A number of civil society members have expressed deep concern over the detention of folk singer Shariat Bayati for his "controversial" statement against religion.
"We believe, arrest and detention of the folk singer in the Digital Security Act is a clear violation of freedom of expression. Apart from this, it also contradicts with Bangladesh's obligation to international laws regarding human rights," says the statement issued by 44 eminent citizens on Sunday.
They demanded abolishing controversial provisions of the law and urged the law enforcers to act responsibly and impartially.
On January 11 this year, Shariat Bayati at a stage performance opined that the "holy Quran does not bar songs and music". Subsequently, he got arrested as the Islamists accused him of hurting religious sentiment by misinterpreting the holy Quran and other religious scriptures.
Civil society members, in a written statement, said they listened to the video footage of the show but did not find it hurting the belief of Islam.
"He [Shariat] rather talked against frauds who misguide people in the name of religion," according to the statement.
"We believe, if the arrest spree under the Digital Security Act continues, freedom of expression will shrink further. Such incidents may put the country into a deep trouble in future," they added.
They said that harmonising different thoughts is a major prerequisite for democracy and running the country in line with the spirit of the Liberation War. But the freedom of expression is dwindling while citizens are adopting more and more self-censorship attitudes.
The eminent citizens said arbitrary arrests and persecutions of the folk singers remind them of the Pakistani regime when such harassments and deterrent to cultural practices had been rationalised in the name of Islam.
Barrister Sara Hossain, Advocate Sultana Kamal, Khushi Kabir, Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan and Prof Dr Gitiara Nasreen are among the 44 signatories.