Bangladesh Islamist party pledges military training in seminaries

December 12th, 2008 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 12 (IANS) Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, has pledged the enactment of a blasphemy law and military training for students of Islamic seminaries (madrassas) in its manifesto for the Dec 29 general election, media reports said Friday. The blasphemy law is meant to prevent the criticism of religion in books, newspapers or electronic media and punishment for those responsible.

“All will enjoy religious rights, but criticism or making bad remarks about others’ religions is not acceptable. There is blasphemy law in the United Kingdom and nothing is wrong about it,” Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami said Thursday as he announced the party’s manifesto.

Blasphemy law exists in Pakistan where non-Muslims are brought before law, and there is no bail. The cases generally lead to conviction. Some judges who acquitted the accused were later killed.

“Madrassas and mosque-based mass education will be given priority. Mass education will also be introduced in all religious institutions,” the Jamaat manifesto reads.

Along with students at madrassas, arrangements will be made to give military training to citizens aged between 20 and 30 gradually under the supervision of the defence forces, it added.

The Jamaat, a key component of the four-party combine led by two-term prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia, also promised to strengthen the liberation war ministry and the Freedom Fighters Welfare Trust and increase allowances for the freedom fighters’ families, The Daily Star newspaper said.

However, Jamaat had opposed the liberation war of 1971 that led to separation from Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh, and its current top leaders stand accused of collaborating with the Pakistan forces in the killing of unarmed civilians and the intelligentsia.

Former freedom fighters and many parties campaigned against Jamaat’s recognition as a political party to contest the forthcoming election. However, the caretaker government and the Election Commission, having promised an all inclusive poll, ignored the protests.

The Jamaat, which wants to establish a rule in the country based on the ideals of Islam, said it would initiate measures to spread the ideals of Islam through all mediums, including radio, television and newspapers.

Measures will also be taken to ensure that other religious communities can perform their religious activities freely, Nizami said.

The manifesto, however, did not make it clear how the party would tackle religious terrorism or the global financial crisis.

Western think tanks have alleged that Islamist militancy has been on the rise in Bangladesh since 9/11. The Jama’at-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI) were proscribed after protests at home and an international outcry.

On religious militancy, Nizami said Bangladesh has proved that terrorism can be uprooted within the shortest possible time.

“Some militants had started their activities in the country in the name of Islam, but the BNP-Jamaat alliance government resisted them strongly during its tenure”, he said, adding that the bans on JMB and HuJI were imposed when his party shared power with Zia.

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