Ministers, rights group condemned statements made by Islamic hardliner Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmad Shafi who recently made his audience promise to restrain girls from studying at schools and colleges
Government ministers and rights organizations have come down hard on Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmad Shafi for his remarks against women’s education.
Deputy Minister for Education, Barrister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel, has said that Hefazat chief Shafi’s remarks against sending girls to school will not affect the forward march of women’s education.
He made the comment during a view-exchange meeting with journalists at his Chashma Hill residence in the city yesterday.
Without directly mentioning Shafi, Nowfel said: "Whoever has made the comment, it is his personal opinion. He is not holding any executive post in formulating curricula, education management, or any education sector. There is no scope for implementing his ideas in state policy.”
The deputy minister for education said one person’s views would not have any effect on the onward march of women education.
"Women are now advancing rapidly in education. The incumbent government gives the highest priority to women’s education," he said.
Fundamentalist Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmad Shafi’s oath to restrain girls from studying at schools and colleges has garnered widespread criticism.
The ninety-nine-year-old asked his followers to make this vow while addressing an annual religious gathering at Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasa, also known as Hathazari Madrasa, in Chittagong on Friday.
“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 away your girls,” he said.
“Every citizen can exercise his freedom of speech,” Nowfel said in his reaction.
“He has the right to speak his mind. However, I would like to remind everyone, exercising constitutional right to free speech, ensures equal rights for all of us. We cannot make discriminatory statements,” said the deputy minister.
‘Shafi can’t hold back 1% of girls from education’
Telecommunication and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said Shafi cannot hold back even 1% of the nation’s girls from pursuing higher education.
He said this while speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Brac Inn auditorium yesterday.
He said: “Of the students pursuing higher education at the moment, 53% are female and Shafi cannot even hold back 1% of them.
“Our prime minister leads the nation, not Shafi.”
The minister further added that females will play the most important role in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is granting all facilities for girls to succeed in knowledge and education,” said Jabbar.
Replying to a question of a former specialist of Access to Information (a2i) project under the government’s ICT Division, Naimuzzaman Mukta, the minister said: “I have visited four madrasas in Mirpur recently, and every student there was given a tablet PC.
“This clearly shows that even madrasa students want to expand their knowledge.”
Meanwhile, women’s activist organization Naripokkho also condemned the statements made by the Islamic hardliner Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmad Shafi who recently made his audience promise to resrain girls from studying at schools and colleges.
“The derogatory remarks made by Ahmad Shafi regarding girls’ education are insulting not only to women but also humiliating for the entire nation,” reads a press release issued on Saturday.
Naripokkho in the press release has said they wanted to know what steps will be taken against him by the government for passing such statements about women's education.
Anwar Hussain and Kamrul Hasan contributed to this report