Bangladesh Islamists demand ex-minister’s death over blasphemy


Thousands of Islamists protested on Friday in the Bangladeshi capital demanding the death penalty for a former government minister accused of blasphemy for comments perceived to be against Islam.

Anger among Islamists has been rising since former telecommunications minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui was released on bail last week over comments he made in 2014 against the annual Haj pilgrimage.

Supporters of Hefajat-e-Islam and other hardline Islamic groups chanted “Death for infidel Latif” and waved placards during a march through the capital”. Our protest will continue till the government ensures the highest punishment for the non-believer,” Noor Hossain Kafeli, a senior leader of Hefajat, told reporters.

Hundreds of riot and plainclothes police flanked the march in case of violence, while similar protests were held in other parts of the Muslim-majority country.

Hefajat led mass protests in 2013 calling for a new blasphemy law that left scores of people dead, mainly in clashes with police.

“At least three to four thousand people are attending this procession. We are remaining alert to avoid any untoward incidents,” a police commander said.

Siddiqui told Bangladeshi expatriates at a gathering in New York last September that he was “dead against” the Haj mainly because it was a “waste” of manpower.

Footage of the comments was broadcast back in Bangladesh where protests prompted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to sack him. He was eventually arrested for “wounding religious sentiments” and remains under police investigation. No charges have been laid.