In Bangladesh, right wing religious groups are demanding the removal of a sari-clad sculpture of the Lady Justice in front of the Supreme court. They have threatened a countrywide movement from February 24 if their demands are not met by authorities.
The sculpture was created from stainless steel by renowned artist Mrinal Hoque and is scheduled to be officially opened in April this year. The statue is currently in position outside the court but is still being decorated.
Hefazat-e-Islam and other Islamist political parties such as Islami Oikya Jote claim the statue of Lady Justice resembles the Greek deity Themis and is offensive to the religious sentiments of the Muslim-majority country. They also urged the government to reform the country’s judiciary.
Mufti Foyzullah, joint general secretary of Hefazat-E-Islam told journalists: “This [sculpture] has been cast in a sari and presented in a way that gives into vulgarity.”
Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh came into the limelight in 2013 during the #Shahbag protests when they demanded a ban on free mixing of the sexes and capital punishment for “atheists and blasphemous bloggers”. They introduced their 13-point demand on April 6, 2013 in Dhaka. In addition to capital punishment for blasphemy the group demanded compulsory Islamic education and a ban on the proliferation of sculptures across the country.
A number of people like Noor Hossain supported the demand to take down the brand new statue:
Deity Themis may be the symbol for justice for the Greeks according to their mythology. But why should we, as a majority Muslim independent country, borrow from Greek history and heritage with its mean colonial mentality? [..]
There is no instance of such foreign statues in the supreme courts in our neighbour India. [..] So why should there be a sculpture of a Greek deity in front of our Supreme Court?
The Attorney General Mahbubey Alam dismissed the demands as irrational and baseless. The sculpture (Justitia), is a personification of the neutrality of the justice system and is found in many countries of the world, including Islamic countries like Iran, he said.
Rafi Chowdhury wrote on Facebook:
Hefazat is not educated enough to understand the difference between a statue of a deity and a sculpture. If the sculpture is removed, I will start demanding a ban on Hefazat. The country should not be run by their demands, we should honour the four founding principles of our country; democracy, socialism, secularism and Bengali nationalism.
There were some angry reactions in Twitter:
Hefazat in Bangladesh the tricky traders now appointed the agent & subcontractors to protect Islam; as it their father’s property.
— Akkas A Mollah (@AkkasAMollah7) February 18, 2017
— momo man (@MOM0man) January 27, 2017
— Joseph Allchin (@J_Allchin) February 12, 2017
Abdur Rahim Rana wrote on the Ishtishon blog:
Now Hefazat is saying a Statue is haram in Islam so the sculpture in front of Supreme court should be removed. After some days they will say a woman leading a nation is haram, so (Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina must go. This remains to be said. [..]
Please beware, if you don’t pay heed to this Hefazati aggression, your existence will be threatened one day.
The state minister for cultural affairs, Asaduzzaman Noor, also criticized Hefazat’s demand:
Hefazat is speaking like this is not the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as if it is the Islamic republic of Bangladesh.
It remains to be seen whether or not Hefazat’s claim that hundreds of thousands of people are ready to take the streets to bring the sculpture down if it is not removed by the authorities has substance.
Rezwan is from Dhaka, Bangladesh and he has been blogging at The 3rd world view since 2003.He has been bridgeblogging the Bangladeshi and South Asian Blogosphere in Global Voices since 2005. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy. This piece was first published in Global Voices.