Dhaka (AsiaNews) -
Thousands of people of different age, faith, profession and ethnic background
joined in protest against the political use of religion. They recited passages
from the sacred texts of the country's great religions-namely the Qur'an
(Islam), the Bible (Christianity), Gita (Hinduism) and Tripitaka (Buddhism) -and
sang the national anthem to affirm, "Religion is personal, the state is for all".
The rally took place on
21 February on the initiative of Gonojagoron Mancha, a peace group that
has been demonstrating for weeks demanding justice against those responsible
for war crimes in the Jamaat-e-Islami, an opposition Islamic party. Protesters
also want the party's youth wing barred. However, this has not stopped Jamaat
supporters from carrying out acts of violence that left four people dead. They accuse
anti-Jamaat protesters of blasphemy.
"Our protest is not against
religion," said Imran Sarker, main organiser of the rally. "On the contrary,
our fight is to end the sickening politics of Jamaat-Shibir, which uses
religion for political purposes." The latter is Jamaat-e-Islami youth wing.
For its part, the Islamist
party continues its actions, organising strikes (hartal) that end up in vandalism, hooliganism and violence against
police and peaceful protesters.
Jamaat supporters have escalated their violent action after parliament,
which is controlled by the Awami League, adopted changes to the International
Crimes (Tribunal) Act of 1973.
Now the authorities can
impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of war crimes dating back to 1971.
They could also bar Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been blamed for torture,
summary executions and rape.
Four people have died
in one of the latest incidents caused by supporters of the Islamist party last Friday.
Journalists, intellectuals and police were also attacked on that occasion.
Gonojagoron Mancha activists have also been regularly targeted in Chittagong, Feni,
Chandpur, Rajshahi, Bogra, Sirajganj, Joypurat, Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Pabna. In
many incidents, Jamaat supporters
have burnt Bangladeshi flags.
On 21 February, Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina, spoke about the rising tensions in the country. "Bangladesh
will be a non-communal social system," she said. The "the rights of all
religions to be ensured" and "everyone will live here enjoying equal rights".