Several Islamic platforms have staged demonstrations demanding the immediate removal of a sculpture of Lady Justice, installed recently in front of the Supreme Court, calling it an "idol" of the Greek mythological character Themis.
“The demands brought up by the Islamist parties are irrational and baseless. There is no way to think that the sculpture will be removed if anyone demands so,” Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told the Dhaka Tribune.
The sculpture, commonly found on court premises across the world, is called Justitia, a personification of the neutrality of the justice system. The concept is represented by the same image all over the world, including Islamic countries like Iran.
On February 6, Hefazat-e-Islami Bangladesh, a Qawmi madrasa-based radical Islamist platform, held a rally at the National Press Club to demand the removal of the sculpture. They also have submitted a memorandum to the registrar general of the Supreme Court in this regard.
Hefazat Ameer Shah Ahmad Shafi, in a written statement, claimed the sculpture was inconsistent with Bangladesh’s culture and religious beliefs. The group that eyes Shariah Law in the country threatened to launch a massive movement if the demand was not met.
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This statue of Lady Justice, a universal symbol of neutrality, was erected in front of the Supreme Court recently SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN
On February 3, Islamist political parties Khelafat Andolon and Islami Andolon Bangladesh also held rallies in the Baitul Mukarram area on the same issue. Other parties opposing the sculpture are Awami Olama League and Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish.
Former law minister barrister Shafique Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune that the sculpture installed on the Supreme Court premises was nothing but the symbol of unbiased conscience of justice, honoured by the countries all over the world.
“I cannot see the validity of the argument that this is an attack on religion. The blindfolded sculpture is a representation of the idea that everyone is equal in the eyes of law,” the former law minister told the Dhaka Tribune.
Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, in a statement, demanded actions against the people who threatened the highest court and judiciary system.
“Calling this sculpture an idol is politically motivated,” the statement said.
Khushi Kabir, head of rights organisation Nijera Kori, told the Dhaka Tribune: “There are many sculptures in our country which carry the significance of our identity, history and tradition. They have no authority to demand the destruction of these historical and aesthetic sculptures.”
She feared that if this demand was fulfilled, these groups would raise questions about other sculptures such as "Oporajeyo Bangla," "Raju Bhashkorjo," or "Amar Ekushey."
“The demolition of the Lalon sculpture from in front of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport [in 2008] encouraged the religious zealots to make such demands,” she added.
The Islamist groups’ demands come at a time when the apex court issued two major verdicts – banning the use of scale as an electoral symbol and erasing the names of 20 convicted war criminals and anti-liberation people from roads and educational institutions across the country.
The High Court on December 12 declared the use of scale, which is a symbol of Jamaat-e-Islami, as an electoral symbol as it is used in the logo of the Supreme Court. After the High Court declared Jamaat's registration illegal, the party filed a petition with the Appellate Division.
On December 6, the High Court also ordered the government to remove the names of people who campaigned against the independence of Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War from roads, installations and educational institutions.
The list includes Hafezzi Hujur Road in front of Dhaka South City Corporation which triggered protests by Hefazat and other Islamist parties. Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan founder Maulana Mohammadullah is popularly known as Hafezzi Hujur.