TV presenter for religious programs murdered in Bangladesh

New York, August 29, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Bangladeshi authorities to investigate the murder this week of a TV host, and to identify the motive and bring the perpetrators to justice. Nurul Islam Faruqi, who was also an imam, used his religious programs to speak out against subjects including Islamist groups and militancy.

On Wednesday night, the TV host and his family were tied up at their home in the East Rajabazar area of the capital Dhaka, according to news reports. The assailants then slit the throat of Faruqi, who was a popular host of religious programs for the privately owned news and education Channel i television, news reports said.

Faruqi, who often had visitors to his home to discuss religious matters, had been visited by at least five men on the night of his murder, reports said. It is not clear how many men were involved in the attack, but local media reported that neighbors had helped free some guests as well as Faruqi’s family after the attackers fled.

“We call on Bangladeshi authorities to conduct a thorough and timely investigation into the murder of Nurul Islam Faruqi and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “A democracy must show that it will not tolerate violence as a means of suppressing critical voices.”

Faruqi was the host of two television programs — “Kafela,” which explored sacred Islamic sites around the world, and “Shantir Pothe,” where he discussed Islam, according to reports.

Faruqi, an imam and business owner, was also a leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a religious organization known to be critical of the opposition Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, according to news accounts.

A local journalist, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told CPJ that Faruqi had been critical of Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islamist group Hefajat-e-Islam in commentaries on his television programs. Faruqi was also critical of superstitious practices on one of his programs, according to reports. Biplob Kumar Sarker, deputy commissioner of Tejgaon police division, told news outlets that Faruqi’s “strong voice against superstitions in religion and stance against Jamaat-e-Islami might be the reason behind the murder.”

Dhaka police’s Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman said police were investigating motives including links to the programs Faruqi hosted, personal animosity, and possible business rivalries, the private news website BDNews24 reported. One of Faruqi’s sons told the privately owned Prothom Alo that he wasn’t aware of any personal feuds his father may have had.

In reports, Faruqi’s supporters said he opposed Jamaat-e-Islami, Hefajat-e-Islam and similar groups, and had received death threats before.

Last year, prominent blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was murdered in connection with his critical views on Islamic fundamentalism and the Jamaat-e-Islami party, according to police. Police told the media that his death was related to Facebook posts he wrote criticizing Islamic fundamentalism and Islamist groups.

Bangladesh was named on CPJ’s most recent Risk List, which highlights countries where press freedom is on the decline.