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Bangladesh’s Education Minister orders Reinstatement of Hindu Schoolmaster

“The managing committee’s suspension order is not valid because it was not taken according to the rules. The meeting that suspended him had no agenda. The committee removed him through an unfair way; so the decision was illegal”

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MP Selim Osman addresses a news conference in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, May 19, 2016
MP Selim Osman addresses a news conference in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, May 19, 2016
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The Hindu Schoolmaster who was attacked by a Muslim crowd and was suspended by school’s governing body over the allegations of defaming Islam should be reinstalled back to his post, commanded Nurul Islam Nahid, Bangladesh’s Education Minister, on Thursday.

Education Minister announced that an investigation by his ministry found that Shymal Kanti Bhakta, the headmaster at Piyar Sattar Latif High School in central Narayanganj district, had not insulted Bangladesh’s state religion.

Nahid also announced that he dissolved the school’s managing committee, which had suspended Bhakta on Tuesday over allegations of insulting Islam, being corrupt and not showing up to work.

“We have not found anything that may hurt religious sentiment,” Nahid told reporters on Thursday at the International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka.

He called a press conference to publicize the findings of his ministry’s investigation.

“The managing committee’s suspension order is not valid because it was not taken according to the rules. The meeting that suspended him had no agenda. The committee removed him through an unfair way; so the decision was illegal,” Nahid said.

Related Article: Born as a secular state: Why Bangladesh is degenerating into an Islamic country

The case involving the educator from Bangladesh’s small Hindu minority had dominated local headlines in recent days and it centered on an MP from the district, Selim Osman, subjecting the schoolmaster to a public act of humiliation. Osman allegedly forced Bhakta to squat and hold his ears after a crowd had attacked him for allegedly defaming Islam.

The scene was filmed on a witness’s mobile phone and the video of the incident went viral after it was uploaded to social media sites.

Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court of Bangladesh in Dhaka, Wikimedia Commons

Nahid’s announcement came a day after Bangladesh’s High Court, amid growing outrage over the incident and solidarity with the Hindu educator, ordered the relevant authorities to explain why they had taken no action against the lawmaker and others who took part in the controversial incident on May 13. Thousands of people of all faiths joined a countrywide protest against the teacher’s humiliation and demanded punishment of the MP and the school committee members.

Unapologetic

On Thursday, however, the MP Osman defended his actions and refused to apologize to Bhakta for what had happened to him on Friday.

“I am a Muslim. I will not tolerate it if anyone insults Islam. I have punished a person who insulted Islam, not a teacher,” Osman told a news conference in Narayanganj, according to local media reports, adding that he would not offer a public apology as demanded by professional groups and social media activists.

He said a mob had telephoned him “to settle the matter” after beating Bhakta and confining the educator to a room .

“There were thousands of people waiting outside. They told me to leave him to the mob. But I rescued him,” Osman said.

“As I asked whether he insulted Islam, he said he could have done so. He then willingly came out and squatted, holding his ears,” the MP added.

Bhakta, for his part, maintained that he had not criticized Islam. He accused Osman of slapping him four times and forcing him to hold his ears – which is considered an act humiliation in Bangladesh.

“I have not insulted the religion. If he [Osman] said this, he could have done so to save himself,” Bhakta told reporters on Thursday, local media reported. (Benarnews)

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Triple Talaq Now Banned In India

While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.

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India
Indian Muslim women talk while walking through a market in Ahmadabad, India. VOA

India’s government on Wednesday approved an ordinance to implement a top court ruling striking down the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce.

The government decision came after it failed to get approval of Parliament a year after the court ruled that the practice of triple “talaq” violated the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Most of the 170 million Muslims in India are Sunnis governed by the Muslim Personal Law for family matters and disputes. The laws include allowing men to divorce by simply uttering the Arabic word “talaq,” or divorce, three times — and not necessarily consecutively, but at any time, and by any medium, including telephone, text message or social media post.

Muslim
Triple Talaq continues to plague lives of  women, VOA News

The government will have another six months to get Parliament’s approval for the ordinance to become law. But in the meantime, suspects can be prosecuted using the ordinance.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that nearly 22 countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice and appealed to the opposition to approve the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill.

India’s Muslim Law Board had told the court that while they considered the practice wrong, they opposed any court intervention and asked that the matter be left to the community. But several progressive Muslim activists decried the law board’s position.

Muslim
Muslim women hold placards during a protest against a bill passed by India’s lower house of Parliament last week that aims at prosecuting Muslim men who divorce their wives through the “triple talaq,” or instant divorce. VOA

After the Supreme Court verdict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced a bill criminalizing the practice and it was approved in December by the lower house of Parliament, where his party commands a majority. But it couldn’t get the approval of the upper house, where the opposition controls the majority of seats.

The main opposition Congress party is opposing a three-year prison sentence for the offenders and wants a parliamentary committee to discuss the issue to reach a consensus. It favors a lesser sentence.

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In India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious laws in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption. While most Hindu personal laws have been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched. (VOA)