Prof Mohammed Zafor Iqbal had demanded justice for secularist bloggers and intellectuals murdered for their democratic ideas. His name was on the black list of an outlawed Islamic group. Activists and Catholics condemn the attack.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Prof Mohammed Zafor Iqbal, a well-known writer and critic of Islamic fundamentalism, suffered stab wounds to the head after he was attacked by a member of Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), an Islamic group banned by the government of Bangladesh in 2015.
The academic was attacked on Saturday, as he was leaving a seminar at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) in Sylhet, where he teaches. He was rushed by air ambulance to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka and is now in stable conditions after getting 26 stiches.
His attacker, Faizul Hasan, a former student at a madrassa (Quranic school), told police that the victim was an “enemy of Islam” and that “his duty as a Muslim to resist those who work against Islam”.
Dr Iqbal is head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at SUST and is the recipient of 15 national awards for his work in literature, including the Bangla Academy Literary award.
He also wrote many articles against Islamic radicalism, demanding justice for intellectuals murdered in recent years – including famous bloggers and activists – for their secular ideas and their opposition to violent Islam.
As a result of his activism, his name was included in the ABT’s black list of secularist or pro-democracy intellectuals, which the group pledged to kill.
This is the same movement that claimed responsibility for attacking 13 intellectuals, 11 of whom were killed. As a result of this the professor was provided with a police escort.
Several activists spoke to AsiaNews to condemn the attack.
“We are very concerned that despite police presence, Prof Iqbal was attacked by a militant,” said Sheepa Hafiza, director of the NGO ‘Ain and Salish Kandro’.
“We condemn the attack,” she said, calling for “exemplary punishments of those involved in the incident.” Sadly, she added, “the government has failed to provide justice for democratic thinkers”.
"Dr Zafor Iqbal wants what is best for people,” said Khakon Corraya, a Catholic writer. “He never hurt the religious feelings of Muslims in his writings or statements.”
Even Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reacted to the incident. For her, the nature of attack made it clear who the attackers are. “We want to make the country free from terrorism, militants, and drugs,” she said.
“The attackers,” she explained, “are ignorant. They think they are going to heaven by killing a man. On the contrary, they are never going to heaven but will instead go to hell. Have no doubts about it. We must work together to free our children from such ignorance.”