Family members of Sheikh Nurul Islam Faruqi, the slain chief imam of the Supreme Court mosque, yesterday alleged that those opposing his religious beliefs had a hand in the killing.
They said Faruqi, who was murdered at his East Rajabazar house in the capital on Wednesday night, had received threats several times from this group since the radical Islamist group Hefajat-e Islam held a rally in Motijheel on May 5 last year.
"My father had been getting threats for the last one and a half years since Hefajat men waged the movement. His vehicle came under attack in Tangail while returning to Dhaka about six months ago," said Faisal Faruqi, son of Faruqi who was also a presenter of Islamic programmes on two private television channels.
Faisal filed a murder and robbery case with Sher-e-Bangla Nagar police station yesterday against eight to nine unnamed persons.
Police have yet to ascertain the motive or arrest anyone in this connection.
Faisal said his father used to preach his belief in majars (shrines) and "milad mahfils". "Those who oppose this thought threatened him with dire consequences. They often said: 'You are confusing people through these activities. Stop it or we'll kill you.'"
Soon after the May 5 rally, Faruqi had received a call from an unknown person who told him that he should go to the Supreme Court mosque wearing a shroud, Faisal said, adding that his father then went to the mosque with police escort. A few months ago, his father asked them to be alert all the time as he was getting threats.
Faruqi, aged about 60, was the international affairs secretary of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, an Islamist group, and a presidium member of Bangladesh Islami Front. He also owned a hajj agency, Faruqi Tours and Travels Private Ltd.
The recent confrontation between Hefajat and Ahle Sunnat goes back to March-April last year, when thousands of Hefajat men took to the streets in Dhaka, Chittagong and elsewhere.
Hefajat, a Chittagong-based radical Islamist group rose as a force against the Shahbagh Movement that began in February last year, demanding the capital punishment to war criminals.
For its part, Ahle Sunnat in a rally at Laldighi Maidan in the port city demanded the capital punishment to Hefajat leaders for "demeaning Islam and the Prophet (pbuh) in their publications".
Around 8:30pm on Wednesday, some eight to 10 unidentified assailants entered Faruqi's house to talk about hajj-related matters.
At one point, they pointed a firearm at his forehead and held a machete against his throat, demanding Tk 50 lakh. He offered them Tk 1 lakh which he had in his home, but the killers forced him into the dining room, where his body was later found with his throat slit, said Maruf, Faruqi's nephew.
According to Faisal, it was a planned murder although the assailants took away gold ornaments and cash worth over Tk 6 lakh.
Meanwhile, leaders and activists of Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Sena, student wing of Bangladesh Islami Front, demonstrated in front of the Jatiya Press Club around 2:30pm and held a press conference at the press club from where the leaders announced a countrywide demonstration programme.
They threatened to call a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal on Sunday if the killers of are not arrested by tomorrow.
Leaders and activists of the Front also demonstrated in Comilla, Narayanganj and Chandpur. They blocked several highways in Chittagong and called various programmes protesting the murder.
They will hold protest rallies across the country on Saturday and bring out processions at divisional cities on Sunday, Mosaheb Uddin Bakhtiar, a member secretary of the Front, told the press conference.
Biplob Kumar Sarkar, deputy commissioner (Tejgaon division) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the family members yesterday informed them about the threats that Faruqi had been receiving.
"We are looking into the matter seriously. We are also investigating if there was any link of robbery or any personal or financial feud related to hajj," he told The Daily Star.