Jamaat resorting to smear campaign against Shahbagh youths

the News Desk in Dhaka/The Daily Star
Asia News Network

Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - With its back against the wall, Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami party has resorted to a smear campaign against the Shahbagh youths, branding them as atheists, anti-Islamic and anti-social elements with the help of a few radical Islamist groups both in and outside the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 18-party alliance.

Through advertisements, reports in newspapers and rallies, efforts were being made to misrepresent the motives of the young organisers by exploiting religious sentiments, alleged law enforcers and bloggers yesterday.

"All these are false and fabricated tales," announced Imran H Sarkar, convener of Blogger and Online Activists Network, last night on behalf of all protesters, who camped at Shahbagh for the 15th day with the demand for maximum punishment for convicts in war crimes trials.

As part of the smear campaign, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, a radical Islamist organisation based in Hathazari, Chittagong, published a half-page advertisement in three newspapers yesterday that featured anti-Islamic contents, claiming these were posted on the Internet by different bloggers. It claimed that the Shahbagh movement was against Islam.

Using such advertisements and reports in like-minded newspapers, the anti-liberation forces held protest rallies in Dhaka and Chittagong yesterday to counter the Shahbagh movement.

In a statement, Jamaat-e-Islami said, "The main objective of the Shahbagh protesters is to root out Islam from the country. They are involved in different anti-social activities."

Meanwhile, Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu said the government would not spare those who are probing religious sentiments to create tension.

According to the law, it is a punishable offence to create tension by publishing provocative advertisements. "By spreading hateful content, they are dishonouring Prophet Muhammad [SM]," Inu said, adding that a meeting will be held on Wednesday to decide on the issue.

Talking to The Daily Star, a top leader of Islami Andolon Bangladesh said Jamaat-e-Islami has drawn public outrage by engaging Qaumi Madrasa-based radical Islamist groups to counter the Shahbagh movement.

They include Khelafat Majlish, Islami Oikya Jote and Olama Mashayekh Parishad.

The Shahbagh demonstrators yesterday strongly protested the advertisements and negative campaigns, and said the anti-liberation forces have chosen a path of hatred to demean Islam by using fake identities in the social media.

Imran H Sarkar, a key organiser of the protest, said some media houses are branding the Shahbagh movement as being anti-Islam and spreading lies about slain blogger Rajib Haidar, one of the organisers of the movement.

He said the Shahbagh protesters have nothing against any religion; the movement is against the mass murderers of 1971.

Immediately after Haidar's murder, the anti-liberation forces launched a negative campaign to brand him an atheist, claiming he had posted offensive and anti-Islam contents on the Internet, said bloggers involved in the movement.

While fingers are pointed at Jamaat and its student organisation Islami Chhatra Shibir for the killing, anti-liberation elements are trying hard to brand Rajib as an atheist to justify the murder and portray all Shahbagh protesters as anti-Islam.

Meanwhile, Shamsuzzaman Dudu, an adviser to the BNP chairperson, alleged that the government is carrying out anti-Islami activities in the name of demonstrations by engaging a section of youths.

"These youths are being paid by the government to work as its agents," Dudu, also general secretary of Jatiyatabadi Krishak Dal, said at a discussion.

In Dhaka, several hundred Jamaat activists under the banner of Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish brought out a procession from the Baitul Mukarram Mosque chanting slogans that the Shahbagh youths are atheists.

They circulated leaflets that said in the name of movement against war criminals, the youths are using Shahbagh for illegal activities and spreading anti-Islami ideas.

Later, police swung into action and dispersed them.

In Chittagong too, a few hundred people under the banner of Bangladesh Khelafat Andolon staged a demonstration in Hathazari upazila, demanding death penalty for "the bloggers who insulted Islam".

Locals said some people under the banner of Islami Oikya Jote circulated leaflets that read, "Foil the conspiracy of Awami atheists in the name of the Shahbagh movement, and resist all such movements across the country".

Meanwhile, some people circulated a list of bloggers over mobile phones demanding death penalty for them.