Thursday, September 30, 2004

bangladesh university to investigate students' complaints of islamic content in physics course

By Shailaja Neelakantan
(This article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education in September 2004).

A physics professor at a university in Bangladesh has been told to temporarily stop teaching after some students complained that he had asked women in his classroom to wear a veil and had given all students an assignment to write an essay glorifying Allah.

Some students at Jahangirnagar University, in Dhaka, also said that the professor, Obaidur Rahman, had threatened to stop teaching them physics if they did not accede to his demands.

The professor's supervisor said the accusations were being investigated. "The university has set up a committee to verify if these things are true because we don't know what actually happened," said Mir Akramuzzaman, the physics department's chairman. "In fact, today some students came out in support of that professor, saying he did not ask students to do these things." The chairman added that the committee is expected to make a decision next month.

Religion is a divisive issue in Bangladesh, which is about 83 percent Muslim and 16 percent Hindu, and the University of Dhaka, the country's largest higher-education institution, is often a focal point of sectarian conflict. Classes were suspended there in March, amid widespread protests and a faculty boycott that followed the stabbing of a literature professor who is an outspoken critic of Islamic fundamentalist groups..

According to local news reports, Jahangirnagar University's vice chancellor, Mustahidur Rahman, has expressed concern over the accusations against the physics professor, saying that no teacher has the authority to impose a dress code on students. The reports also said that the professor could lose his job if the allegations prove to be true.