Alam Badshah, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police official, said the men were arrested late Saturday during the attack in Dhaka's Motijheel commercial district. All eight are members of the little-known Muslim group Ulama Anjumane Al Baiyeniat, he said.
Members of the group, which considers sculptures to be a form of idol worship, clashed with security officials who stopped their attack on the statue, he said.
The men, armed with shovels and hammers, damaged the stone base of the 41-foot (12.5-meter) sculpture of six storks after they were unable to pull it down with ropes, Badshah said.
About 100 members of the group gathered nearby and distributed leaflets encouraging action against anti-Islamic activities, he said.
The melee left several people, including some group members, injured. Two of the detainees were being treated at a hospital, Badshah said.
He said the eight faced charges of creating chaos and attacking security officials.
It was unclear why they chose now to attack the statue, which has stood at a road intersection since 1989.
Mrinal Haque, the sculptor, said the statue had nothing to do with Islam.
"It's a shame, it's an attack on our secular culture ... this is a very innocent artwork," he told The Associated Press by phone. "It's like my child."
Some hard-line Islamic groups in Muslim-majority Bangladesh publicly condemn such sculptures. In October, another group damaged a large statue of mystic poet Lalon Shah outside Dhaka's Zia International Airport.
The problem is, devout Muslims believe that there is no such thing as innocent artwork when it is representational, even when it is produced by non-Muslims.
On the authority of Abu Hurairah (ra ) it is reported that the Messenger of Allah (saas ) said:
"Allah (swt ), Most High said: "And who is more unjust than those who try to create the likeness of My creation? Let them create an atom, or let them create a wheat grain, or let them create a barley grain." (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)
On the authority of `A`ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) it is reported that the Messenger of Allah (saas ) said:
"The most severely punished of people on the Day of Resurrection will be those who try to make the like of Allah's creation." (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)
On the authority of Ibn `Abbas (ra ) it is reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (saas ) say:
"Every picture maker is in the Fire. A soul will be placed in every picture made by him and it will punish him in the Hell-fire." (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)
On the authority of Abul Hayaaj Al-Asadi, it is reported that `Ali (ra ) said to him: "Shall I not send you on a mission on which I was sent by Allah's Messenger (saas )?
"Do not leave any image without erasing it, nor any elevated grave without leveling it to the ground." (Narrated by Muslim)