Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz has been quoted in a report in The Economist on the recent crackdown on an Islamist group in Bangladesh.
In recent weeks, the Bangladesh government has arrested several leaders and activists of the Hefazat-i- Islam (HI), a conservative Islamist group. This came after the group organized demonstrations against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March. Some of these demonstrations became violent, and at least 16 people died. The government previously had a warm relationship with the HI. Riaz said that indulging Hefazat has allowed the (incumbent Awami) League to signal that “we’re against Jamaat (Jammat-e-Islam), but not against Islam.”
The unlikely partnership has brought about a swift Islamisation of Bangladeshi society, according to Riaz. More children are schooled in madrassas. Religious leaders are growing less tolerant of interpretations of Islam that differ from their own. Not long ago few people discussed which school of Islamic jurisprudence they belonged to, let alone which sub-movement, Riaz said. That has changed. The report mentioned that unlike the crackdowns which Sheikh Hasina has launched against other rivals, the goal on this occasion was probably not to eviscerate Hefazat but instead to bring it to heel.
Factions keen to repair ties with the government are already gaining prominence within it. The incident has demonstrated that Hefazat can be tamed, Riaz said.
“But the ethos it has created is not going to go away,” he added.