Following years of attempts to discredit his legacy as a pioneer of micro-finance -- since copied the world over as a development tool; the hounding has turned more personal and dangerous.

The perceived crime of the 73-year-old was to sign a joint statement along with three other Nobel laureates in April 2012 criticizing the prosecution of gay people in
Uganda.
    
Little remarked at the time, it has since been seized on by the Islamic Foundation, a government religious body, and amplified through tens of thousands of imams on its payrolls.

Protests have been held, leaflets calling him "an accomplice of Jews and Christians" has been distributed, and a "grand rally" has been called for October 31 in the capital Dhaka to denounce him.
    
"How can a state-run organization run a campaign of criminal intimidation? It'll instigate violence against professor Yunus," Sara Hossain, a top lawyer and rights activist, warned in an interview.
    
The harassment has echoes of another movement against feminist writer and religious critic Taslima Nasreen who was forced to flee the country after being denounced like Yunus.
    
"It's unfortunate that he's facing the kind of campaign that I faced in 1994," Nasreen said. "I was forced to leave the country because of the campaign by the fundamentalists, which the then government actively supported."
    
Yunus has been at odds with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since 2007 when he made a brief foray into the country's violent and polarized politics which is dominated by Hasina's family and her arch-rival Khaleda Zia.

Yunus's recent statement calling for free and fair elections in January 2014 is also thought to have angered her following changes to the electoral process and a crackdown on the opposition.

In 2011, he was forced out of the board of his beloved Grameen Bank by the central bank in a move widely believed to be orchestrated by the prime minister who accused him famously of "sucking blood from the poor".
    
Grameen Bank was set up by Yunus in 1983 to make collateral-free micro loans to rural and mostly women entrepreneurs. Its record in reducing poverty earned global fame and a Nobel Peace Prize for its founder in 2006.

(Agencies)

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