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Women Endangered in Bangladesh

| by Swadesh Roy

( August 12, 2013, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) Hefajat -E-Islam is now a big fundamentalist force in Bangladesh. It is the main wheel of the major opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Bangladesh. The Hefajat chief Mr. Shafi is the principal of an Islamic educational institute of Bangladesh. He is ninety-three years old. In the time of Bangladesh's liberation war, he was a member of the `Al- Badar Bahini,’ which was the collaborator force of Pakistan army. However, for a long time he was serving as a chief of an Islamic educational institute at the port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh. It is a special type of Islamic educational institute, which is not recognized by the Bangladesh government. It runs by the donation of some Muslim countries which includes Pakistan. Conversely, these institutes are suspected as breeding grounds for fundamentalists but the teachers and students of these institutes never came to politics directly before last May.

However, it is entirely a different strory of how they came to politics and within a very short timespan, they have become a main wheel of the foremost opposition party BNP. In addition to this, becoming a fundamental political force Mr. Shafi is now giving some statements, which are very dangerous for the general women in Bangladesh. Shafi mentioned himself as an Islamic leader and being a leader, he has given a speech in a religious assemble; in this speech he said that, “You woman should stay within four walls of your houses. Sitting inside your husband’s home, you should take care of your husband’s furniture and raise your children, your kids. Why do you go outside?” He also told that, women do not need to go to school after the primary level. However, primary level, in his words is up to class four. He told that education for woman up to class four is enough to calculate her husband's money and other assets.

In Bangladesh, more than twenty million women are working in government and non-government organizations. Another more than twenty million women are working in agricultural sector. Besides that, now Bangladesh is the second largest exporter in garments due to low-priced women workers. 3.8 million women-workers are working in various garments factories in Bangladesh. These garments workers are one of the backbones of the economy of Bangladesh and one of the main components of social changes. Nonetheless, regarding these 3.8 million women garments workers, Mr. Shafi said, “why are you giving permission to your daughters in the garments, she goes to work at 7/8 am and does not come back even 8/10/12 at night...You do not know which man she is hanging out with. You do not know how much unlawful sexual activity she is getting involved in. Through unlawful sexual activity, she is earning money, which does not bring prosperity.” Besides that, he also said addressing all women, “Do not go to shopping. Ask your husband and son to do the shopping. Why would you go?”

In Bangladesh, the main opposition BNP and another opposition Jammat-E-Islami and Jatio Party also supported Hefajat -e-Islam; they did not protest his speech rather two women parliament members of BNP tried to support indirectly the speech of Mr. Shafi. Even there are groups of fundamentalist parties, another three party led by three freedom fighters, colonel Alli Ahmed, Kader Siddique and Dr.Badruduzza, did not give any statement protesting it rather they are in favor of Hefajat. So this fundamentalist force are getting space in the politics and the society of Bangladesh. Even the government is now getting afraid of them. One of the example of that is, TV reporter Miss Nadia Sharmeen and news agency reporter Jakia Ahmed went to cover the news of the grand rally of Hefajat. The people of Hefajat had bitten them because they are women. They asked them as a woman why they had come there? In Bangladesh, it is for the first time a journalist was bitten only because, 'as a woman why they are in this profession?' However, Nadia is still in bed with her broken leg, but misfortune is that government did not arrest anyone yet. For that incident, they even did not file any case properly. On the other hand, the office of Nadia is not cooperating with her properly. Both government and her office are getting afraid of Hefajat. Last week, The Daily Janakantha has published a report on the present condition of Nadia and how much helpless she is. After publishing this news, the respected High Court has given a rule to the Government to investigate the incident of Nadia properly and to arrest the culprit. But situation tells that, Government administration is going slow.

As an illustration, now it is clear that, a dangerous Islamic Fundamentalist group Hefajat is getting room every moment in Bangladesh. They are now one of the main components to win the next election that is due after six months. The opposition including Hefajat has achieved popularity to mislead the people and situation is telling that, they may come to power. In the position of the opposition alley has said that, they will make a new type of government. Some newspaper has published some speculated news regarding this new type of government. In that news, it has told that, they will make an upper house of the parliament. So, there is a possibility that, people like Mr. Shafi and others can get access to that upper house. If they get the position of policy-making, it will be a disaster for Bangladesh. Then half of the population will be arrested in their respective homes.

That is why, though Bangladesh is now a secular democratic country, which is forwarding towards the modern world, its women are now in grave danger. If the democratic forces and the secular and modern people do not unite, come out vigorously, and protect the people from these evil forces, women will be arrested in their homes like Taliban lead Afghanistan. Despite it is true, in the long-run there will be a bloody clash between this primitive forces or Islamic fundamentalists and the modern forces of the society of Bangaldesh.

Swadesh Roy, Executive Editor, the Daily Janakantha, Dhaka, Bangladesh, he can be reached at swadeshroy@gmail.com