Sep 24

Charges framed against 24 Female Islamic activists: Why You Should be Alarmed

 A Dhaka court on the 16th of September framed charges against 24 female activists of Islami Chhatri Sangstha. They were arrested earlier at a raid on a house beside Shantipur Masjid in South Goran by Khilgaon thana police in Dhaka on 18th June, 2014.  Magistrate Md Ataul Haque of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court of Dhaka framed charges against the accused female student leaders. Of the 24 accused of the case, 20 were present in the courtroom.

The lawyers for those absent filed an appeal for an extension of time in order to allow their clients to appear in court. Furthermore, they also appealed for the dismissal of the case against the 20 students and asked that they be given leave from the proceedings. The court predictably rejected both the appeals and issued arrest warrants for the four students who were absent from proceedings.

Earlier, the arrested students were read the charges presented against them in the case which was filed under Speedy Trial Act, clause 4/5. The students were understandably shocked. The case filed against the female students at Khilgaon police thana stated that the 24 students were arrested from a house in Goran on the 18th of June, 2014, from a ‘clandestine meeting’ with the intention to create anarchy. The charge sheet further stated that the 24 hijab clad women carried out an attack on police and pelted them with stones.

The 20 students were then asked whether they were innocent or guilty. The students replied that they were innocent and they too were seeking justice.

The court also fixed October 26 to record the depositions of the witnesses.

(Daily New Nation, Kaler KonthoProthom Alo, Bdnews24)

Looking Back (In Pictures)

The truth behind the scenes

As discussed in an earlier post, the female students, members of female student organisation Bangladesh Islami Chatri Sangstha, an organization which works to promote Islamic dawah among female students in educational institutions, were holding a Quran Ta’aleem program at a house in Goran in the capital Dhaka during the month of Ramadan when police raided the house without any arrest warrant and arrested them and even their children (some had brought their children along with them to the program!) for no reason whatsoever, except that they possessed the Quran or Islamic literature and had converged to discuss the matters of the Deen.

What needs to be pointed out here is that this incident, with all its signs and symptoms, is clearly an instance of Islamophobia. Shocking may be the revelation that Islamophobic tendencies have steadily risen in this country, taking into consideration the fact that Bangladesh is a 90% Muslim country. However, this should not be much of a shock, when one considers the fact that the present ruling Awami League government is mainly comprised of some self professed secular progressive elements mainly led by left leaning politicians.

Not an isolated incident

The crackdown on hijab clad female students is part of a bigger state policy geared towards preventing Muslim females from wearing the hijab and is not anything new, especially in the recent context of Bangladesh.

Few will forget the furor over an incident in Udayan Uchcha Madhyamik Bidyalaya (Udayan Secondary High School) of the capital Dhaka where Mahbuba Khanom Kalpana, Assistant Head Mistress of the school and wife of Labour Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju, cut off the sleeves of 50 female students from various classes of 9, 10, 11 and 12 in an attempt to force them to comply with the uniform rules of the school in May, 2013.

Sleeves of students cut at Udayan school

Sleeves of students cut at Udayan school, May 2013

Still others will vividly remember another incident on the 12th of September, 2013, where female students wearing niqab were banned from BRAC University, one of the topmost universities in Bangladesh. This was declared as being due to violation of the dress code issued by the university in question. BRAC University authorities had imposed the ban by blocking the ID’s of the said students.

More recently, shocking news has emerged of a hijab ban through a dress code decree by administrative authorities at Armed Forces Medical college. The decree notice, signed on the the 11th of August, clearly states that hijab may not be worn as part of uniform dress code while on college premises. This is supported by another document showing directions of Chief of Army of Staff for students of the Armed forces Medical College regarding not wearing hijab.

So why remain silent?

When injustice becomes a recurring phenomenon, silence is crime. Its more important now than ever to specifically stand beside our 24 sisters, and all our sisters in general, whether in Bangladesh and elsewhere in realizing the fact that they deserve to wear hijab as a matter of personal preference, along with the added religious obligation.

For injustice that has kept on festering for years, it is imperative that we raise our voices now, or else face even more serious instances of hampering of freedom of religion, of practicing our own religious rights as Muslims in a state that is 90% Muslim.

#StopHijabBan #FreeOurSisters