12/21/2015, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Bangladeshi Islamic leaders slam the Caliphate, "enemy of Muslims"

The Islamic State "is not the real Islam." Every Friday, sermons will be read in all of the country’s mosques to condemn fundamentalism and explain to young people the Qur‘an’s true meaning.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Bangladesh’s Muslim religious leaders (ulema) have decided to counter the threat posed by the Islamic state (IS) group by issuing a fatwa against it and by taking to the pulpit in mosques to preach religious violence.

The strategy was adopted at a meeting of Islamic religious leaders and police in Dhaka. Concerned by the rise in religious violence in recent months, the authorities are in favour of an active role by ulema.

"The fatwa is to be jointly signed off by 100,000 Islamic scholars from across the country,” said Maulana Fariduddin Masoud, chairman of Bangladesh Jamiatul Ulama, or BJU, a national body of Islamic scholars in the country.

“It identifies IS and its local Islamist militant supporters – who are killing people and indulging in terrorist activities in Bangladesh and elsewhere – as not just the 'enemies of Islam' but also 'enemies of the Muslims’.“

BJU has taken the lead role in mobilising clerics and scholars for the fatwa. The group is training tens of thousands of mosque leaders "in an effort to take the campaign against the Islamist militants to the grass-roots level," Masoud said.

"Through their khutbas [sermons], the mosque leaders will explain to the people how IS and other Islamists are resorting to violence and acting against the tenets of the Qur‘an and the Hadith," he added.

Inspector General AKM Shahidul Hoque approved the BJU's plan to counter IS and other groups with the fatwa and the campaign using the mosques.

"Some groups are misinterpreting Islam's teachings and spreading militancy and violence in the country,” Hoque said. “We are hopeful that our clerics will succeed to counter these subversive forces with their special campaign through the Friday sermons at the mosques and other Islamic programmes.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had always denied the presence of the Islamic State group in Bangladesh, even after it claimed responsibility for the murder of Cesare Tavella.

According to the Bangladeshi leader, local Islamist militants back opposition parties who are the real culprits for the country’s rising violence.

After the attack against Fr Parolari, a PIME missionary, on 18 November, Catholic sources told AsiaNews that political instability was growing in the country, and might explain the attack against the priest and the violence against foreigners of recent months.

Last month, 12 clergymen received death threats via text messages and a Shia mosque was attacked in Bogra District. For years, activists and intellectuals critical of radical Islam have also been targeted.

For retired Major General Mohammad Abdur Rashid, the ulema strategy could pay off since many militants become radicalised in the mosques and madrassas.

"It has been found that many in Bangladesh turned to militancy, being motivated into jihad by some radical, not-so-high-profile clerics,” Rashid explained.

“If renowned Islamic scholars come into play issuing mass fatwa and preaching peace with the right explanation of Islam, space for violent extremism will definitely shrink in the country."

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