Dhaka brings madrassas under watch

April 14th, 2009 - 1:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, April 14 (IANS) Bangladesh’s education ministry has directed district authorities to gather information about madrassas after a number of militants were arrested this month and charged with using the seminaries to store huge quantities of arms and explosives.
Authorities held seven members of Pakistan-based Islamic organisation Dawat-e-Islami from Patharghata area in Chittagong Monday on suspicion of militant activities.

Investigations are underway after large quantities of arms, ammunition, explosives and propaganda material were found in a seminary on Bhola island in southern Bangladesh. The seminary was founded, funded and run by a British Islamist charity, Green Crescent.

Investigators, who suspect the hand of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), said that 25 Pakistan-born British nationals were among the visitors.

They say that Bangladesh-born British citizen Faisal Mostafa, now detained in Dhaka, has had close links with banned Islamist outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

Mostafa had met JMB supremo Shaikh Abdur Rahman several times before the latter was executed after being convicted for killing two judges in 2007.

The government “is tightening the noose” on the seminaries, New Age said Tuesday after the education ministry issued a directive to all deputy commissioners asking them to collect information about the seminaries.

This was part of a government move to establish control over those belonging to “quomi madrassas” that belong to different schools of Islamic theology, New Age newspaper said.

The government wanted to exert some control over all the Noorani, Forkania, Hafizia and Ahle Hadith madrassas and mosque-based religious institutions that represent these different schools.

“At present such religious institutions are running without the control of the Bangladesh Madrassa Education Board,” said a letter addressed by the ministry.

On April 1, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told media that the government wanted to register all madrassas in the country.

He termed the quomi madrassas as breeding grounds for militancy. He said that the present activities of the militants using religion were against religion and Islam as well. “Islam can never allow such militancy.”

Ahmed’s statement came after a huge cache of arms and ammunition was seized from the a madrassa on Bhola island March 24.

Different intelligence agencies launched investigations into the activities of the qoumi madrassas after the countrywide serial blasts Aug 17, 2005. They acted on information that these institutions provided guerrilla training to the students with a view to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh.

The investigation by the intelligence agencies zeroed down on 323 quomi madrassas, where militant training was taking place.

The first-ever survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics in December 2008 said that there were 5,230 quomi madrassas with about 1.4 million students.

A majority of the qoumi madrassas are located in Sylhet in the east, Mymensingh in the north and Barisal and Chittagong in the southern region of the country, The Daily Star said.

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