General strike cripples Bangladesh’s main cities

Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters were arrested and injured in Bangladesh on Monday, reports said, as an Islamic hard-line group enforced a nationwide general strike demanding the installation of Islamic law and the scrapping of a new government policy that gives women equal inheritance rights.Police, news reports and witnesses said the protesters, mostly students of Islamic schools, smashed vehicles and set fire to a petrol station and attacked a convoy of devotees on their way to an Islamic shrine in southeastern Bangladesh. Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse protesters in various parts of the country.Citing police and witnesses, the Daily Star newspaper and ETV station said that nearly 150 people were arrested during the one-day strike that saw schools and businesses shut in the nation’s main cities and towns.Citing police, the reports said dozens were injured in clashes across the country during the strike, which was organized by the Islamic Law Implementation Committee, a grouping of several Islamic groups and political parties.

Its head, Fazlul Huq Amini, told a news conference later Monday that about 100 activists had been arrested in the capital, Dhaka.While the strike was called to broadly seek the adoption of Islamic law in the Muslim-majority nation of 150 million people, its specific agenda was the opposition of the government’s new policy on women’s inheritance rights.According to Muslim family law, women can claim only a quarter of what men get from their parents. Under the government’s new rules, every child inherits the same amount.In Chittagong district, 135 miles (215 kilometers) southeast of Dhaka, protesters attacked a convoy of about 200 buses carrying devotees to an annual gathering at a local Islamic shrine, leaving about a dozen people injured, the Daily Star reported, citing its Chittagong bureau.The Islamic Law Implementation Committee usually denounces people who pray and practice religion in any Islamic shrine, saying Islam does not allow worshipping at shrines.Also in Chittagong, firefighters rushed to a petrol refueling station after it was set on fire by the protesters, the Daily Star said.

In Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, thousands of security officials were deployed to patrol the streets, police said.The security officials cordoned off the country’s main Baitul Mokarram mosque in downtown Dhaka and set up barbed wire fences near the mosque.In Dhaka and in a neighboring town, police stopped several processions while the protesters hit back with stones, Dhaka Metropolitan Police official Mozammel Huq said.The strike came a day after a student was killed and 25 other protesters were injured during a violent clash between Islamic hard-liners and police in western Bangladesh. Those protesters also were demanding the government scrap its new policy that ensures women equal inheritance rights, which they brand as anti-Islamic.Ahmed Husein, 19, a student at an Islamic school in the western district of Jessore, was shot during Sunday’s clash with police and died instantly. The protesters blamed police for shooting Husein. The police denied responsibility and said some of the protesters were armed.Amini, head of the Islamic Law Implementation Committee, accuses the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of violating the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, by introducing the new inheritance policy.Hasina, however, insists the new rules do not hurt Islam, and says the hard-line group is deliberately playing with people’s religious feelings to destabilize the country.Hasina’s government says it wants women to have greater rights in employment, inheritance and education.Despite being governed mostly by secular laws, Bangladesh follows Islamic law in family-related matters, including marriage and inheritance. – Arabnews