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A Sufi Muslim Leader Hacked to Death in Bangladesh

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Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. Wikimedia Commons
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A Sufi Muslim leader in Bangladesh has been hacked to death in a case which police believe could have stemmed from a dispute over land or religious beliefs.

The body of Mohammad Shahidullah, 65, was found in a pool of blood in a mango farm near the north Bangladeshi town of Rajshahi on Friday, May 6, according to police.

The killing came amid rising concerns over a wave of machete killings by suspected Islamic extremists against religious minorities, liberal activists and foreigners in Bangladesh. Over the last five weeks, about a dozen such murders had been reported.

But police were quoted saying that it was too soon to declare that Islamic militants were behind the latest killing.

Related story: Islamic State of Bangladesh- an emerging reality

Nisarul Arif, superintendent of police in Rajshahi, told The Daily Star newspaper that police investigations are “focusing on two possible reasons.”

Shahidullah’s involvement in Sufism might have “hurt” somebody, or it was a consequence of land dispute, he said, according to the newspaper.

A rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Wikimedia Commons
A rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Wikimedia Commons

Abul Kalam Azad, another police officer in Rajshahi, was quoted in The New York Times that the attack on Shahidullah differed from the others in that it did not appear to have been carried out in the open, but rather in a secluded field.

When asked if the police suspected Islamist militants, Azad said it was too soon to tell, according to the report.

Shahidullah was a local leader in Sufism, the mystical form of Islam popular in rural Bangladesh, but considered deviant by many of the country’s majority Sunni Muslims, including the Saudi Arabia-inspired Salafis and Wahabis, who are gaining strength in the country, Agence France-Presse reported.

Sufis have been targeted in several of the 37 suspected Islamist attacks recorded by police in the past three years, it said. In September the custodian of a Sufi shrine and his assistant were killed in the port city of Chittagong.

Shahidulah’s son, Russel Ahmed, filed a murder case over his father’s death with a local police station on Friday.

In the case statement, he mentioned his father as a “spiritual Sufi leader” and that those against Sufism had threatened him in the past, according to The Daily Star.

In the past five weeks, two gay activists, a liberal professor, an atheist activist and a Hindu tailor had been hacked to death.

Islamic militants have been blamed for or claimed dozens of murders of atheist bloggers, liberal voices and religious minorities in recent years including Sufi, Shiite and Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and foreigners. (BenarNews)

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Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

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One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)