Hefajat-e Islam chief Shah Ahmed Shafi yesterday made parents promise that they won't send their daughters to school.
Addressing a rally attended by thousands, the Islamist leader said girls should not receive schooling beyond grade IV or V because education would make them disobedient.
“Don't send your daughters to school, college. At most, you can allow them to study up to class IV or V, so that they can maintain their husbands' accounts and can write letters to them,” he said, during his one-and-a-half-hour sermon.
He was the chief guest at the event, an annual gathering at Darul-Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasa in Hathazari upazila of Chattogram.
“Raise your hands and promise that you won't allow them to study more,” he said, adding that that the girls would not “belong” to their parents if they were allowed to study. “Men will fight over them.”
The people in the crowd then raised their hands and promised to obey his instructions.
The 99-year-old Hefajat leader is no stranger to making outright vulgar remarks about women and has said similar things before, drawing criticism from rights activists and even the prime minister.
In a viral video clip in 2013, the chairman of Qawmi Madrasa Education Board was seen making suggestive remarks as he compared women with tamarind, a fruit that, according to him, would make any man salivate.
Women should take care of furniture, raise children and stay within the confines of their homes, he said at the time.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was quick to blast Shafi, saying, “I'm totally confused how a religious leader could utter such indecent words….”
Notwithstanding this, the prime minister shared a stage with him at a rally in the capital in November, last year. The event was organised to applaud the passing of a bill recognising the Dawra-e-Hadith degree as an equivalent of master's in Islamic studies and Arabic.
At the rally, Hasina was reportedly dubbed “Qawmi Mother” by Islamic leaders, who also demanded that Hefajat chief Shafi be given the Swadhinata Padak.
In 2017, major changes in school textbooks were brought reportedly in line with Hefajat's recommendations.