Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Chief of Hefajat-e-Islam Shah Ahmad Shafi died on September 18. His death has now left the radical Islamist outfit Hefajat-e-Islam under the de fecto leadership of its Secretary General Junaid Babunagari, while Junaid is directly patronized by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). According to information, members of the student wing of JI have already established control over the Hathajari madrassa, which is known as the headquarters of the Koranic madrassas in Bangladesh.
According to sources, Jamaat, BNP and some anti-government elements have been using Babunagari, who took a stance against Shafi and his son Anas with the goal of establishing a grip on Hefajat and the Koranic madrassas with the ulterior motive of using this front against the government, while Babunagari and his followers have become ambitious of staging an Islamic revolution in the country by ousting the current government.
It may be mentioned here that, hundreds and thousands (some say two million-plus) of students study at Koranic madrassas across the country, while BNP and Jamaat as well as radical Islamic terror outfits such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State have tried to use them to materialize their notorious agendas.
Hefajat Joint Secretary General Maulana Zafrullah Khan told the Daily Star, several anti-government political forces and a section of Islamic intellectuals have jumped at the opportunity to re-establish ties with Hefajat for using it against the government
On the other hand, the government is trying to retain its control on Hefajat and Hathazari madrasa following the revolt against Shafi and his son, he mentioned.
Abul Kasem Kasemi, another Hefajat leader in the capital told the Daily Star that with new leaders at the helm of Hefajat and Hathazari madrasa, it may take some time to fathom whether there would be a new polarisation.
Quoting Hefajat leaders, the Daily Star said, Jamaat-e-Islami is making efforts to repair relations with Hefajat on which it and the BNP reportedly banked on during the 2013 movement to oust the AL government, said a number of Hefajat leaders.
Jamaat-e-Islami inside Hefajat-e-Islam
According to media and social media reports, hundreds of Jamaat activists and leaders, including its Secretary General Mia Golam Porwar, were seen at Shafi’s janaza. Jamaat men were seen carrying Shafi’s coffin during burial.
Pro-Hefajat Islamic intellectuals have already started campaigning on social media in favor of Hefajat and its 2013 anti-government movement. Meanwhile, BNP leaders such as Mahmudur Rahman is giving provocations to Hefajat men in staging “revolution” in the country.
Fall of Shafi
Ahmad Shafis was forced to quit the post he had held since 1986 following an unprecedented student unrest at the madrasa. The unrest was fuelled by Babunagari and several others who were not on good terms with Shafi since he leaned towards the AL after the failed 2013 movement, said Hefajat sources.
Shafi’s son Anas Madani was also removed from the post of assistant director of the madrasa on Wednesday night.
Shafi, who was chairman of the Qawmi Madrasa Education Board, founded Hefajat during the tenure of the AL government in 2009, protesting a draft national women development policy that gives equal inheritance rights to women.
A year later, Hefajat demanded cancellation of a proposed national education policy, saying it has a secular curriculum for schools and colleges.
In 2013, the Islamist outfit emerged as a force, countering the Shahbagh movement, initiated by bloggers and online activists who demanded the death penalty for war criminal Abdul Quader Mollah.
As Hefajat activists turned increasingly violent and kept the capital’s Motijheel occupied for nearly 12 hours after their rally there on May 5, 2013, law enforcers swung into action and drove them away.
Things changed in the following years, and Shafi and the AL government got closer. Earlier, Hefajat and its chief had leaned towards the BNP. A faction of the Hefajat, led by Babunagari, was totally against the Hefajat’s “soft approach” towards the government, according to several Hefajat leaders.
Babunagari responsible for Shafi’s death?
Some of the Shafi loyalists as well as followers of his son Anas Madani have started a campaign in the media holding Junaid Babunagari and his followers responsible for Shafi’s death. They say, Ahmad Shafi was mentally and physically tortured by Babunagari and his men, which had resulted in his sudden demise.
Demand for forming an inquiry commission
Anti Jamaat-e-Islami leaders of Hefajat-e-Islam are demanding forming an inquiry commission to investigate the death of Ahmad Shafi as well as recent vandalism inside the Hathajari madrassa. They say the entire matter has to be properly investigated by a commission.
The government should now allow Jamaat-e-Islami, BNP and other anti-government elements in establishing control over the Hathajari madrassa as well as Koranic madrassas by letting Junaid Babunagari in becoming the top boss of Hefajat-e-Islam and the Hathajari madrassa. As Jamaat and BNP are reportedly spending lavishly with the ulterior motive of bringing the entire Koranic madrassa establishment under its control, the government should take immediate measures in forming a commission to investigate the vandalism inside Hathajari madrassa as well as the death of Ahmad Shafi.
We cannot let radical Islamic clergyman Junaid Babunagari and his followers succeed in creating countrywide anarchy and turn the entire Koranic madrassa establishment against the government. People like Babunagari should not be allowed to take any undue advantage by flexing muscle during these challenging times of Coronavirus pandemic.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-jihadist journalist, counter-terrorism specialist and editor of Blitz
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