10,000 Bangladeshis defy police to attend Islamist leader’s funeral

April 18, 2020

Dhaka, April 18, 2020

An estimated 10,000 devotees attended the funeral of an Islamist party leader in eastern Bangladesh in defiance of restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus, police said on Saturday.

Thousands of devotees crammed into the premises of a religious school in the north-eastern region of Sarail in Brahmanbaria district to pay their respects to Jubayer Ahmed Ansari, a former leader of Islamist party Khelafat Majlish.

Ansari, who was also an Islamic televangelist and head of the school, died at his home on Friday after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 69.

Police had tried to limit attendance of the funeral to only 50 people to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading among the crowd, but the ban was widely ignored, said local police chief Shahadat Hossain Titu.

“The crowd was beyond control,” Titu said, adding that an estimated 10,000 people attended the service.

Images of the crowds defying the order to stay indoors sparked fury on social media as Bangladesh’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic climbed to 84.

“It appeared these (Islamist) mullahs want to take all of us into heaven along with them,” Fazlur Rahman, a Dhaka resident commented in one post.

Non-essential businesses and schools have been closed across Bangladesh and public transport shut down since late last month.

The Muslim-majority country has also imposed a ban of groups of more than five people attending daily prayers at mosques to contain the spread of the virus that has so far infected 2,144 people.

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