The Awami League top leaders have strongly insisted for the last several years that the party has no affiliation with the Awami Olama League. But the situation has changed swiftly as the ruling party leaders have joined the first council of the organisation, moving away from their previous stance.
Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader joined the event as the chief guest on Saturday and called upon the organisation not to get involved in any criminal activities, groupings or extortion.
At the event held at the Engineers Institution auditorium in Dhaka, Quader gave various instructions, saying, "Don't earn a bad name through extortion. It has happened in the past. You know many have done this. When you hold a program and don't have money, tell me. I will personally inform the leader (Sheikh Hasina), and she will fulfill all your demands. We want to develop the Olama League as a tested and disciplined organisation of Sheikh Hasina."
The Olama League has been trying to secure the status of an associate body of the ruling party for more than two decades. Earlier, the Olama League leaders made statements against women and the education policy. They described the Pahela Baishakh celebration as anti-Islamic, putting the ruling party in an uncomfortable state.
In 2018, Awami League made it clear through a statement that it has no connection with the Olama League.
According to a source, the organisation had demanded that the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) be banned and the child marriage restraint act be repealed in 2019. In response, Awami League, in a media release signed by then office secretary Abdus Sobhan Golap, urged the government to take legal action against the organisation.
There are three factions in the Olama League, and they have occasionally engaged in clashes, creating discomfort for the ruling party. Additionally, almost all the demands raised by the Olama League match that of Hefajat-e-Islam.
Instead of affiliating with the organisation, the ruling party was maintaining a distance from the Olama League due to the discomforts triggered by their activities. Now, senior AL leaders have taken part in the Olama League council, giving a message to bring the organisation closer.
Abdus Sobhan Golap, the publication and publicity secretary of Awami League, told the council that the Olama League must embrace four principles - democracy, socialism, secularism, and Bangalee nationalism - which the Awami League operates through.
Will it be a like-minded organisation?
After the council, reporters asked the Awami League general secretary if the Olama League is gaining the status of an associate organisation or a like-minded one. In response, Quader said, "The leader (Sheikh Hasina) will decide."
According to sources, the Awami League will need to amend its constitution to provide the Olama League with the status of an associate organisation. This is why Olama League leaders are now seeking the status of a like-minded organisation. They have also received assurances from the policy-making level of the Awami League.
An AL leader associated with the issue said on the condition of anonymity that the decision to bring the Olama League closer has been made at the top level of the party. Additionally, Abdus Sobhan Golap has worked for a long time to unite the factions of the party.
KM Abdul Momen Sirazi, convener of the council preparation committee of Olama League, said when religion started being used as a business tool before independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had established the Olama League to counter the trend. Olama League and Awami League will work side by side in the spirit of independence.