When relief comes with a subtle offer to convert | The Daily Star
04:54 PM, April 28, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:41 PM, April 28, 2020

When relief comes with a subtle offer to convert

Member of a voluntary organisation has been accused of urging Hindus to convert to Islam when providing relief in Sreemangal upazila of Moulvibazar. This has led to widespread criticism on social media.

On April 22, a voluntary organisation called 'Bangla Aid' distributed relief to families in Noagaon village of Sreemangal's Sadar union amidst the coronavirus outbreak. On that day, the members of Bangla Aid informed that relief would be distributed among 60 Muslim and 20 Hindu families in the area.

As seen in a live video on Bangla Aid's Facebook page, a volunteer distributing relief said, "Even though Hindus persecuted Muslims in India, we have given relief to Hindus here. Now, if anyone converts to Islam, we'd welcome them."

Then the young volunteer spoke to a Hindu woman who was receiving relief. At one point during the conversation, he told the woman, "If you think Islam is right, you come to Islam."

The live video made the rounds on social media. Many criticised this proposition while providing relief to the destitute.

Ranadhir Kumar Dey, Upazila Parishad Chairman of Sreemangal, said, "I came to know that Hindus have been asked to convert in the Noagaon area while receiving relief. I strongly condemn this. Sreemangal is a peaceful place. Here the bond between Hindus and Muslims is intact. Those who have done this clearly do not understand religious harmony and coexistence of different faiths."

Referring to the video, Sreemangal Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nazrul Islam said, bringing religious identity to the fore in the name of distributing relief at this time of crisis and taking the opportunity to convert from one religion to another, is regrettable.

"I'm warning them not to do this in future. If necessary, I will write to the deputy commissioner in this regard," he added.

Faruq Mahmud Chowdhury, convener of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik's (Shujan) Sylhet divisional chapter, said, "Relief is for the helpless -- irrespective of their religion. Such a matter should be brought to the attention of law enforcement agencies. Distribution of relief with a call to convert is unacceptable. The administration should take action against them after proper investigation."

Asked about this, Bangla Aid's spokesperson Sumon Mia -- who was in the live video -- said that their aim was to help the poor.

"I did not talk about any religious issues. My intention was to help 100 Muslim families in the Noagaon area, but later I felt that all those affected by the outbreak need relief. So, I also gave relief to Hindus. At that time, I wanted to explain to them how Muslims are being persecuted in India but how much we respect and love Hindus in Bangladesh. Moreover, I did not ask them directly to convert to Islam. I said they could come to our religion," he said about the Facebook live video.

Bangla Aid is a Moulvibazar-based organisation distributing relief materials and it is financed by expatriates living in different countries, especially UK, reports our Moulvibazar correspondent. 

Moulvibazar Deputy Commissioner Nazia Shirin told this correspondent, "I was informed about the matter by Moulvibazar SP. It is very unfortunate. We will take action after investigation."

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