Religious scholars say Jamaat-e-Islami is misusing Islam by calling for jihad to free party leaders who are on trial.
With many of its leaders awaiting trial and its appeal on the wane, the radical Jamaat-e-Islami party has been trying to galvanize support by calling for jihad against the Bangladeshi government, authorities say.
This ominous message was contained in a booklet circulated by Jamaat at the start of the month, with over 60,000 copies circulated.
"We're sifting through the booklet and trying to figure out whether it violated the law and what kind of reaction it might have on the overall law and order situation," Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Detective) Deputy Commissioner Monirul Islam told Khabar South Asia:
Extreme messages of this kind are not new. For years, Islamist radicals have called for seizing power in order to turn Bangladesh into a theocratic state, similar to Afghanistan during the days of Taliban rule. The latest declarations, analysts say, are aimed at halting ongoing judicial proceedings against Jamaat party leaders.
The International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh is swiftly moving to convict nine key Jamaat figures, including party chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, in connection with atrocities committed during Bangladesh's 1971 Liberation War.
"This is the first time since independence [that] they are under tremendous pressure," said Mohiuddin Ahmed, a former diplomat in Dhaka.
"Their top leaders are under trial and they can guess the fate of their leaders. But I think the Jamaat should get the opportunity to do peaceful politics at democratic way," he told Khabar.
The Jamaat booklet quotes 53 verses from the holy Qur'an and 17 quotations from the Hadith to both justify jihadi action and to prove such actions are not un-Islamic. Moreover, it urges Jamaat followers do anything for the party – including carrying out acts of violence -- and sacrifice their lives, if necessary, to free its leaders.
Religious experts, however, say such calls are profoundly at odds with Islamic teachings and reflect a misunderstanding of jihad.
"There is no similarity with the situation in which Prophet Mohammad performed jihad," said Kazi Nurul Islam, department chairman of World Religions and Culture at Dhaka University.
Although the Qur'an mentions jihad, Islam said, it also discusses where it should be performed. Jihad is sometimes misinterpreted and mentioned in a way as if it is applicable at all times in all situations, he told Khabar.
The misuse of the Prophet's teachings amounts to blasphemy, some commentators suggest.
"Religion is a sacred thing. No one should try to use it as a weapon to gain political benefit," Shamim Mohammad Afzal, director general of the state-run Islamic Foundation told Khabar. "If anyone tries to do this, he should be brought to justice."
State Minister for Law Kamrul Islam told Khabar that the booklet is aimed at inciting violence while undermining the judicial process.
"Jamaat is now hell bent on scuttling the trial of their leaders," he said. "They have resorted to all techniques and methods to stop the trial. Having failed in their efforts, they are now trying to create anarchy in the country."
"We're fully aware of their heinous designs and we'll do whatever it takes to foil their unlawful activities," Islam said.