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.
Women in Saudi Arabia are already forced to have a male relative with them at all times when they are out in public or plan to travel. Now, because, apparently, it’s too hard to keep track of them, women will be electronically tracked and monitored, whenever they want to leave the country via a new and improved tracking system.
Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.
Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.
The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.
Though King Abdullah has cautiously set forth some reforms, such as giving women the right to vote, and Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh has called for stopping harassment of women, little else has been done to stop women from being treated as fragile things that cannot make decisions for themselves. The tracking, however, doesn’t only include wives.
Reporting on the uproar, AFP described it this way: “women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.” This description is inaccurate. The so-called monitoring system is not just for women. The text messages would be sent when any of your dependents leave or enter the country. In Saudi Arabia that includes not only your underage sons and daughters, but also your wife (and other women under your custody) as well as foreign workers sponsored by you. Dependents are not allowed to leave the country without permission from their guardian or sponsor.
In April 2012, MOI introduced a new system of electronic services named Absher. The goal of the new system, according to a statement published by the state news agency, is to make it easier for citizens and residents to deal with the ministry “without having to visit the passport office.” The system is part of a larger e-Government plan to use technology in order to facilitate access to its services.
One of the services offered by Absher allows you to issue an electronic travel permit to your dependents. The introduction of the new electronic system meant that the infamous “yellow slip” is no longer needed. In the past, if a woman wanted to leave the country, her male guardian must give his consent by signing the yellow slip which is then given to passport control officers at the at the airport or border. The electronic travel permit is stored in the passport control system and therefore the yellow slip is now defunct.
While males can be released from the notification system once they are twenty-one and foreign workers once they leave the country permanently, women remain on this system for life.
Sean Faircloth is author of Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All & What We Can Do About It. Faircloth describes what the US government, and you, must do to protect human rights violated by religion in remarks delivered before the Tri-City Freethinkers in Kennewick, WA Sept 16, 2012. Faircloth helps organize the secular movement as Dir. of Strategy & Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science US.
The editor of the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera has defended the decision to publish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
Stephane Charbonnier told Al Jazeera his magazine has a problem, when it comes to Islam, by receiving an indignant or violent reaction.
He says nothing wrong has been done, his magazine has not infringed French law, as they have the right to use their freedom as he understands it.