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Islamists protest women's rights in Bangladesh

By Farid Ahmed, for CNN
  • Dozens of people are injured as riot police clash with protesters
  • The protesters oppose expansion of expanded rights in property and education
  • Protests also take place in the southern port city of Chittagong and other areas
  • The government says it has done nothing against the Quran

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Dozens of people were injured in Bangladesh as riot police clashed with thousands of Islamists protesting women's rights, authorities and witnesses said.

The protesters damaged buses and cars Monday, setting several on fire, while police used clubs and tear gas to disperse the Islamists, who were wearing skullcaps and burial cloths.

"We'll die for the cause of Islam, but (will) not allow the government to disrespect (the) Quran," one protester shouted during the demonstration near the national mosque in downtown Dhaka.

The government recently announced its National Women Development Policy 2011, which ensures women expanded rights in property and education. The protesters said the policy is against the Quran.

Fazlul Huq Amini, leader of a coalition of Islamic groups called the Islami Oikya Jote, asked his followers to take to the streets to protest the policy. Amini said the Quran defines how much property a woman should inherit, and the government should not allow women more than that.

"It's against the principle of the Quran, and we'll resist it at any cost," Amini said.

Thousands of students in madrassas, or Islamic schools, carried sticks and logs as they marched the streets. Protests also took place in the southern port city of Chittagong and several other areas. Business activities ceased, and schools remained closed because of fears of violence.

"We had sufficient security measures to avert any violent incidents," said Benazir Ahmed, Dhaka's police chief.

The government said it had done nothing against the Quran. "Amini is misleading the people," said government spokesman Mohammad Shahjahan Miah.

Earlier on Monday, a madrassa student was shot to death in western Jessore district when police opened fire on the protesters.

Amini, a former lawmaker, said the protests will continue until the policy is scrapped.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party lent support to the protests.