Bangladesh Islamists Protest Court's Greek Goddess Statue
Hundreds of supporters of a hardline Bangladesh Islamist group staged protests Friday calling for the statue of a Greek goddess installed at the Supreme Court to be destroyed or removed.
The sculpture of Themis, the blindfolded deity of justice and order, has ruffled feathers in the Muslim-majority nation since it was unveiled late last year on the premises of the country's top court.
Crowds led by the fundamentalist Hefazat-e-Islam group spilled onto the streets of Dhaka after Friday prayers, demanding the immediate removal of the statue.
They chanted slogans and wielded placards with slogans such as "Demolish the statue on the court premises and replace it with the Koran".
The protests come as hardline Islamists try to push a series of changes in school textbooks, which are overwhelmingly secular, to reflect Muslim traditions.
Conservative Bangladesh has seen increasing tension between hardliners and secularists in recent years, suffering a spate of killings of atheist bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners.
Security in the area around Baitul Mukarram, the country's national mosque in the capital, has been increased, said local police chief Rafiqul Islam, adding that "at least 1,000 people" were thought to have joined a rally there.
Hundreds of protesters joined a similar rally in the country's second largest city Chittagong, local police said.
In ancient Greek mythology Themis was depicted with her eyes shielded and the scales of justice in her hands.
Her image is used to represent fairness, law and custom in countries across the world.
Hefazat spokesman Azizul Haque Islamabadi told AFP that statues or honoring idols are "strongly prohibited in Islam" and accused secular forces in the country of a "conspiracy."
"We want the statue of the Greek Goddess to be removed immediately. It doesn't reflect the Islamic culture of the Muslims of our country," he said.
Court officials have defended the statue as "a symbol of justice."