By Mohshin Habib


... due to the dominance of Islamic instruction, these courts do not administer true justice.

Salma Akhtar 22, a housewife of district Naogaon in Bangladesh was brutally beaten by her husband on February 24. She was accused of wishing to get more institutional education. After the beating, her husband, Shohag Ali, burned her with kerosene, seriously scorching her over 90% of her skin. She is currently under treatment at the Rajshahi Hospital..

In the last two months alone, 76 cases of assaults by husbands have been published in different local dailies in Bangladesh. This practice does not happen by fits and starts; is in full swing throughout the country -- not only to wives from rural areas; sometimes even educated wives who are university graduates suffer beatings.

According to the "Bangladesh Demographic And Health Survey-2007" by the National Institute of Population Research and Training under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 60 percent of the women in Bangladesh are victims of spousal violence in the country.

The research table reports that the most widely accepted reasons for wife beating are: disobeying elders 24%; arguing with the husband 22%; going out without permission or having informed one's husband 18%, and neglecting the children 16%. Only 9% percent of women feel that denying sexual intercourse is a reason for a man to beat his wife.

On attitudes toward wife beating, the survey says, 36% of Bangladeshi man age 15-49 agree that at least one of the reasons given is sufficient justification for wife beating.

Although it is not mentioned in the survey, the progressive intellectuals in the country believe that part of this attitude is derived from and inspired by some Quranic verses. A verse (4:34), Surah An-Nisa [the women] of Qur'an says, "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient to Allah and to their husbands, and guard in the husband's absence what Allah ordered them to guard. As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them first, next, refuse to share their beds, and finally, beat them, but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means. Surely Allah is ever most high, most great."

Most of the people in the country strongly believe that the Qur'an is the source and code of life. All the interpretation commonly claim that man are superior to women on account of the qualities with which Allah has gifted the one above the other, because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.

The formal law on the repression of women is tight in Bangladesh. There have been some amendments; apparently now it is satisfactory to the Women Lawyers Association of Bangladesh. But the laws are not effective. With the direct and indirect help of the U.N., the Bangladesh government has established hundreds of village courts which work on family matters with the help of local representatives. But due to the dominance of Islamic instruction, these courts do not administer true justice. The Imams of the more than 250,000 Mosques in the country are ordering the locals, especially men who are arguing with their wives, to follow the orders given by Allah.


On Friday, March 30, after Jumma prayer, thousands of Muslims in Bangladesh came out of the different masques in three towns and rushed to loot houses, then burn them down. Witness said several thousand people took part in the attacks, most of them students in Madrassahs [Islamic religious schools].

The apparent cause was a satiric play, "Huzur Kebla" ("Sacred Lord"), allegedly criticizing Mullahs, Imams and Pirs (religious sages), that had been presented by a group of high school students a few days before.

According to the leading English daily, The Daily Star, and the leading Bengali news daily, Prothom Alo, a massive number of men protested against the drama, accusing it of being humiliating to the prophet Mohammed. They demanded rigorous punishments, including death sentences, against the high school students who has performed it and the teachers who had put it on.

These sensitive Muslims were apparently not satisfied just with demonstrations. Several thousand of them then stormed and looted the houses of the accused teacher and assistant teacher, Mita Rani, a Hindu lady. They then burnt to ashes the houses of three brothers who were members of the school's managing committee.

In a planned way, they continued to attack the school area and vicinity, and eventually stormed and looted 27 houses belonging to members of the Hindu community.

A reliable news agency, The United News of Bangladesh, added that in the aftermath of these occurrences, there were three cases filed by the Kaliganj Police Station against the 1500 people allegedly involved in the incident. The Police filed one case against 1,000 unidentified people; one case against 37 identified people; and a resident of the village of Fatehpu lodged the third case against 5000 unidentified persons and 29 identified ones on charges of ransacking 15 houses.

Witnesses complained that the police took no action against the Islamists when they were looting and burning the school and the Hindu houses. Later, the offices of Superintendent of Police and that of an Officer in Charge of a Kaliganj subdivision were closed for having failed to maintain law and order.

The drama Huzur Kebla is the text of graduation course in Bangladesh. The play was written by the prominent Bengali littérateur, journalist and politician, Abul Mansur Ahmed (1898-1979), who had been an acting Prime Minister of erstwhile Pakistan; the father of two prominent newspaper editors in Bangladesh; and a vocal force against bigotry. Although most of his works are satiric, he never mentioned the name of the prophet.

Trouble has derived from dramas here before. The sensitive Muslims like to watch dramas as much as the cultural and progressive people love to play them. During the last Islamist-backed BNP-led government, a group staged Kotha Krishnakoli, showing a bearded incestuous man trying to rape a lady in darkness, and the lady crying, "No master, I identified you. Don't do that please." During a performance, one man stood up from the audience and started to shout, "They are humiliating our prophet!"

Because of this one man, hundreds of thousand Muslims proceeded to make the country completely chaotic as tens of thousands of people blocked the Capital, Dhaka. The government took the side of the Islamists. A court case was lodged against 26 actors, some of whom were arrested and tortured.

But one thing never was clear: why did the Muslims consider the bearded fictitious character the prophet Mohammed?

Mohshin Habib, an expert on the effects of religion on Bangladesh, currently resides in Dhaka, and is fluent in English, German, Bengali and Hindi. The two parts of the article were published as separate articles. Part 1 appeared February 29, 2012 and is archived at Part 2, originally titled "Sensitive Muslims In The Religion Of Peace" appeared April 19, 2012 and is archived at Both were published on the website of the Gatestone Institute (International Policy Council),

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