Bangladesh hit by strike over murder of liberal Islamic cleric

Written by Press Trust of India | Dhaka | Updated: Aug 31 2014, 21:44pm hrs
The mysterious murder of a liberal Islamic cleric and popular TV host in Bangladesh triggered an eight-hour nationwide strike today bringing the capital city to a standstill with most transport services off the road and schools shut.

A group of youths barged into the house of Nurul Islam Farooqi at Razabazar area in Dhaka on August 27 and killed him keeping the family members locked in another room.

They tied Farooqi's hands and legs with clothes in his bedroom and fled the scene after murdering him with sharp weapons.

It is being speculated that Farooqi, 60, was targeted by hardliners because he used his religious programmes to speak out against Islamist militant groups, including the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Farooqi hosted two popular Islamic television programmes, including "Kafela" which explored sacred Islamic sites around the world and another that tackled various Islamic issues.

He was also the chief cleric or khatib of Supreme Court Mosque and linked to the Islamic Front and several Islamic forums.

The protesters staged marches on Dhaka streets and elsewhere in the country demanding intensified investigations to track down Farooqi's unidentified assassins while they expressed suspicion that theological rivals who represent extreme right wing Islamic school of thoughts could be behind the killing.

The private transports were thin on the Dhaka streets while the inter-city and inter-district buses preferred to stay off the highways. The schools remained shut as the Islamic Front and its student affiliate called the strike protesting the murder of Farooqi last week.

Police in riot gears enforced a sharp vigil as the protesters staged processions chanting slogans but no incident of violence was reported as the shutdown ended in the midday.

"We did not stop them as they staged the processions peacefully. No untoward incident took place in the capital during their strike," a spokesman of Dhaka metropolitan police told newsmen.

But the activists halted a local train for an hour in central Chandpur during the shutdown and blocked a major highway linking Dhaka with the southeastern port city of Chittagong in Sitakunda area for around 20 minutes.

Three people, including a woman, have been arrested till now for their alleged involvement in the case.

Police earlier arrested a woman as the Faroorui's family members said she visited him claiming to his admirer ahead of the murder. The youths entered the house as soon as she left.