DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh police said Monday they have arrested a hardline Muslim preacher for allegedly inciting the murder of a popular television host.
Sheikh Nurul Islam Faruqi, the 60-year-old chief cleric of a Dhaka mosque and host of television shows on Islamic issues, was found tied to a chair with his throat slit at his home in the capital in August.
Police suspect he was murdered by Ansarullah Bangla, a little-known group of hardline Islamists whose members were accused of killing an atheist blogger last year.
On Monday police said they had arrested 35-year-old preacher Mozaffor bin Mohosin after video footage of him calling Faruqi an “apostate” emerged.
“We’ve arrested him for inciting the murder. He has been remanded for two days for questioning,” police spokesman Monirul Islam told AFP. “We have seen the video in which he (Mohosin) could be seen seeking Faruqi’s punishment because he promoted (Sufi) shrines in his programmes.”
Mohosin has denied the charge, he said.
The gruesome murder highlighted the growing faultline between hardline Saudi-style Salafi Islamists in Muslim-majority Bangladesh and the country’s centuries-old tradition of Sufi-inspired moderate Islam.
Salafists say that worshipping at Sufi shrines is anti-Islamic.
The police spokesman said Mohosin regularly preached at a Dhaka mosque attended by militants from the Ansarullah group.
Faruqi’s murder triggered protests by moderate Islamic groups, who called a nationwide strike to demand the culprits’ swift arrest.
In the last decade, Islamic militants in Bangladesh have killed around 100 people seen as critical of Islam, including secular and cultural activists and bloggers. They have also bombed Sufi shrines which were deemed un-Islamic.
Last year six people including a 60-year-old man who called himself a Sufi master were slaughtered at their home in a similar fashion to Faruqi.
Police have not yet solved those cases.