Bangla scholars demand ban on fatwa

In the last decade, 503 women have became the victims of fatwas.

"Fatwa means legal opinion. Only court can give legal opinions. The man who announces fatwa has no legal authority to do it," Justice Mohammad Gholam Rabbani said referring to a judgement he passed in 2001.

"Fatwa should be made punishable as it goes against the existing law of our country," he said at a roundtable titled 'No more fatwa' yesterday.

14-year-old Hena Akhter was raped by her relative in Shariatpur last month. On the next day of the incident, a fatwa was announced at a village arbitration that she must be given 100 lashes. She fell unconscious after whipping and was rushed to a hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.

In 2001 landmark judgement, Rabbani and Nazmun Ara Sultana had declared the "legal system of Bangladesh empowers only the courts to decide all questions relating to the legal opinions on the Muslim and other laws as in force in Bangladesh." Unfortunately, the 2001 landmark judgement still remains stayed following a Supreme Court order, Gholam Rabbani said.

A Dhaka University Professor Shahnaz Huda suggested that a new provision can either be included in the penal code or in the Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Ain to ban fatwa.

Other speakers also observed that both the Information Commission and National Human Rights Commission can play an important role in creating awareness among people.