The arrest on May 26 of 140 secular activists in Bangladesh is the latest in a string of incidents indicating a disturbing shift towards Islamic fundamentalism in the East Asian parliamentary democracy.
The activists were rounded up by police during a demonstration against the government’s removal of a statue outside the Supreme Court building in the capital city, Dhaka. They were charged not only with holding an illegal gathering and obstructing justice, but with the attempted murder of the law enforcement agents dispatched to quell the protest.
The statue was a depiction of “Lady Justice” — the Greek goddess Themis (and Roman Justitia), blindfolded and holding a scale — this one wearing a sari. As soon as the iconic, universal symbol of jurisprudence was erected last December in the Bangladeshi capital, fundamentalist groups began to protest, on the grounds that the piece of art was “un-Islamic” and constituted idol-worship.
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