It is inconceivable how the 13 demands put forward by Hefazat-e-Islam can even be considered. Any one of them will put us on the road to an Islamic State along the lines of the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and will essentially put an end to Bangladesh as we know it.
But Hefazat-e-Islam’s Long March has come to fruition. Despite attempts by the authorities to limit their numbers they have turned up in the tens of thousands, and have converged at the centre of the country’s financial district, Motijheel.
The speeches are fiery, the crowd frenzied and the determination fierce. They have gathered people from madrassas and mosques across the country, at considerable cost, and leaders of various groups have been affirming their commitment to the purist Islamic ideology they all belong to.
And they are calling, in no uncertain terms, for an entirely Sharia-compliant country.
They demand a revamping of the education policy; of women’s rights; of minority rights; death for blasphemy; the banning of “free-mixing” and “foreign cultural influence” and for the constitution of Bangladesh to become more Islam-oriented than it already is.
Given that, it’s baffling how mainstream opposition parties are lending them any support at all, let alone all the support they can give. It’s even more worrying that the government has said it will consider their demands. How it can do that without committing treason against the state of Bangladesh is hard to see.