Bangladeshi extremists force baul singers to shave

April 12th, 2011 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, April 12 (IANS) Islamist extremists in Bangladesh allegedly forced a group of bauls - mystic singers who live a nomadic life - to shave their hair and “express penance” in a mosque, according to a media report.

The group was “the target of wrath of some self-appointed saviours of religion. It is alarming that a section of the so-called religious figures, who are nothing but fanatics, would arrogate to themselves the right to determine who is a good or a bad Muslim”, The Daily Star newspaper said in an editorial Tuesday.

The bauls - both Muslims and Hindus - are followers of Lalon Fakir or Lalon Shah (1774-1890), a Bengali philosopher poet whose folk songs are considered classics in both Bangladesh and India.

The report said the incident occurred in Habashpur of Pangsha sub-district in Rajbari, near the national capital.

Islamists “forced some Lalon devotees to shave off their hair and moustache to, what these extremists termed, ‘make them conform to Islamic ways’. They were also forced to express penance in a local mosque and made to promise to shun the path of Lalon.”

The bauls “have been living in their own traditional ways, seeking the truth in their own ways and living a life of mendicancy… so far, nobody has treated them in the manner that they have been treated in this instance”, the daily said.

It expressed concern at the “rise of intolerant and extremist behaviour on the part of some people in the name of Islam that border on bigotry and chauvinism”.

“The latest act is not only a blow to religious tolerance and the teachings of Islam, it is also a blow against our tradition and culture. These are outrageous acts that should not only be condemned, these must be also harshly put down,” it said.

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