DHAKA (AFP) - Suspected Islamic militants have hacked to death a university professor in western Bangladesh, several years after he led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils, police said Sunday.
Police have arrested two people for questioning over the murder near Rajshahi University in the west of the Muslim-majority country where the victim was a professor of sociology, a senior officer said.
The victim, Professor Shafiul Islam, followed the folk sect Baul, popular in parts of western Bangladesh, whose members call themselves followers of humanism rather than a particular religion.
Teachers and secular students protested by blocking roads and boycotting classes in Rajshahi city shortly after hearing the news of the murder on Saturday.
"We are working on several possible motives behind the killing," Rajshahi police commissioner Mahbubur Rahman told AFP, but the "main focus" was that the murder was carried out by Islamist militants.
A previously unknown Islamist group calling itself the Ansar al Islam Bangladesh-2 claimed responsibility for the killing, after opening a Facebook page late on Saturday.
"Our Mujahideens have today murdered an apostate who had prohibited female students from wearing veils in his department and the classrooms," a posting said.
"Beware all the anti-Islamic apostates and atheists!"
The Facebook page quoted a local news report from 2010 saying the professor forced female students to remove their veils before entering his classroom, when he headed the sociology department.
Bangladesh is the world's third largest Muslim-majority nation with the vast majority following a moderate form of the religion. Hardline Islam has gained strength in recent years, but killings carried out in the name of Islam are rare.
Militant Islamists attacked a famous writer in 2004, and killed a well-known atheist blogger in February last year. In August, militants were accused of killing a moderate cleric who hosted popular shows on TV.
Sirajul Islam, also a sociology professor, said the slain teacher was not anti-Islam but was against full-face veils.
"He moved to ban full-face veils from the classrooms and examination halls. He thought full-face veils could be used to cheat in the examinations and it was impossible to identify a student who wears a full-face veil," he told AFP.