Islamists force suspension of Bangladesh’s first human milk bank

UNTV News   •   December 30, 2019   •   359

Children of the destitute women at the day care center of the Hope for the Destitute Women and Children (HDWC) at Mohammadpur in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Feb.27, 2017. EPA-EFE/FILE/ABIR ABDULLAH

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka – Authorities in Bangladesh said on Monday they were forced to suspend the launching of the country’s first human milk bank for motherless infants after objections from Islamists.

The government’s Institute of Child and Mother Health (ICMH) in Matuail near capital Dhaka was scheduled to launch the milk bank, fitted with imported machinery, in early December.

But when the plan was made public, Islamists opposed it saying that it creates a sibling bond between individuals who have consumed milk of the same donor and prohibits future marriage between the so-called “milk-brothers and sisters”.

A legal notice was also served to the authorities claiming that the milk bank would create legal and religious complications in a country where, according to the United Nations – World Population Prospects, the infant mortality rate in 2019 was 25.788 deaths per 1,000 live births.

“We kept the project suspended for the time being. Hopefully, we will be able to convince all that there is nothing un-Islamic in the project. Once we do that, we will launch the bank,” Project Coordinator Mojibur Rahman told EFE.

Gazi Ataur Rahman, joint secretary-general of the Islami Andolan Bangladesh (Bangladesh Islamic movement) said the authorities should have consulted Islamic scholars before initiating such a project.

“Islam allowed a mother’s milk to the babies of other mothers. There is no problem. Our Prophet also drank the milk of other women. It’s not bad, rather good. But when it is not identified, it creates the problem,” he said.

“Marriage is forbidden with 14 relations in Islam. This applies to the relations created by drinking milk (of the same mother),” the Islamist leader told EFE.

“We are yet to get any reply to our legal notice. It’s not clear to us how they will maintain the identity. It needs to be cleared before we lifted our objection,” he said.

Project director Mojibur said they have already fulfilled all the conditions sought in the legal notice.

“This human milk bank is different from the usual human milk banks in non-Muslim countries. This is a religious compliant human milk bank. Here every mother’s milk will be preserved separately. One will not be mixed with others,” he said.

Mojibur said both mother and baby will be given donor and recipient cards and their national identification number and other data will be also mentioned in the card.

“Every year, we will also bring out a souvenir detailing the identities of babies and mothers, and it will be also given to district marriage register office so that there is no information gap…it will be a computer-generated process,” he said.

“We decided this before our Islamic scholars raised their objections. We were aware of the sensitivity and also gave a presentation to the Islamic foundation before we went ahead,” the project head said.

He said they undertook the project when they found some 25 motherless babies were struggling for breast milk.

“We could only give machinery support in the last two years. Apart from them, we had 37 adopted babies. Adopted mothers also could not give breast milk. We took it as a life-saving project,” he said.

Country’s child care specialists also welcomed the idea of setting up a human milk bank for motherless infants.

“It is a very good initiative. Usually, we do not recommend anything other than mother’s milk for babies. But in many situations, we don’t get the mother to give milk to her baby,” said Mahbubul Haque, a physician at Dhaka’s Shishu (Children) Hospital.

“Milk bank could be a solution to this problem. I think it is possible following the Islamic rules,” he said. EFE-EPA

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Cyclone Amphan tears into India; destroys homes, whips up storm surge

UNTV News   •   May 21, 2020

A powerful cyclone tore into eastern India and Bangladesh on Wednesday (May 20), destroying mud houses and embankments and whipping up a storm surge along the coast, officials said, after millions of people were moved out of its path.

At least one 70-year-old man was killed by a falling tree in Bangladesh’s coastal Bhola district, a police official said. The low-lying country has evacuated 2.4 million people to shelters.

Another 650,000 people have been moved to safety in the eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal, authorities said, an operation carried out amid surging coronavirus infections.

It was too early to estimate a toll on life or damage to property.

Cyclone Amphan began moving inland with winds gusting up to 185 kph, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India Meteorological Department, told reporters.

Mohapatra said that the storm surge could rise to around five metres in the Sundarbans delta, home to around four million people and thick mangrove forests that are a critical tiger habitat.

The storm will also sweep past Kolkata, a sprawling city of 4.5 million people, where strong winds uprooted trees and electricity poles, littering several streets, television showed.

A home ministry official said authorities in West Bengal and neighbouring Odisha had struggled to house thousands of evacuees as shelters were being used as coronavirus quarantine centres.

Extra shelters were being prepared in markets and government buildings with allowances made for social distancing, while masks were being distributed to villagers.

Police in West Bengal said some people were unwilling to go to the shelters because they were afraid of being infected by the coronavirus and many were refusing to leave their livestock. (Reuters)

(Production: Peter Brownlie, Mussab Al-Khairalla)

Bangladeshi court sentences 7 to death for plotting 2016 Dhaka café attack

Robie de Guzman   •   November 27, 2019

Dhaka – A Bangladeshi anti-terrorism court sentenced seven men to death on Wednesday after finding them guilty of plotting a deadly attack on a café in Dhaka that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, more than three years ago.

Judge Mujibur Rahman of the anti-terrorism Special Tribunal in Dhaka acquitted the eighth accused in the case as he read the verdict in a crowded court room determining the role the convicts played in planning the July 1, 2016, attack on the capital’s popular Holey Artisan Bakery café.

“The court sentenced seven accused to death and acquitted one accused, Boro Mizan,” prosecutor Abdullah Abu told reporters outside the court.

The court described the attack as “a heinous crime” done to “damage the image of the country” and “establish Islamic rule” in Bangladesh, Abu said.

The prosecution said they were happy with the verdict and would decide to challenge the acquittal of the eighth accused after reading and analyzing the verdict.

Some of the accused in the courtroom shouted pro-Islamic slogans like “Allahu akbar” as the judge announced the verdict, said the prosecutor.

At least two of the accused sported black caps of the Islamic State, the global militant network that claimed the attack on the upscale café, which was frequented by foreigners and wealthy locals.

The government, however, claimed that the five assailants who stormed the popular eatery belonged to a homegrown Islamist outfit known as Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

The attackers – armed with crude bombs, machetes and pistols – took several dozen hostages before troops stormed the café almost 12 hours later.

By then, they had already gunned down 22 diners, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, and one Indian. The five gunmen were shot dead as commandos launched a rescue operation for the hostages. Two policemen were also killed in the shootout.

Eight members of the JMB were arrested months later and charged on Nov. 26, 2018. Their trial began on Dec. 3.

Police found the involvement of 21 people in the attack but charged only eight of them, as 13 others, including the five attackers, died in various operations.

Those confirmed on the death row are Jahangir Alam, Rashidul Islam, Sohel Mahfuz, Raklbul Islam Regan, Hadiur Rahman, Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon.

Delwar Hossain, a defense lawyer, said they would challenge the verdict. “We will appeal against it. It’s a legal process. There is nothing more I can say.”

The court in August last year acquitted a British-Bangladeshi professor – who was held for more than two years as a suspect – as police did not find evidence of his involvement in the attack.

The attack shook the country and forced the government to admit that the problem of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh, a traditionally moderate country, was becoming severe.

Between 2013 and 2016, Bangladesh witnessed a wave of Islamist attacks against minorities, foreigners, gay activists, intellectuals and bloggers critical of religious fundamentalism.

Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Haque said they would probe the two of the suspects were able to get Islamic State caps while in jail.

“We will investigate how it happened. I cannot say at this moment how they got this,” Haque told reporters. EFE-EPA

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Bangladesh sentences 16 to death for killing teenager in harassment case

Robie de Guzman   •   October 25, 2019

📷 Reuters

The principal of a religious school in Bangladesh was among 16 people sentenced to death on Thursday (October 24) for the murder of a teenage girl who refused to withdraw a complaint of sexual harassment against him, the public prosecutor said.

The killers poured kerosene over Nusrat Jahan, 18, and set her on fire on the roof of her school in April in the southeastern district of Feni.

Police said in their charge sheet that the murder was carried out at the principal’s order.

Outside the courthouse in Feni district, security was tightened and relatives of those convicted publicly grieved. Defense lawyer Giasuddin Nannu said his clients will challenge the verdict in the High Court.

Jahan’s death sparked public outrage and mass demonstrations calling for her killers to be punished.

She had faced pressure to withdraw a complaint to police in March accusing the school principal of attempted rape and also the case, her family said. (Reuters)

(Production: Rafiqur Rahman, Travis Teo)

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