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Ailing Bangladeshi Islamist cleric moved to New Delhi for treatment

Dhaka, (IANS): The 96-year-old ailing chief of Hefazat-e-Islam, a pro-Islamist platform in Bangladesh, has been flown to the Indian capital for treatment after his health condition worsened, a media report said.

Shah Ahmed Shafi, who has been suffering from various old age complications, left for New Delhi on Saturday, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

Azizul Haque Islamabadi, central organising secretary of the Islamist platform, told the Dhaka Tribune that a flight carrying Shafi left Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

“He [Shafi] has been suffering from various old age complications. He is now taking liquid food through a tube. His respiratory problem has also worsened. That’s why he is going Delhi for better treatment. Delhi’s Deoband Madrasa teacher Arshad Madani will look after him during the treatment session,” Azizul said.

Shafi was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Chittagong city after he fell sick on May 18.

He was flown to Dhaka on June 6 after his condition deteriorated. Doctors at Asgar Ali Hospital in Gendaria treated him for old age complications and released him from the hospital on July 10.

The controversial nonagenarian leader, who is known as Boro Hujur (the oldest cleric) among his followers, is strongly criticised by progressive people for his highly prejudicial views on various social issues and also for the radical Islamist platform’s pledge of Islamising Bangladesh, the daily said.

Shafi is the rector of Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam, also known as Hathazari Madrasa, and the chairman of Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh, the largest Qawmi Madrasa board in Bangladesh.

The Islamist group was in the news earlier this year for demanding the removal of all ‘idols’ installed in the name of sculptures or statues across the country.

The Hefazat, which is an influential network of madrasas, had demanded the removal of the statue of ‘Lady Justice’ at the Supreme Court premises and staged countrywide protests demanding the removal of the statue.

In May, the statue was removed from the Supreme Court premises, which triggered widespread protests by Bangladeshis. The following day, May 27, the statue was reinstalled in the annexe building of the apex court.