An elderly imam Maulana Fazlul Huq, from Matlab, Chandpur, was killed over his position in the local mosque.
The 90-year-old Maulana was attacked and beaten on Thursday after the Zohr prayer call by a local youth named Biplob, 35. Biplob was later arrested by the local police that evening.
Maulana Fazlul Huq was previously an Islamic studies teacher at the Matlab Girls' High school, and after retirement, he became the imam at Kashem Pagla Bari Jame Mosque where he served for nearly 15 years.
Relatives of the deceased alleged the local mosque committee members had been pressurising the Maulana to resign from his role as imam and think it has a strong connection to his attack and eventual death.
Local sources and the relatives told the Dhaka Tribune that the Maulana had retired from Matlab Girls' School in 1993 and later took on the role of imam for the local mosque, which was constructed by Dhaka elite Shafiqul Anowar.
The relatives said, upon joining his new role, the Maulana promised to serve as the imam for as long as he would live.
When the mosque committee was formed, no salary was paid to the Maulana, except for a monthly stipend of Tk1,000 sent by Anowar from Dhaka.
The relatives also said the committee was pressurising the Maulana to resign because of his age. The Maulana replied he would resign only if asked by the one who appointed him. As no replacement was found, he continued to serve at the mosque.
A few months ago, an alleged drug-addict local youth, Biplob, began visiting the mosque often and even gave the prayer call at times. However, after the mosque’s donation box was stolen, during the investigation Biplob came to be under the impression that the Maulana was accusing him for the theft. Then Biplob too joined the mosque committee and asked the Maulana to resign.
The Maulana was sent home a few days after when he fell ill and a new imam was proposed to be instilled in his place by the mosque committee. Soon, a new imam was given the charge, despite the Maulana insisting he would like to return when he recovered.
About four days after the new imam was given the charge at the mosque, the Maulana was asked to take his belongings from the room allocated for the imam of the mosque, to make room for the new imam.
Nasima, the Maulana’s daughter, told the Dhaka Tribune that they did as the mosque committee asked and brought her father's belongings from the mosque. And later, when they inquired with a committee member named Mostafa, he said the Maulana would be given the charge as the imam once he recovered.
However, on his return to duty, the Maulana was attacked with a bamboo by Biplob as he finished the afternoon prayer call at the mosque on Thursday.
The elderly man began to bleed and was rushed to Upazila Health Complex. However, as his condition was critical, he was referred to National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Dhaka. The Maulana passed away soon after being brought to the Dhaka hospital.
Nasima has demanded exemplary punishment for her father's killer.
Ward councillor Kishor Kumar Ghosh from ward 3 of Matlab City Corporation told the Dhaka Tribune: “The locals came together and handed over the killer to the police. The killer in this case is a drug addict.”
On inquiring about the discord between the late Maulana and the mosque committee, Kishor denied any such issues and said: “How can there be any problem at the mosque in this matter? There are 10-12 people who say their prayers at that mosque regularly. The one who had appointed the late imam lives in Dhaka and doesn't belong to this area.”
Officer-in-Charge of South Matlab Police Kutubuddin told the Dhaka Tribune that a case has been filed against one person with the police station. The accused was arrested on the same day and a police remand was granted by the court.
Kutubuddin said the police would also investigate further to find out if there are any deep-rooted issues associated with the appointment of the imam at the mosque.