Anwar Ali, Rajshahi
Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) yesterday arrested the coordinator of Bangladesh chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir and nine of his cohorts at Rajshahi City Press Club on suspicion of promoting militancy in the country.
The police said the Hizb ut-Tahrir men were distributing leaflets calling for establishing its self-styled Khilafat rule dethroning the present government in this holy month of Ramadan.
"We arrested them on suspicion of encouraging militancy in the country...We are investigating their activities," said RMP Commissioner Mahbub Mohsin yesterday.
Quoting the Quran in its leaflets, the Islamist group called upon Muslims asking them to "take oath for establishing the rule of Khilafat by dethroning the present ruler in this holy month of Ramadan" to unite Muslims and revive their lost glory.
It criticises sending of forces in United Nations Peace Keeping missions for protecting "enemies" instead of "turning them the flag bearers of Islam".
"Our rulers have discarded the Quran and the Sunnah...They have handed us over to enemies. So, we should take oath to overthrow the present ruler this Ramadan and we have to replace them with Khilafat rule," says the leaflet distributed by the arrestees.
Of the arrestees, four are teachers including the outfit's Coordinator Dr Syed Golam Mowla, who is a teacher of management at Dhaka University (DU) and a resident of Dhanmondi, while others are students of different universities and colleges.
The arrest sparked tension in the city forcing the authorities to beef up security.
The police produced the Hizb ut-Tahrir men before the court of Metropolitan Judicial Magistrate BM Tariqul Kabir under section 54, accusing them of engaging in a conspiracy to topple the government. The court sent the arrestees to jail in the afternoon.
Of the other arrestees, Hizb ut-Tahrir senior member Ahmed Jamal is a teacher of electrical engineering at South East University, Mamun Ansari is a teacher of computer engineering at Darul Ihsan University, and Moniruzzaman Masud is a teacher of mathematics at Lake Head Grammar School.
Others are Rajshahi Islami Bank Medical College students Omar Faruk, 32, of Ghorapakhia, Chapainawabganj and Mozammel Haque Belal of Jhautala, Brahmanbaria, Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (Ruet) students Akhter Hossain, 23, of Fatikchhari, Chittagong and Zahidul Islam, 21, of Kishoreganj, Dhaka Bangla College student Masud Kawsar, 26, of Baburhat, Chandpur, and East West Medical College student Saddam Hossain, 23, of College Para, Brahmanbaria.
They were arrested just before holding a scheduled press conference at the press club around 12:30pm. The police also seized from their possession a lot of leaflets, booklets and posters containing provocative statements against the government.
Ramzan Ali, officer-in-charge of Boalia Police Station, said, "The arrestees were provoking unrest among people in the name of religion...Their activities also violate the state of emergency."
Meanwhile, leaders of Rajshahi City Press Club including its President and Dainik Sangram bureau chief Sardar Abdur Rahman, and daily Naya Diganta correspondent Sardar Anisur Rahman told reporters that the press conference was postponed as the Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders failed to show them any permission from the police.
However, the Islamist group was finally given a schedule for the press conference at 1:30pm without the permission from the RMP.Members of different law enforcement and intelligence agencies and journalists started gathering in front of the press club from 11:00am and the police arrested Hizb ut-Tahrir activists Zahidul Islam and Mozammel Haque around 12:30pm when they were entering the press club with a banner.
Upon their information, the police waited at the scene and arrested the Islamist group's coordinator along with others when they arrived at the place at 1:15pm in a microbus. Later, the police took them to Boalia Police Station.
Senior officials of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and RMP and members of intelligence agencies interrogated the Hizb ut-Tahrir men for hours before sending them to the court. Police released microbus driver Jahangir.
From police custody Golam Mowla claimed to reporters that Hizb ut-Tahrir is not linked with militancy and that they organised the press conference to clear their position following a campaign linking them with militancy.
"We want to establish Islamic rule through a truly democratic way and abiding by the law of the land," Mowla said.Asked about their call for dethroning the government, he said, "Speaking against any ruler or their system of ruling is a democratic right of every citizen."
The Islamist group's senior member Ahmed Jamal Iqbal told reporters that they have convinced the government about their having no connection with militancy. He said the government even allowed them in writing to hold a discussion at the Engineers' Institute of Dhaka this morning.
"I do not understand why we are allowed in Dhaka and arrested in Rajshahi," Jamal said.
HIZB UT-TAHRIR AND ITS BANGLADESH CHIEF
Intelligence agencies have been alerting the government about the presence of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the country for several years as it is widely believed to be the political ideologue of all terrorist groups in the world.In a report in 2005, the intelligence agencies expressed fear that the group may turn into an extremist organisation any time and suggested closely monitoring its activities.
Islami thinker Tokiuddin Al Nakhani formed Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1953 in Jerusalem, five years after Israel captured Palestine.
Golam Mowla, a lecturer of management at DU, went to London in 1993 to do his PhD and was introduced to Nasimul Gani and Kawsar Shahnewaz, who were holding an open discussion on Hizb ut-Tahrir at Regent Park.
After returning to Bangladesh in 2000, Nasimul and Shahnewaz set up an office at a coaching centre at Dhanmondi-6/A for the organisation's Bangladesh chapter and launched the group's activities under Golam Mowla's leadership.
The organisation has no committee or constitution. With Golam Mowla working as its coordinator, Mohiuddin Ahmad, senior lecturer of DU IBA department, Sheikh Towfiq of DU public administration department, Kazi Morshedul Haque, Dr Nasimul Gani and Kawsar Shahnewaz are working with the organisation.
Hizb ut-Tahrir preaches a utopian ideology of establishing an Islamic Caliphate across the globe.Terming Muslim majority countries, including Bangladesh, "Daar-ul-Kuffar" (land of the infidels) because they follow non-Islamic laws and practices, it wants to turn them into "Daar-ul-Islam" first and then take on the Muslim minority countries which according to them are "Daar-ul-Harb" (land of war).
Hizb ut-Tahrir men allegedly have misinterpreted the Quran and are being financed mostly by Middle Eastern countries.Although banned in the western and most Muslim majority countries, Hizb ut-Tahrir has been freely operating in Bangladesh for the past few years. On its website it promotes racism and anti-Semitic hatred, calls suicide bombers martyrs and urges Muslims to kill Jews.