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Mosques to undergo militancy checks

Government's anti-militant guidelines must be observed, Home Ministry says

  • ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
  • Bangladesh
  • August 14, 2012
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The Home Ministry has ordered checks on mosques across the capital to ensure that they are observing a government instruction not to advocate Islamic militancy in their weekly sermons.

Over 200,000 mosques nationwide were sent guidelines earlier this year that detailed what should and should not be said in the sermons delivered during Friday prayers.

Now the ministry has appointed 10 officials from the state-run Islamic Foundation to check at least 10 mosques a week, making sure that the clerics are following those guidelines.

“We have launched a campaign to make imams and ordinary Muslims aware of the threats and dangers of militancy and terrorism carried out in the name of Islam,” the Foundation’s head Shamim Mohammad Afzal told ucanews.com yesterday.

“A vested quarter in the country is trying to use mosques as a platform for political gain by incorrectly explaining Islamic teachings. We are trying to convince everyone that the Maududi philosophy encourages extremism and militancy in the name of Islam and must be resisted.”

He was referring to Abul Ala Maududi, who founded a theocratic political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, in 1941. An offshoot of it is now the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh.

It opposed the country’s independence from Pakistan in 1971 and several of its leaders are now being tried for alleged war crimes during that conflict.

While the government is monitoring the mosques, police have continued their crackdown on extremist Islamic groups.

Gazi Rabiul Islam, assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said that RAB, the special security force, arrested 35 members of the banned group Hizb-ut-Tahrir on Sunday, seizing books and leaflets.

“Many of its members were recently arrested so it is now targeting young college and university students as new recruits,” he said.

“This government is very strict on the militancy issue and would resist anything that might taint the country’s image because of it.”

Bangladesh is the world’s fourth-largest Muslim nation. Although the majority practice a moderate form of Islam, extremism has been on the rise since 2004.

Militants have been responsible for a series of violent attacks, especially in 2004-05, with bomb blasts and grenade attacks that have killed dozens of people.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped death in one such incident.

The extremists have also been known to run ‘kangaroo courts’ in rural areas, trying and executing people for violating Islamic laws.

Up to now, over 1,000 people have been arrested for militant connections, with many imprisoned, according to government data.

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