Thousands of supporters of a conservative Islamist group have protested in Bangladesh against a statue of the goddess of justice erected outside the supreme court.The protest in the capital, Dhaka, demanded its removal.The demonstrators say the figure, a variation on the Greek goddess Themis but in a sari, goes against Islam.
The protest is another sign of tension between Islamic conservatism and liberal values in Bangladesh.Backers of the conservative Islamist group, Hefazat-e-Islam, gathered outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque after Friday prayers, carrying placards and promising further protests across the country if the statue was not removed.
The protesters say the figure, erected in December and holding the familiar sword and scales of justice in her hands, amounts to idolatry. “Statues or any kind of idols are completely banned in Islam,” one demonstrator told the BBC. “There is no place for a statue in our religion. So Muslims can’t allow a statue in the Supreme Court premises.”
There is growing tension in Bangladeshi society, and politics, between Islamic conservatives and more moderate, secular voices who want to defend pluralism and free speech, said the BBC South Asia Editor Jill McGivering.
The protesters’ demands present the government with a dilemma at a sensitive time, she added.Evidence of tension has come in the form of a series of murders of liberal writers and attacks by Islamist militants in recent years.