By Emran Hossain
WASHINGTON — Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for his work fighting global poverty. He called for overhauling existing economic and political systems to help alleviate people’s suffering, an extension of the work he’s done with hisGrameen Bank in Bangladesh, which focuses on microcredit. But when asked for his opinion about the ongoing crackdown and oppression of bloggers in his country, Yunus simply walked away and refused to comment.
“I don’t want to comment on such an issue right at this moment,” Yunus said in response to a question from The Huffington Post on his views of the recent arrest of four so-called “atheist bloggers” in Bangladesh.
“All discussions today should be focused on this particular ceremony,” he added as he walked away quickly.
The recent arrest of bloggers in Bangladesh came in the wake of threats from a little-known Islamist party called Hefazat-e Islam, which has resorted to violence to push its 13-point agenda, including death to “atheist bloggers” and a ban on women comingling with men.
Bloggers ignited the ire of Hefazat-e Islam by launching a mass protest on Feb. 5 advocating the separation of politics and religion, as well as justice for war crimes victims. The protest has continued non-stop in one of Dhaka’s busiest intersections, Shahbagh, leading it to be dubbed the Shahbagh movement.
Despite his refusal to comment, Yunus’ official speech was not focused merely on the ceremony that celebrated the “brilliant” and “innovative idea” to eradicate poverty through microcredit.