Bangladeshi School Torches Hundreds of Mobile Phones
Administrators at a hardline Islamic school in Bangladesh confiscated students’ mobile phones on Tuesday in an effort to prevent technology-induced distractions. The devices were then allegedly set aflame in a bonfire.
Azizul Hoque, a spokesman for the Darul Ulum Moinul Islam madrassa seminary that made the decision, said: “these devices are ruining their character. The students use Internet (on their phones) throughout the night and then doze during classes the next morning. Their parents are concerned.”
Mufti Jasim Uddin, the superintendent of the school, avoided stating directly that the phones had been destroyed, choosing to say instead: “we seize mobile phones, especially the ones that play music and videos, from the resident students during admission every year.”
However, some students told authorities that around 400 mobile phones were divided into two sacks and burned in a nearby field.
Bangladeshi education officials have been taking harder stances on cell phone usage in schools ever since The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education issued an order on October 12th, 2017 banning students and teachers from bringing mobile phones into classrooms.
"[Phones] hamper lessons in class. The students can't concentrate on their studies. It's unwarranted and unacceptable," the notice read.
However, the seminary’s decision to confiscate mobile phones was not solely the result of governmental, bureaucratic push against technology use in class.
A. Hoque stated: "we are flooded with letters seeking fatwas (Islamic edicts) from Muslims against the use of mobile phones, as many complained that the gadgets were frequently used for extramarital affairs."
The seminary is located in Hathazari, directly outside the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong. The 123-year old institution is home to 14,000 registered students, and is headed by Ahmad Shafi, the leader of an Islamist group known as Hefazat-e-Islam.
Hefazat-e-Islam has in recent years pushed for Islamic rule in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, clashing with nation’s secular government. In a recent development, Hefazat-e-Islam, joined by hundreds of thousands of supporters, struck an accord with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that called for the government to recognize academic qualifications from hardline seminaries like the Darul Ulum Moinul Islam madrassa seminary.
Though Bangladesh is officially secular, Muslim religious leaders such as Shafi are extremely influential in social policy, especially in the more conservative and rural areas of the country.
Given the school’s approach to the mobile phone confiscation and Shafi’s power as an instigator of political movements, the school’s confiscation of cell phones may demonstrate the strength of religion-based educational policy-making in Bangladesh.