Protesters in Bangladesh have demanded a new blasphemy law that would the death penalty for any blogger who insults Islam.
Supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamist group which draws support from tens of thousands of religious seminaries, converged on Dhaka’s main commercial hub to protest against what they said were blasphemous writings by atheist bloggers, shouting “God is great – hang the atheist bloggers”.
“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed,” said Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20km.
The religious group, which has the backing of country’s largest party Jamaat-e-Islami, organised the rally in support of its 13-point demand including enactment of a blasphemy law to prosecute and hang what they call atheist bloggers.
The bloggers, who deny they are atheists, have sought capital punishment for those found guilty of war crimes during the nation’s liberation war.
Muhiuddin Khan, Bangladesh home minister, said on Wednesday the government had identified 11 bloggers, including the four detainees, who had hurt the religious sentiments of the nation’s majority Muslim population.
The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the unrest. It has also set up a panel, which includes intelligence chiefs, to monitor blasphemy on social media.
Under the country’s cyber laws, a blogger or Internet writer can face up to ten years in jail for defaming a religion.
The police in Zimbabwe have been interrogating young children, aged 4-6, as to whether or not their parents have wind-up shortwave radios. If they do, the police conduct night time raids, confiscating the radios.
Villagers in Lupane revealed that the police have been visiting schools and asking little children in Grade 0 and Grade 1(aged between 4 and 6 years) whether their parents own or listen to any radios.
This follows reports that suspected state security agents on Tuesday raided several homesteads at Mpofu village in the Gwampa area and confiscated the wind-up radios.
“The police have been announcing that villagers should not be in possession of these radios. Their reason is that we listen to news broadcasts from outside the country which criticise ZANU PF.
“Such harassment by the state security agents normally escalates during election time, which indicates that we are not free to exercise our individual choices if we can’t even listen to different views offered by these shortwave radio stations,” she added.
The night raids have stirred up fear within the community, following threats that those who refused to surrender their radio receivers will be abducted and “made to disappear” invoking memories of Gukurahundi.
Millions of people in Zimbabwe will be voting on a new constitution. The confiscation of wind-up and shortwave radios is the government’s further crack down on its citizens, letting them know that outside opinions are not welcome. Anyone and anything that criticizes ZANU PF is not tolerated. If nothing is done by the outside world, it’s only a matter of time before genocide begins.