The protest, which erupted a week earlier, began after Abdul Qader Mollah was sentenced to life behind bars on Feb. 5 in Bangladesh’s controversial war crimes tribunal.
Known as the ‘butcher of Mirpur,’ Mollah was convicted of heinous crimes committed in 1971 during the country’s blood-soaked independence struggle from Pakistan.
He has also been one of the leaders of the largest Islamist party here, the Jamaat-e-Islami.
After the sentencing, protesters gathered in downtown Dhaka, crying foul that Mollah had not received the death sentence, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
The paper quoted Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, as saying that ‘the current movement is aimed very explicitly at the Jamaat's role in 1971.’
Zafar said ‘it was clear that the youths protesting envision is one without Islamist politics, returning to Bangladesh's secular roots, and recognition that religion-based politics had poisoned the society.’
He added that the youth ‘don't want to see the Jamaati-style Islamism either gain further currency in the society or more power politically’.
The 1971 independence struggle pitted indigenous Bengali identity against those wishing to remain a part of Pakistan, a country founded with an Islamic identity, the paper said.
Sobhan said JI represents two things in Bangladesh- their Islamist political philosophy, and their role, both as a party and individually, as collaborators with the Pakistan Army in 1971, and as such, the current protests have drawn on a potent secular patriotism.
According to the paper, Zafar stressed that the protests “are not an antireligious movement, and that people are not against Islam.”
People are against intimidation in the name of Islam and religion interfering in politics, he added.
Washington: A vibrant protest movement against the ongoing influence of conservative, politicized Islam has erupted in one of the world's most populous Muslim nations-Bangladesh.
First Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013, 17:02