Star Bangladesh cricketer Shakib Al Hasan has been forced to make a public apology after receiving threats for attending a Hindu ceremony in neighbouring India.
The leading all-rounder is the latest target of increasingly vocal Islamists who have also staged huge anti-France rallies in recent weeks over the publication of blasphemous sketches depicting the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Shakib, who has recently completed a year's ban from cricket for failing to report corrupt approaches, set off a storm of social media protests in the country after attending a ceremony in Kolkata dedicated to a Hindu goddess.
Islamic preachers in Bangladesh say people should not attend the ceremonies of other faiths.
“I was on the stage for for barely two minutes. People are talking about this and thought I inaugurated it,” Shakib told an online forum late on Monday.
“I did not do this and being a conscious Muslim I would not do this. But, maybe, I should not have gone there. I am sorry for this and apologise,” he said.
“As a practising Muslim I always try to follow religious customs. Please forgive me if I have done anything wrong,” he added.
Shakib spoke hours after a man made personal threats against him on a Facebook live forum for “hurting religious sentiment”. The man later apologised and went into hiding.
Police said they are trying to arrest the man and were searching for a knife that was brandished during the forum.
Shakib, currently the International Cricket Council's top-ranked all-rounder in one-day internationals, was found in October 2019 to have breached the ICC anti-corruption code and was banned for two years, with one year suspended.
In 2015, Shakib became the first cricketer in history to hold the ICC top all-rounder ranking in all three formats of the game — Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals.