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Bangladesh denunciates religious extremism and attacks on minorities

"Let us join our hands to resist such anti-Islamic activities. They must be punished so that others would not dare to do the same"

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A Muslim imam and a Hindu priest shake hands during the first-ever religious harmony conference in Dhaka, April 28, 2016. Source: Benarnews

The heads of major religions in Bangladesh on Thursday told the country’s first conference on inter-faith harmony that they would carry on a dialogue to stop religious extremism and attacks on minorities by zealots.

Describing a spate of machete-killings “unacceptable,” speakers representing the majority Sunni Muslim and minority Shiite Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist communities said militants had to be eliminated from Bangladesh where a “marriage of all faiths” was a thousand-year tradition.

Convened by police and government officials, the conference in Dhaka sought to mobilize inter-faith support for secular writers, teachers, Christians, Hindus, Shiites and LGBT activists whose communities have been targeted in deadly attacks by suspected Islamic extremists over the past year.

In April, five people were killed in machete attacks carried out by suspected militants. The latest killings involved a double-homicide on Monday that claimed the lives of Xulhas Mannan, editor of the country’s first magazine devoted to coverage of LGBT issues, and dramatist K. Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.

“This first-ever religious harmony conference passes a strong message to the extremists that the militants have no place in Bangladesh. We will hold such conferences at the division, district and the upazila levels to counter the threat of the militants,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the conference at the Krishibid Institution auditorium.

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He said Islam prohibited killings, lootings, destruction and torture.

“We will protect all citizens, irrespective of faiths,” said Khan, a top official in the government that has faced widespread criticism for failing to do enough to shield religious minorities, intellectuals, and secular activists from extremist attacks.

Radicalization blamed

Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Haque, who presided over conference, told attendees that the perpetrators of 80 percent of the militant attacks had been arrested.

“And in most of the cases, the attackers confessed that they were brainwashed by the leaders. They are repentant now. We need your support to spread the peaceful message of Islam,” he said.

Speaker Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, an Islamic scholar, said those who radicalize followers should be blamed for the spate of machete attacks.

“An ordinary person is sure to kill anyone if I, as a religious leader, tell him that ‘you will go to heaven if you kill him.’ So, they are not the problem. The problem is those who radicalize them through misinterpretation of Islam,” Masud said.

He said that a campaign was under way to collect signatures of 100,000 Muslim scholars who denounce extremism, violence and attack on minorities.

“They are the greatest enemy of Islam. They have portrayed Islam as a religion of terror and barbarism. We have been nourishing religious harmony for thousands of years. It must be protected at any cost,” Masud said.

Different faiths, same beliefs

Satya Ranjan Baroi, president of International Society for Krishna Consciousness, told the audience that the Bangladeshi people should come forward to challenge violence against minorities.

For his part, Catholic Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario said the majority of Bangladeshis were peaceful and the recent attacks on minorities were like a “tiny black spot on a white sheet.”

“Everybody talks about the black spot without considering that the rest of sheet is white. And this is our problem. We have [had] strong religious harmony for thousands of years. We have to protect it,” D’Rozario said.

The archbishop recalled how he visited his home village 25 years ago and saw gates that had been erected within a two-mile stretch of the road leading to it.

“No Christian lived within those two miles,” D’Rozario said. “Who erected the gates for me? My Muslim brothers did it, my Hindu brothers did it.”

He added that more inter-faith dialogue at the grassroots would help maintain religious harmony.

Another speaker, Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero, echoed the archbishop’s call.

“We have to save the religious harmony we have been nurturing for thousands of years,” said Shudhananda, president of the Bangladesh Buddhist Kristi Prachar Federation.

“Let us talk among ourselves and then the distance will go,” he said, adding that all religions preached love, not hatred or violence.

Shiite leader Syed Ibrahim Khalil Razavi said the militants who carried out bomb attacks on a Shiite procession and Shiite mosque last year had tarnished the country’s image.

“Let us join our hands to resist such anti-Islamic activities. They must be punished so that others would not dare to do the same,” Razavi said. (Benarnews)

Next Story

Dengue Outbreak Breaks Record in Bangladesh, Hospitals Struggle to Find Space for Patients

Dengue is mostly caused by Aedes aegypti mosquito

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Dengue is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito that typically attacks during day time. Pixabay

In one of the worst outbreak of dengue in Bangladesh, over 1,000 people, majority of them children, have been diagnosed with the disease in the last 24 hours, according to officials on Tuesday. While over 50 districts across the country had been affected, Dhaka, the national capital, home to more than 20 million people, was the worst-hit city with hospitals struggling to find space for patients, reports said.

Dengue is mostly caused by Aedes aegypti mosquito. “Aedes albopictus mosquito can also cause dengue,” Dr ASM Alamgir, a senior scientist at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told bdnews24.com. “This type of mosquito is common in districts outside Dhaka as well,” he said.

“If the mosquito bites a dengue patient in Dhaka and travels out, the disease can spread to those areas,” he said. Former IEDCR Director Mahmudur Rahman called the situation “a cause for concern”. Eight people have died since January and more than 13,600 patients have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne fever in 2019. Of this, 8,348 cases have been reported in July. In June 1,820 cases had been reported and 184 cases in May, according to official figures.

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Eight people have died since January and more than 13,600 patients have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne fever in 2019. Pixabay

Ayesha Akhter, Assistant Director at the Directorate General of Health Services, called it “the worst dengue outbreak we have seen in Bangladesh”. “We are making sure that all government and private hospitals are equipped to tackle the outbreak. A special section has been opened at Dhaka Medical College Hospital for dengue patients,” said Akhter.

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The Disease Control Division has sought technical assistance from the WHO to control mosquito population to help curb the spread of the diseases. The Health Ministry has developed national treatment guidelines and aims to raise awareness through advertisement in newspapers.

Several Asian countries are grappling with spread of mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue and malaria with the latter raising fears of a “potential global health emergency”. Multi-drug-resistant strains of malaria is spreading across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, according to two studies published in the Lancet. (IANS)