State Minister for Religious Affairs Mosharef Hossain Shajahan yesterday rejected a demand for declaring the Ahmadiyya sect non-Muslim, a rallying cry that led religious bigots to stage a hate-filled demonstration on Friday and declare a tough movement ahead.
“None less than Allah can do it,” he said of the demand, adding: “As the minister concerned, I have no power nor am I entitled to do so.”
The minister’s concern came after the anti-Ahmadiyya Hifazate Khatme Nabuwat Andolon threatened a broad movement if the government did not declare the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslim by next Friday.
“Now they (anti-Ahmadiyya group) are demanding it … once the demand is met, they will want to capture a mosque, then a church …,” the minister said.
Earlier, police foiled a bid to capture the Nakhalpara Ahmadiyya Mosque on November 20 and over 1,000 anti-Ahmadiyyas attacked policemen, guarding the mosque, the following day, injuring at least 50 people, including 18 law enforcers.
Mosharef told The Daily Star by telephone that the crisis must be ironed out through talks, adding: “I believe in tolerance and I am thinking of holding talks with leaders of the agitating anti-Ahmadiyya group soon.”
Acknowledging the sect’s right to religious practice, he said the Ahmadiyyas, as citizens, are entitled to protection by the government from attackers.
“The government is providing them with round-the-clock protection,” Mosharef said with a promise of taking more steps.
Tareq Mobasser, a spokesman for Ahmadiyyas, said, “Although many of our people died, fled or were driven out of home and our mosques and property were damaged, we are grateful to the government for protection it gave us.”
“But police protection is not a permanent solution. The problem should be resolved to the core,” he said.
Mobasser asked the government to identify the instigators of violence against Ahmadiyyas and said: “Otherwise the situation will spiral out of control.”
Eight Ahmadiyyas were killed, hundreds were evicted from their lands and at least 15 of their mosques vandalised across the country since 1985.