Bangladesh removes Islamic author's books from libraries

Shafiq Alam

DHAKA — The Bangladesh government has ordered tens of thousands of mosques and libraries to remove books written by the controversial founder of an Islamic party, an official said Saturday.

The state-run Islamic Foundation took the decision after Syed Abul Ala Maududi's books were deemed "anti-Islamic" and likely to foster militancy in the Indian subcontinent, its head Shamim Mohammad Afjal told AFP.

Maududi is the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami party, which has a large number of followers in South Asia -- home to around 450 million Muslims.

The Jamaat is the largest Islamic party in Bangladesh, with two elected lawmakers in the parliament.

"We have taken the decision to withdraw books written by Maududi from all of the state-funded 24,000 libraries attached to mosques," Afjal said.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh has 270,000 mosques but only a fraction are directly funded by the government, according to the Foundation.

"Maududi's books have given bad name to Islam as they encourage terrorism and militancy. His philosophy is against the basic teachings of Koran and the traditions and saying of Prophet Mohammed," he said.

Although the Bangladeshi and Pakistani branches of Jamaat-e-Islami party are fully independent, their supporters avidly follow Maududi's books and his political and radical interpretations of Koran.

Born in India, Maududi headed the Jamaat in Pakistan for decades. He died in 1979.

A.T.M. Azharul Islam, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh, called the ban "unnecessary".

"There have been no instances in which Maududi's books have promoted terrorism. The books were written 50 to 60 years ago and are now being read and published in many countries. There have been no complaints," he said.

The government's decision follows arrests in recent weeks of five senior leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh on charges ranging from offending religious sentiments of Muslims to violence during a recent nationwide strike.

Its leaders have also been accused of war crimes by groups investigating Bangladesh's liberation war of 1971, including the killing of dozens of intellectuals during the nine-month war against Pakistan.

Jamaat leaders deny the allegations.

Bangladesh was part of Pakistan until an independence campaign, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, saw the country achieve independence, after a bloody war that the government says killed three million people.

July 17, 2010, AFP

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