12:38 AM, April 01, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:56 AM, April 01, 2013

Religion taken for a ride

BNP, Jamaat move to make most of Hefajat-e Islam's April 6 long march

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Shakhawat Liton and Rashidul Hasan

Politics of cashing in on people's religious sentiments is likely to turn worse with radical Islamists setting out on a long march towards Dhaka on April 6 and BNP extending support to the programme to gear up the anti-government movement.
Four of the eight Islamist parties that are actively working in the capital to make the long march announced by Hefajat-e Islam a success are components of BNP-Jamaat-led 18-party alliance.
Even Jatiya Party, a key component of Awami League-led ruling alliance, on Saturday extended its support to the long march demanding capital punishment to “atheist bloggers for making derogatory remarks about Islam."
Surprisingly, it is not clear what the government or the Awami League is thinking about the April 6 event, media reports suggest. The party claims to be the champion of secularism but its top leaders these days are making statements with religious overtones.
Two senior BNP leaders yesterday said the party's strategy was to back any anti-government agitation waged by any organisation and to make the government a common enemy of all.
Therefore, the party is waiting for the outcome of the long march before finalising its next course of action for the one-point oust-govt movement, they said.
The BNP earlier had openly supported Hefajat-e Islam in obstructing the Gonojagoron Mancha rally that was to be held in Chittagong on March 13.
"We will continue supporting any agitation protesting the government's misdeeds and repression," Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, a member of BNP standing committee, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Rafiqul Islam Mia, another standing committee member, echoed Mahbub's view.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia addressing public rallies in Manikganj, Bogra, Joypurhat and Brahmanbaria has also urged people to wage tough agitation against the “government-sponsored movement of Shahbagh atheists."
Hefajat-e Islam, an organisation based at Hathazari in Chittagong, through a press conference in the capital yesterday threatened to enforce long shutdowns for period if their long march was obstructed.
On Saturday, the deputy commissioner and superintendent of police of Chittagong met the chief of Hefajat-e Islam and requested him to enforce other programme than the long march.
"We are concerned about the law and order situation. So we requested Hujur [chief of Hefajat-e Islam] to consider other programme, excepting the long march," Chittagong DC Abdul Mannan said yesterday.
As part of the plan, leaders of Hefajat-e Islam said their followers from distant districts will march towards Dhaka on April 5 night and those from districts adjacent to the capital the following day.
"Then we will hold a grand rally and raise our demands," Mufti Fayezullah, joint secretary general of Hefajat-e Islam, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said they had applied to Dhaka Metropolitan Police seeking permission to hold the rally at either of the venues at Manik Mia Avenue, Motijheel Shapla Chattar and Paltan Intersection.
"We have yet to get the permission," he said, adding, "If we are not allowed to hold the rally, we will enforce shutdowns for an indefinite period from April 7."

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