Monday, November 17, 2014
Bangladesh professor ’hacked to death’ by suspected militants
Shafiul is the third professor of the university killed since 2004
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Bangladesh professor ’hacked to death’ by suspected militants
Published: 12:30 GMT, 16 November 2014
Suspected Islamic militants have hacked to death a university professor in western Bangladesh, several years after he led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils, police said Sunday. Police have arrested at least 20 people for questioning over the murder near Rajshahi University in the west of the Muslim-majority country where the victim was a professor of sociology, a senior officer said.
The victim, Shafiul Islam, followed the folk sect Baul, popular in parts of western Bangladesh, whose members call themselves followers of humanism rather than a particular religion. Rajshahi University staff protest against the death of the university professor Shafiul Islam in Rajshahi, on November 16, 2014. Rajshahi University staff protest against the death of the university professor Shafiul Islam in Rajshahi, on November 16, 2014
The murder has triggered protests in the capital Dhaka and in Rajshahi where mainly students have marched through university campuses and boycotted classes since news of the killing broke on Saturday. "We are working on several possible motives behind the killing," Rajshahi police commissioner Mahbubur Rahman told AFP, adding that the "leading" one was that the murder was carried out by Islamist militants. He said some 20 people have been arrested but declined to say which religious or political groups they were connected to.
A previously unknown Islamist group calling itself the Ansar al Islam Bangladesh-2 claimed responsibility for the killing, after opening a Facebook page late on Saturday. "Our Mujahideens have today murdered an apostate who had prohibited female students from wearing veils in his department and the classrooms," a posting said. "Beware all the anti-Islamic apostates and atheists!"
The Facebook page quoted a local news report from 2010 saying the professor forced female students to remove their veils before entering his classroom, when he headed the sociology department. Bangladesh is the world’s third largest Muslim-majority nation with the vast majority following a moderate form of the religion. Hardline Islam has gained strength in recent years, but killings carried out in the name of Islam are rare.
Militant Islamists attacked a famous writer in 2004, and killed a well-known atheist blogger in February last year. In August, militants were accused of killing a moderate cleric who hosted popular shows on TV. Sirajul Islam, also a sociology professor, said the slain teacher was not anti-Islam but was against full-face veils. "He moved to ban full-face veils from the classrooms and examination halls. He thought full-face veils could be used to cheat in the examinations and it was impossible to identify a student who wears a full-face veil," he told AFP. Rajshahi University had been a stronghold of the student activist wing of the country’s largest Islamist party before police launched a crack down on the group, after the secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took over in 2009.
Islamist group claim responsibility of RU teacher murder
Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com Published: 2014-11-16
A group named ’Ansar al Islam Bangladesh-2’ has claimed responsibility for the killing of Rajshahi University teacher AKM Shafiul Islam. The sociology teacher was struck with sharp weapons by several youths in front of Bihashpalli when he was on his way home on Saturday afternoon. He suffered grave injuries on his head and shoulder, and died at the Rajshahi Medical College and Hospital.
The group’s Facebook page, which was opened around five hours after the murder, says: "Our Mujahideens (fighters) executed a ’Murtad’ (apostate) today in Rajshahi who had prohibited female students in his department to wear ’Burka’ (veil)." The page shows a picture of the slain teacher with a red X-mark on it. Below it is written in Bangla: "AKM Shafiul Islam (file closed)/ Offence: Apr, 2010/ Punishment: Nov, 2014." t follows with an English statement: "We don’t forget. Insha’Allah we will not forget others." The group’s Facebook page also names who these ’others’ are. The page carries the photographs of five people.
Three of them are those of RU teacher Islam, murdered blogger Rajib Haider, and one Ashraful Islam. They are marked with red ’X’ marks, and captioned: ’finished’. The other two pictures are of bloggers Asif Mohiuddin and Rakib Mamun. The caption for them says: "First attempt: completed; second attempt: coming soon." The page also issues a threat, reading: "Beware all the Islam opposing atheists-apostate!!!". The few posts in it quote reports by a Bengali newspaper, ’Doinik Sangram’, known to be the mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami.
One of the posts reads: "Professor Shafiul Islam, while being the chair of the sociology department, recruited teachers on condition of being clean-shaved and not wearing kurta-pajamas. He barred female students from wearing burka in classes. This led to many students abandoning burka against their will." Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist militant outfit, began operating in Iraq and Syria, where the ’Shariah’-based Islamic State is active. Another Facebook page styled ’Ansar al-Islam’ in Bangla found on the social media, was opened on Sep 9 this year. Meanwhile, the Facebook page of ’Ansar al Islam Bangladesh-2’ was opened around 8pm on Saturday.
RU teacher Islam, 48, was hacked around 3pm and was declared dead by the doctors an hour later. Police say they were aware of the Facebook post claiming responsibility for the murder. "We have noticed the post on Facebook. It’s being looked in to," Matihar police OC Alamgir Hossain told bdnews24.com on Sunday. Two persons have been detained from the Bihashpalli area after the murder, said the police officer, but he declined to reveal their identities.
Meanwhile, the Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police is yet to confirm whether Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh at all exists. "We do not know of any organisation by this name. But new outfits are emerging now and then. So the existence of Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh cannot be ruled out," a DB deputy commissioner, working on militant outfits, told bdnews24.com on condition of anonymity.