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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Jihad-mongering pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam set to emerge into political party in Bangladesh

Jihad-mongering pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) that denounces women empowerment as well as considers India, Hindus and non-Muslims as “enemies of Islam” is now taking preparations with the target of emerging into a political party.

Hefazat was formed in January 2010 in Chittagong district in Bangladesh with Ahmad Shafi as its “Amir” to “safeguard Islam from anti-Islamic policies and secularism”. Its inception was triggered by the 2009 Women Development Policy draft that proposed giving equal inheritance rights to women. Hefazat is composed of Sunni Islamists and their massive madrassa network and supporters.

It may be recalled here that in May 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam – an organization of madrassa teachers and students pressed forward its 13-point demand, implementation of which would turn Bangladesh into a sharia nation or a Caliphate – ruling Awami League and its leaders tried to label Hefazat as being “aided, guided and also goaded by the Jamaat and BNP”. But just in less than five years, Hefazat became a darling of the ruling Awami League while a huge team of the organization headed by its “Ameer” Shah Ahmad Shafi was hosted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence and subsequently a bill was passed in the parliament giving recognition to Koranic madrassa’s “Dawra-e-Hadith” degree thus enabling Koranic madrassas students in joining government services, including judiciary, law enforcement and Armed Forces.

But things did not remain “sweet” between Hefazat and Awami League as during March 2021 Bangladesh visit of Indian Prime Minister Narednra Modi, Hefazat -e-Islami openly declared to prevent the visit. While Hefazat members began terrorist acts targeting Hindus throughout the country, its leaders started giving anti-India and anti-Hindu statements. This pro-Caliphate religious bigots even demanded the withdrawal of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to join the celebration of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.

Hefazat leader Waseq Billah Nomani, who is mentioned as a “neo-Muslim” in a video content said, he has 22-years’ experience on chopping heads and wants to chop the head of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, if he [Nomani] would find him. He even went further saying he would continue chopping heads of Hindus.

A large number of Hindu homes, business establishments and temples came under attack from the rowdy members of Hefazat-e-Islami. Subsequently, Bangladesh authorities had to go for a massive crackdown on the anti-India, anti-Modi and anti-Hindu notoriety of this pro-Caliphate group. Key figures, including members of Hefazat, were detained by law enforcement agencies.

In 2021, Mamunul Huq, a scandalous leader of Hefazat-e-Islam, told interrogators, during his 15-days stay in Pakistan, he succeeded in establishing connections with Pakistani spy agency ISI, which had assigned Mamunul in establishing a far-right Islamist political party in Bangladesh, copying ideologies of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Hefazat-e-Islam, with the funding from Pakistani ISI as well as Qatar and sources in Dubai were advancing with the agenda of emerging as a far-right Islamist political party copying ideologies of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Additionally, Hefazat was also forming a militancy group, with trained armed members from the qawmi madrassas.

It may be mentioned here that Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan. It was founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi. TLP is the organizer of 2021 Pakistani protests. The party also is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law. TLP came into existence, and subsequently rose to infamy, after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, a convicted murderer, which the political party states was unjustifiable. It demands that Sharia law be established as the fundamental law in Pakistan, through a gradual legal and political process. Most of the party’s members belong to the Barelvi school of Islamic thought (madrassa).

According to media reports, Hefazat-e-Islam and its cohorts and funders were secretly working on their blueprint of unseating the Awami League government in Bangladesh for months. Prior to their anti-Modi protests in 2021, there had been a series of meetings in several madrassas in the country, where front-ranking leaders of the pro-Caliphate group, including Junaid Babunagari, Mamunul Haque and others were present. These Islamist leaders gave provocation to madrassa students to prepare for sacrificing lives in their “jihad” against the “enemies of Islam”.

This time, according to sources, leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam were looking to implement 10-points, which would enable this notorious and ferocious group in seizing power from the democratically elected government in Bangladesh. Those points are:

1.   Formation of an interim Islamic government with Junaid Babunagari as its chief. It also finalized a 10-members advisory council, comprising members from various Islamist parties, including Khelafat Majlish, Khelafat Andolan etcetera.

2.   Suspending the constitution and running the country under Islamic sharia rule.

3.   Formation of Sharia courts throughout the country by replacing the existing judicial system.

4.   Trying the members of the ruling party as well as their supporters, including editors and journalists of “secularist and atheist” media outlets.

5.   Formation of Islamic constitutional bodies with madrassa teachers, Islamic scholars and leaders of the Islamist political parties.

6.   Executing the secularists and atheists, including civil-military officials, editors, journalists, cultural activists, social activists, women activists and critics of Islamic sharia rule. It also planned to execute supporters and friends of India by branding them as “enemies of Bangladesh”.

7.   Release a list of apostates and atheists and gradually execute them through Sharia courts.

8.   Place students and teachers of Qawmi [Koranic] madrassa in various key civil, military and judicial positions in Bangladesh.

9.   Promulgate blasphemy law with the provision of death penalty.

10.  Ban television channels, radio stations, cultural groups, theater groups, cinema halls etcetera.

Now after almost three years of silence, Hefazat-e Islam has started activities with the goal of emerging into a political party as its leaders have decided to form committees in every village, union, upazila and district to protect Islamic values.

Media reports say, Hefazat is calling the committees “non-madrassa committees” and the process of forming them would begin after Eid.

Senior leaders of Hefazat decided this during a meeting on March 29, 2024 at Jamia Madania Baridhara madrassa in Dhaka city. Hefazat Senior Naib-E-Amir Mufti Khalil Ahmad Qasemi, also chief Mufti of the Darul Uloom Hathazari, Chittagong chaired the meeting.

At the moment, Hefazat has committees in Qawmi madrasas, and according to the then education minister, there were 19,199 Qawmi madrasas in 2022.

At the meeting, Hefazat leaders discussed the issue of having its arrested leaders and activists released. Meeting participants said that the government assured them of releasing the arrestees time and again but did not keep its word.

The meeting decided to wage a strong movement after Eid demanding the release of all its arrested activists and leaders, including Hefazat Joint General Secretary Mamunul Huq, and the withdrawal of cases against them.

Hefazat Joint General Secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi told Dhaka’s English newspaper The Daily Star, “Our grassroots leaders are frustrated and we have decided this [going for movement] under their pressure”.

The Qawmi madrasa-based organization also decided to support the “boycott Indian product” movement. It will conduct social-media campaigns and distribute leaflets to urge people to boycott Indian products.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib

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