Dhaka – The statue of Lady Justice installed last year on Bangladesh’s Supreme Court premises has been removed in the face of protests by radical Islamists who say such “idols” are prohibited in Islam.
A group of workers hammered on the base of the statue at the dead of night to remove the artwork when all gates of the Supreme Court premises were locked.
Nearly five hours of frantic efforts, the statue was craned into a pick up van at around 5 am to take it to the annex building of the Supreme Court under the supervision of the sculptor, Mrinal Haque.
Haque, who crafted a number of artworks installed at different places in the capital Dhaka, told reporters that he was forced to remove the sculpture, but did not mention who forced him to do so.
“I made it, now I have been forced to remove it. I’ve come to ensure that the sculpture is not damaged during its removal,” said Haque.
Radical Islamist groups have been asking the government to remove the statue ever-since the artwork of a blindfolded woman in a sari holding scales and a sword in her hands was installed at the Supreme Court premises in December last year.
The statue represents the Roman goddess Iustitia or the Greek goddess Themis.
The controversy intensified when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came up with criticism of the statue saying why not it should be removed since it lost Greek character.
The Prime Minister’s comments came at a meeting she was holding with the chief of Hefazat e Islami Bangladesh, a hardliner Islamic group, Shah Ahmed Shafi, who campaign for blasphemy law, on April 11, 2017.
Hasina assured the Islamist group for measured to remove the statue.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told local media on Friday that the sculpture was removed based on opinions from the senior jurists to avert “untoward situation”.
It may be relocated to a museum nearby the Supreme Court, he said.
The radical Islamist groups organized a number of protests in the past months demanding removal of all such artworks from the pre-dominantly Muslim country.
The setting up of “idols” is prohibited in Islam, they said.
More than 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s 160 million inhabitants identify as Muslim.
The country is governed by a secular constitution based on British common law, but radical Islamic groups have long been campaigning for the introduction of strict Islamic law, or sharia. State religion in Bangladesh is Islam on the other hand.
Student organizations and civic groups campaign for progress against fundamentalism protested the removal of the statue. More than 100 activists rushed to the Supreme Court premises as news broke that the artwork was being removed.
They chanted slogans asking not to remove the statue. They also tried to get into the court premises.