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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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UN Agencies and Bangladesh Government Advances to Prevent Further Deforestation

Dillon says disappearing forests are putting great pressure on the animals in the region.

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A deforested section of the Chakmakul camp for Rohingya refugees clings to a hillside in southern Bangladesh, Feb. 13, 2018. VOA

U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government have begun distributing liquid petroleum gas stoves in Cox’s Bazar to help prevent further deforestation, which has been accelerating with the huge influx of Rohingya refugees during the past year.

Cox’s Bazar is home to large areas of protected forest and an important wildlife habitat. The arrival of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar has put enormous pressure on these precious resources.

U.N. Migration Agency spokesman, Paul Dillon tells VOA, the refugees have been cutting down the trees and clearing land to build makeshift shelters. He says they and many local villagers also rely almost exclusively on firewood to cook their meals.

“Consequently, the forests in that area are being denuded at the rate of roughly four football fields every single day. We are told by the experts at this rate, by 2019 there will be no further forests in that area,” he said.

Deforestation
Deforestation

Scientists note deforestation has devastating consequences for the environment leading to soil erosion, fewer crops, increased flooding and, most significantly, the loss of habitat for millions of species.

Dillon says disappearing forests are putting great pressure on the animals in the region.

“It interrupts migration pathways and regrettably forces these, sort of, artificial confrontations between animals in the wild and communities as they move into areas that have been logged out often-times in search of arable farmland and that type of thing,” he said.

Also Read: First Satellite Launched by Bangladesh

The project aims to distribute liquid petroleum gas stoves and gas cylinders to around 250,000 families over the coming months. U.N. agencies say the stoves will have additional benefits besides helping to prevent deforestation.

For example, they note smoke from firewood burned in homes and shelters without proper ventilation causes many health problems, especially among women and children who spend much of their time indoors. (VOA)

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