Bangladesh Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina rules out new blasphemy law
An extremist Muslim group called the Hefajat-e-Islam organization has been calling for a blasphemy law in Bangladesh. Members and supporters have rallied, protested and enforced a general strike in their demands. The Prime Minister, Shaikh Hasina has said that there are no plans to bring in a new blasphemy law because “we don’t need it.” Since the arrest and trials of Islamists charged with murdering an anti-Islamist blogger in January, “at least 96 people have been killed during protests.”
4/8/2013 Bangladesh (gulfnews)- Bangladesh’s prime minister has ruled out a new blasphemy law despite a mass campaign by Islamists to introduce the death penalty for bloggers whom they accuse of insulting the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
As part of their push for a change in the law, the Hefajat-e-Islam organisation on Monday forced the closure of schools and businesses across the country as part of a general strike.
At least 20 people have been injured in southwestern Bangladesh as the group enforced a general strike to back its demands for an anti-blasphemy law.
Police and Somoy TV station say the violence on Monday took place in Chittagong city when activists from Hifazat-e-Islam clashed with ruling Awami League supporters.
Police official Abdullahel Baki says the Hifazat-e-Islam protesters threw stones at police and the ruling party supporters. The TV station says one ruling party member was hit by a bullet, but it was not immediately clear who fired it.
The Hifazat-e-Islam protesters also blocked a rail line in eastern Brahmanbaria district to disrupt train services.
The government says it has no plans to enact an anti-blasphemy law or meet other demands from the protesters.
But Shaikh Hasina, who has been leading a secular government in the Muslim-majority country since 2009, said existing laws were adequate to prosecute anyone accused of insulting a religion.
“Actually, we don’t have any plan to [bring in a new law.] We don’t need it,” Hasina told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Monday.
“They should know that existing laws are enough,” she added, before stressing that “this country is a secular democracy”.
On Saturday hundreds of thousands of Islamists rallied in the capital Dhaka to demand a blasphemy law, with provisions for the death penalty for those who defame Islam.