As protests continue over the release of Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister has pledged that anyone who offends Islam or its prophet will be taken to court.
Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina said, “Anyone who pronounces offensive comments against it [Islam], or against the Prophet Muhammad, will be prosecuted according to the law.”
Many fear that this pronouncement may lead to charges of blasphemy being brought against Christians by their neighbours to settle scores and seek revenge, as has been the case in Pakistan.
The Prime Minister also said, “There is no place for Islamic militancy, terrorism and corruption. Bangladesh wants to show that Islam is a religion of peace and wants to be a peaceful, prosperous and developed country.”
But Christians in Bangladesh have faced increasing violence from radical Islamic groups who are carrying out regular attacks on minorities – including both religious and atheist people.
This trend looks set to continue with the upcoming elections at the end of the year – elections in Bangladesh are frequently marred by acts of violence and persecution against minorities.
Thomas Muller, persecution analyst at Open Doors International, said that, Christians are also ‘nervous’ at the inclusion of a ‘radical Islamic party’ Jamaat-e-Islami, in a cross party coalition which hopes to unseat the current prime minister, who has been in power since 2009. If this coalition does take power Bangladesh may see even more acts of extremism and further intolerance towards its minority citizens.
Bangladesh is number 41 on the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List, our annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution. Christians make up less than 1% of Bangladesh’s population of 156 million, and are facing increasing restrictions and pressure.
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