On May 5, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi Islamists marched on the capital city of Dhaka, to protest the government's failure to fulfill their demands. Under the banner of a non-political forum, supporters of the Islamic Hefajat-e-Islam [Protectorate of Islam], formed in 2009 and led by 93 year old cleric Allama Shafi, declared they would not leave the capital until their demands were met.
An estimated 200,000 Islamists positioned themselves at the country's most important commercial area, Matijheel, as well as other parts of the city, and vandalized dozens of government offices, shops and vehicles.
Although the country's security forces suppressed the overnight clash between the Islamists and police, 29 were killed, including seven members of the security forces.
Earlier, on March 6, members of the Hefajat-al-Islam had rallied in Dhaka, where they demanded that authorities enact their 13 demands, including an anti-blasphemy law, for which the most severe penalty is death.
Although 25 other organizations that support the current government had called for strike in the commercial area that day, tens of thousands of Islamists rushed to the same place. They declared an ultimatum to expire in 30 days, or May 5. During that period the Islamists banned any women journalists from covering their scheduled program. One who tried, Nadia Sharmin, was brutally beaten by the Islamists at the first gathering on March 6.
The 13 demands of the Islamists are:
1. Restore the phrase 'complete faith and trust in the almighty Allah' in the constitution and repeal all the laws contrary to the holy Quran and Sunnah.
2. Pass a law in parliament keeping a provision of the maximum punishment of death sentence to prevent defaming Allah, Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and Islam and smear campaigns against Muslims.
3. Take measures for stringent punishment against self-declared atheists and bloggers, led by the so-called Shahbag movement and anti-Islamists who made derogatory remarks against the Prophet.
4. Stop infiltration of all alien cultures, including shamelessness in the name of individual's freedom of expression, anti-social activities, adultery, free mixing of male and female and candle lighting.
5. Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels, canceling the anti-Islamic women policy and anti-religion education policy.
6. Officially declare Qadianis (Ahmadyyas) as non-Muslims and stop their propaganda and all-controversial ill-moves.
7. Stop setting up sculptures at intersections, schools, colleges and universities across the country.
8. Lift restrictions on saying prayers in all mosques across the country, including Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, without any hassle, and remove obstacles to carrying out religious activities.
9. Stop evil efforts to spread hatred in the mind of young generation regarding Islam through the misrepresentation of religious dress and cultures in the media.
10. Stop anti-Islam activities by NGOs across the country, including in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and evil attempts of Christian missionaries at conversion.
11. Stop attacks, mass killing, oppression and indiscriminate shooting on Alem-Ulama, devout followers of the Prophet and Towhidi Janata (revolutionary people).
12. Stop threatening teachers and students of Qawmi Madrassas, Islamic scholars, imams and Khatibs and conspiracies against them.
13. Free immediately all the arrested Islamic scholars, Madrassa students and Towhidi Janata and withdraw all false cases filed against them, compensate the victims and bring the assailants to justice.
The government of Bangladesh instituted a new women policy, with a provision for the equal share for women in both property and opportunities in employment and business. The Shahbagh movement was begun on February 5, 2013, by some bloggers, artists and university students at the Shahbag intersection in Dhaka, in protest of a war crime tribunal verdict which did not sentence the accused to the highest penalty. The activists of the movement at the time demanded banning religion-based politics in the country.
In both the rallies on April 6 and May 5, thousands of Islamists, backed by both the main political opposition party BNP [Bangladesh National Party] and the largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, chanted, "We want Shariah Law!" The clerics warned that no government could be formed, or remain in power without instituting Shariah Law for the nation. The leaders of the rallies also hired thousands of young students, aged from 10 to 25, from Madrassas around the country. There are in Bangladesh approximately 80 thousand Madrassas, including about 65 thousand Qaumi Madrassas (Islamic religious schools not regulated by the government, but run by NGOs or private initiatives). These Madrassas, mostly controlled by Jamaat-e-Islam, teach Islam only in Arabic, incompatible with the country's general curriculum. Before the gatherings on March 6, Madrassa students from the country's different regions arranged demonstrations against the government. "This government of Prime Minister Sheikha Hasina is atheist," they said, and chanted with rhythm, 'we will be Taliban, Bangla (Bangladesh) will be Afghan. We will be martyrs of Jihad.'
One study says that religious fundamentalism is rapidly increasing in Bangladesh. The fundamentalists in Bangladesh have deep-rooted relations with al-Qaeda and other radical outfits, and have created huge pockets of Islamism in the district towns across the country.
Respected economist and chairman of Janata Bank, Professor Dr Abul Barakat, has stated repeatedly that there are currently about 125 terrorist groups operating throughout Bangladesh, most under the control of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami.