DHAKA • Thousands of supporters of a hardline Bangladeshi Islamist group staged protests yesterday calling for the removal or destruction of a controversial statue at the nation's highest court.
The statue of "lady justice" has ruffled feathers in the Muslim-majority nation, with hardliners in recent weeks protesting against what they say is a Greek god unbefitting of Bangladesh.
Protesters want the statue of the blindfolded woman holding scales - said to represent justice - destroyed and replaced with a Quran, despite Bangladesh's secular Constitution.
Supporters of the Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IAB) gathered after Friday prayers outside the country's national mosque Baitul Mukarram, in central Dhaka, chanting and wielding placards with slogans such as "demolish the statue on the court premises".
Local police chief Rafiqul Islam said: "Nearly 10,000 protesters attended the rally. Security has been beefed up in the area."
IAB spokesman Atiqur Rahman said the group also wanted the removal of the country's chief justice because of his "procrastination" in removing the statue.
Last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a meeting of top Islamic seminary teachers that she, too, disliked the statue, boosting the hardliners' stance.
Secular rights groups accused her of kowtowing to the Islamists in preparation for an early general election.
Court officials have defended the statue as a symbol of justice.
Conservative Bangladesh has experienced increasing tensions between hardliners and secularists in recent years, suffering a spate of killings of atheist bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners.