Islamic parties reject statutes of Founding Father Mujibur Rahman as idolatry
by Sumon Corraya

The government has decided to install statues of the country's founding father in many locations to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Prime Minister's Awami League Party – a child of Mujibur - has drawn up an annual program of events. But the leaders of Muslim parties cry scandal.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Some Islamic leaders have started a campaign against the raising of statues of the founding father of the homeland Mujibur Rahman, promising: "We will tear them all down!"

Mujibur Rahman (1920-1975), founder of modern Bangladesh, is also the father of the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League Party. Her government has announced that many statues and sculptures will be installed in different areas of the country to celebrate Mujib Borsho (the year of Mujib), which marks the centenary of the leader's birth.

Mujibur was murdered with many members of his family in 1975 with an attack by the military. The Awami League has also prepared an annual program with events to commemorate his life and legacy.

But Islami Andolon Bangladesh, an Islamist party, and Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, another Islamist group, along with other radical leaders demand that no statue be installed because the country is Muslim-majority, and Muslims are 92 % of the population.

Junayed Babunagari (photo 2), head of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh said that in a Muslim country there can be no statues and threatened to tear down all the statues in the country. “All the statues will be knocked down, whoever they represent. We will tear them all down!”.

He specified that he respected the Father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his daughter Sheikh Hasina. But she, he added, “said that Bangladesh would be governed following the Medina Charter. There can be no statues in a country under this Charter. Here in Bangladesh many people are arrested and tortured for telling the truth and spreading the message of Islam. But we will never stop telling the truth”.

And yesterday, the general secretary of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, Maulana Mamunul Haque (photo 3), explained in a press conference that they are studying measures to remove any statue or sculpture even at the cost of clashing with the authorities on legal, moral and political grounds.

“Many people - he specified - say that I am speaking against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. No: I am speaking against sculptures. I respect Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but I will continue my struggle with all my strength, if the state continues to support the installation of statues".

In contrast, Faridul Haque Khan, the recently appointed Minister for Religious Affairs (photo 4), said that sculptures and idols are not the same. On his first day in the office yesterday, Haque tried to explain the distinction between a sculpture and an idol and added: "If you go to Pakistan, India, or any other country in the world, you will find sculptures and statues everywhere."

He noted that the image of Bangabandhu and other leaders are embossed on the notes and coins. If these were "idols" people would not use them, nor would they take them with them.

Opposition to the sculptures is the result of a misunderstanding, said Haque, recalling that even in Egypt and Saudi Arabia there are sculptures. In fact, he said, as in any community, even in Bangladesh there are people who are trying to destabilize harmony in society in order to fulfil evil purposes and interests.