Islamic state someday. The platform has no right to exist or interfere in the political context of secular Bangladesh,” said professor Roy.
The government’s flexibility from the beginning has resulted in more and demands from the platform.
“How did the prime minister meet with Hefazat leaders and say she had not liked that sculpture?” he asked.
He urged the secular, political forces and liberal groups to take to the streets like 1969-’70 to drive away such radical groups.
Sultana Kamal appeared on a talk show last week and offered her arguments against the removal of the Lady Justice statue from the Supreme Court premises, while Hefazat’s Mufti Shakhawat Hossain argued for its removal, a long-standing demand of the Islamist group.
Hefazat’s Dhaka city chapter Vice President Junayed Al Habib on Friday said: “How dare Sultana Kamal! She said that if the statue is not in the country then mosques should not be in the country.”
He then threatened to “break every bone in her body” if she is seen on the streets.
The Hefazat leader demanded that Sultana Kamal either be arrested within a day or be exiled from the country like Taslima Nasreen.
Recordings of the show that are available on the internet show that Sultana, the executive director of the legal aid organisation Ain o Salish Kendra, did not in fact make those comments.
In a telephone interview to the Bangla Tribune, she later said that her remarks were twisted and misinterpreted and that Hefazat appeared to be impervious to reasonable arguments.
Eminent citizens urged the government to take a strong stand so that Hefazat cannot make such remarks in the future.
“Hefazat’s audacity is growing day by day and now they are interfering with the freedom of citizens,” said Tourism and Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon.
Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said no one has the right to threaten anyone like this and this is not acceptable at all.
“It is the government’s responsibility to ensure the security of citizens. Getting threats of violence for speaking freely is a threat to citizen’s freedom and security,” he said.
Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir urged the government to immediately arrest those who make threats or instigate a part of society against taking lives.
The government recently removed the statue of a sari-clad Lady Justice from in front of the Supreme Court’s yard and placed it in front of the annex building in the back.
Holding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other, the statue is considered a symbol of justice.
Radical Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam had targeted the statue since its erection in December, saying it did not reflect the Islamic culture of Bangladesh.