• Protesters demand blasphemy law in Bangladesh

    More misery for atheists and secularists in Bangladesh (see this very moving interview I shared the other day). The country is going seriously backwards.

    As AlJazeera reports:

    One dead and dozens injured in pitched battles on Dhaka streets between supporters of Hifazat-e-Islam and police.

    Protesters in Bangladesh clashed with police over demands for a new blasphemy law [Al Jazeera]
    Tens of thousands of protesters demanding a new blasphemy law have blocked major highways to cut off the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka from the rest of the country, police said.

    Activists of Hifazat-e-Islam marched down at least six highways, halting traffic on Sunday between Dhaka and other cities and towns.

    The areas around Bangladesh’s largest mosque in central Dhaka turned into a battleground after police clashed with thousands of stone-throwing demonstrators, police said.

    “At least one person was shot dead and 35 people were injured,” police sub-inspector Rokon, who goes by one name, told AFP news agency.

    Another senior police officer, Sheikh Nazmul Alam, said police fired rubber bullets to disperse unruly protesters. Online news-site bdnews24.com said at least 10 small bombs had exploded near the area.

    Zain al-Mahmood, editor of The Dhaka Tribune, told Al Jazeera that the protests are happening because “Hifazat-e-Islam think the Islamic way of life and culture of the country is under attack.”

    He went on to say that while “this had been announced as a one-day protest, some leaders had warned that if there was violence they would be prepared to do a sit-in. This is also a concern for the government.”

    The protest was staged as the country was recovering from its worst industrial disaster, with some 600 people killed when a factory building collapsed on April 24.

    Death penalty demanded

    Hifazat, a newly created radical religious group, is demanding the death penalty for all those who defame Islam.

    It said it held the mass protest to push a 13-point list of demands which also include a ban on men and women mixing freely together and the restoration of pledges to Allah in the constitution.

    Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched to Motijheel, Dhaka’s main commercial district, where leaders threatened to launch a campaign to oust the government unless their demands are met.

    No police estimate was available for the total number of protesters. But a senior officer who declined to be named told AFP that between 150,000 and 200,000 attended the rally at Motijheel.

    The rally was the latest in a series of mass actions by Hifazat.

    Last month activists organised a general strike as well as a gathering of hundreds of thousands of its activists, in what experts said was the country’s largest political gathering in decades.

    Critics have branded Hifazat’s demands as a charter for turning Bangladesh into a country like Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

    Women workers including female garment labourers have vented their anger at the group’s call to segregate the sexes.

    Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been leading a secular government in the Muslim-majority country since 2009, has rejected the demand for a blasphemy law.

    Category: AtheismIslam


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce