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Bangladesh to snoop online in 'blasphemy' crackdown


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Jamaat-i-Islami activists protest during a rally in Dhaka on February 20, 2013. — AFP/File photo

DHAKA: Bangladesh announced plans Thursday to monitor social media networks such as Facebook in a bid to identify bloggers who have been accused of insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

A special panel is being set up, including leaders of the main intelligence agencies and the telecoms regulator, to exchange information and track down the people behind recent posts that have caused outrage among Islamic groups.

“We will try our best to dig out what's actually happening and find out the people who're making blasphemous comments against Islam and the Prophet,” said Mainuddin Khandaker, a senior home ministry official who will head the panel.

“There might be differences in opinion, but that does not mean anyone in the country has the rights to mock others' beliefs,” Khandaker told AFP, adding that the panel would submit its report to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Islamic groups and clerics have staged a series of protests against blasphemous bloggers in recent weeks and threatened to march to Dhaka next month if they are not prosecuted.

The debate between militant atheists and fundamentalists has been a popular subject in Bangladesh's blogosphere and on social media for years, but it took a deadly turn last month when an alleged anti-Islam blogger was murdered.

Islamic parties and leading clerics have since focused on the writings by other atheist bloggers, calling nationwide strikes in protest and demanding the execution of those they accuse of blasphemy.

At least eight people have killed in the anti-blasphemy protests.

The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the violence, as well as stepping up security for the bloggers, some of whom claim to have been threatened by the student activists of a leading Islamic party.

Police have arrested five students in connection with the killing of the blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider. The five have admitted that they killed Haider because of his blasphemous writing against the Prophet, according to police.

The killing of Haider was the second attack in Dhaka in less than a month against a blogger critical of Islam and Islamist groups.

Comments (7) Closed

Sayyed Mehdi Mar 14, 2013 11:43am

"militant atheists"? The atheist bloggers may have been disrespectful, but they certainly didn't resort to militancy. Why are they being described as militant? The only party resorting to militancy here is the one that murdered one of the bloggers.

khatun Mar 14, 2013 11:40am

When the world is moving forward, muslims all over the world are obsessed with their religion and what others tell about them. Honestly, muslims are looked down by most of the non-muslim world. What would the mullahs do to prevent that?

tufail Mar 14, 2013 12:32pm

Current Bangladesh government lacks the credibility to run a fair and transparent investigation.

Kaafir Mar 14, 2013 12:46pm
Why not harden your feelings so that they dont get hurt so quickly.
khalidmurad1 Mar 14, 2013 07:09pm
In fact all such cases are religious exploitation of Mullahs to gain papularity and funds from the sympathisers. These are Mullahs themselves who have defamed the religion and invite insults from others by unnecessarily criticising others' religions. These Mullahs should be finished, every problem will be solved, as in Turkey.
Basudeb Dey Mar 14, 2013 11:22pm
The picture I see above reminds me Taliban of Afghanistan created by Pakistan. When someone mocks Mohammad or Islam, that blasphemous. When a Muslim mocks people of other religion , burn temples and their homes, that's not blasphemous, but a right to hate Kafer (non Muslim). The more Muslims will pay attention to remarks against Islam and Mohammad, the more people will be encouraged around the world to do so in this internet age.
meesajp Mar 15, 2013 04:41am
If showing disrespect to Islam by deeds that make Islam a laughing stock in the eyes of whole world, then all the leaders of Islamist organizations, political Islam and those Ulema who have made Islam a profession and are abusing it, must be tried for blasphemy .