The logo of Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh
|Type||Islamic revivalism, Islamic fundamentalism|
|Headquarters||Hathazari, Chittagong, Bangladesh|
Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh (Bengali: হেফাজতে ইসলাম বাংলাদেশ;) also known as Hifazat-e-Islam Bangladesh is an association based fundamentalist Islamic group in Bangladesh, was formed in January 2010. This group was formed in 2010 to protest against the secular education policy of Bangladeshi government. In 2011, they held violent demonstrations against the women's equal rights policy of the government and in 2013, and became headlines after holding large rallies asking the government to take action against the Shahbag protesters, who are demanding capital punishment of Bangladesh liberation war criminals. In 2013 this group warned the government with a 13 point charter, which includes banning the right of women to work outside, execution of so-called atheist bloggers and stopping Shahbag protests. Although, the German ambassador in Bangladesh Albrecht Conze opined that Hifazat's demands fundamentalism in Bangladesh, diplomats from the US Embassy in Bangladesh met with the leaders of Hefazat.
In January 2010, Hefazat-e-Islam was formed, comprising the teachers of more than one hundred Kawmi madrasas at Chittagong, Bangladesh. The formation was triggered by the 2009 Women Development Policy draft, which would have given women equal rights by inheritance. Ahmad Shafi, the director of Hathazari Madrasa and Mufti Izharul Islam, the chairman of the Islamist party Islami Oikya Jote, are regarded as the founders of Hefazat-e-Islam, Bangladesh. The group was formed to protest the government's secular policies in education and politics.
Protest against secular education policy in 2010
Within a month after formation Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh started violence at Chittagong. They engaged thousands of madrasa students in this violence. They were protesting the secular education policy and demanded presence of religion-based politics. A few of these madrasa students were captured by police and later released.
Protest against 'equal right' for women policy in 2011
Activities in 2013
In 2013 Hefajat-e-Islam was formed after the allegation that some of the protestors in the Shahbag movement, were involved in publishing of content offensive to Muslims on blogs. which is demanding capital punishment for Bangladesh liberation war criminals. They arranged a rally towards capital city Dhaka, demanding enaction of capital punishment of the "atheist bloggers" involved in the Shahbag movement and a blasphemy law.
The 13 points of the Islamist group includes:
1. Restore the phrase "Complete faith and trust in the Almighty Allah" in the constitution
2. Pass a law in parliament keeping a provision of the capital punishment of death sentence to prevent defaming Islam.
3. Taking measures for stringent punishment of against self-declared atheists and bloggers, who led the Shahbagh movement, and anti-Islamists who made derogatory remarks against the Muhammad. Also taking steps to stop the spread of "propaganda."
4. Stopping infiltration of all "alien-culture", including shamelessness in the name of individual’s freedom of expression, anti-social activities, adultery, free mixing of male and female and candle lighting. Stopping harassment of women, open fornication and adultery, sexual harassment, all forms of violence against women and an end to the tradition of dowry;
5. Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels canceling the women policy and anti-religion education policy.
7. Stopping setting up sculptures at intersections, schools, colleges and universities across the country.
Long march in April
On April 6, 2013, Hefajat-e-Islam organized a long march towards the Motijheel area in Dhaka from Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi to push for their 13-point demand. Awami League leader Nowsher Khan has died of head injuries during a clash between his party activists and those of Hifazat-e Islam at Bhanga in Faridpur district. Hefajat supporters also attacked at a rally of Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee in Dhaka from their procession, and several people including a policeman were injured in an attack. Hefajat supporters also attacked on Projonmo Chattar in Shahbag, which injured Professor Afsar Ahmed, the ProVC of Jahangirnagar University. They threatened the journalists, and even beat a female journalist from Ekushey TV, named Nadia Sharmin.
May 5 violence
On May 5, 2013, Hefajat arranged a siege and rally at the capital city, Dhaka in the demand of their 13-points. They attacked the Communist Party of Bangladesh's office at Motijheel and burnt it. The supporters of the Hefajat-e Islam vandalized and torched at least 50 vehicles and several buildings during their rally at Motijheel. A clash was also carried out by them in front of the ruling party Awami League's headquarter at Paltan, Dhaka. Hefajat supporters set fire to book stores located beside the south gate of the National Mosque Baitul Mukarram during their program, inadvertently burning copies of Quran and Hadith. They also assaulted two on-duty television journalists working for private channels before the rally. Because of their violent act during the rally, top leaders of the Hefajat-e Islam have been accused in 12 cases of murder, vandalism, arson and destruction of properties and other charges.
In the early hours of 6 May security forces, drawn from police, the elite Rapid Action Battalion and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh jointly launched a operation named 2013 Operation at Motijheel Shapla Chattar to prevent Hefazat's violence by driving them out from Dhaka. At the beginning of operation, police cut the power supply in the city’s commercial area, but the total operation was live telecaste over few TV channel. 2 Television channels were stopped by government for broadcasting misleading informations. Hefajat activists continued to strike in Narayanganj, Hathazari and Bagerhat on Monday morning, hours after Hefajat men were flushed out of the capital’s Motijheel area resulting death of at least 27 people including two policemen and a BGB soldier. During the clash Hefajat men hurled cocktails, vandalized and torched vehicles, set fire to a police outpost on the highway. Some sources confirm that at least 38 people were died, which is also rejected by government. According to The Economist European diplomats, as many as 50 people were killed in Dhaka, which didn't provide any diplomat's name.
According to government estimates, the number of casualties in this operation was 11, including a few law enforcement members. Hefazat-e-Islam claims that thousands of their members were killed; Human Rights Watch rebutted that claim. Independent free media reported total deaths over 30, and possibly up to 50.
According to different free media, the death toll rose to 27, including some law enforcement forces. Twenty of the victims, including two policemen and a BGB soldier, were killed in Narayanganj, and six were killed in Hathazari in Chittagong.
The government has filed 12 cases against top leaders of the Hefajat-e Islam for murder, vandalism, arson and destruction of properties and other charges.
Because of the differing views, Human Rights Watch called for an independent body to investigate the protest deaths, the poet and activist Farhad Mazhar said the government and media were making a cover-up and disinformation campaign. Hefazat claimed thousands of their men died on this operation which has not been supported by the free press, Human Rights Watch, Odhikar's June report, or the government.
Bomb explosion at Hefazat madrasa
On October 7, 2013 a Hefazat-e-Islam's Nayeb-e-Amir Mufti Izharul Islam Chowdhury driven Al Jamiatul Ulum Al Islamia Madrasa at Lal Khan Bazar, Chittagong rocked by a massive explosion. Later police found hand made bomb was exploded when students of that madrasa making bombs. Police ceased a lot of explosive materials from that madrasa.
Involvement of pro-Taliban leaders
Maulana Habibur Rahman, a madrasa principal of Sylhet, who declared in an interview that he has traveled to Afghanistan during the Afghan war in 1988, is one of the organizers of Hefajat-e Islam’s May 5 Dhaka long march. In an interview published in 2004, he revealed his involvement with Osama Bin Laden and another banned Islamist militant organization Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (Huji) Bangladesh. In that interview he said:
An invitation from Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami made it possible for me to make the fortunate trip to Afghanistan. Those of us who visited the Afghan war fields during that trip are Shaikhul Hadith, Ataur Rahman Khan, Sultan Jaok, Abdul Mannan, Habibullah, myself and three others.
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