Islamic party activists protest during a rally in Dhaka on February 20, 2013. The demonstrators participated in the procession from the Baitul Mukarram Mosque in the Bangladeshi capital, demanding punishment for Bloggers who mocked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). —AFP Photo

DHAKA: Bangladesh has launched a crackdown on Internet sites for “hurting religious feelings” in the majority Muslim nation amid protests by Islamic groups against bloggers seen as anti-Islamic, officials said Thursday.

Giasuddin Ahmed, vice chairman of the country's telecommunications regulator, told AFP at least two websites had been blocked. Authorities had also removed 10 blog posts for “spreading hatred, provoking social disorder and hurting religious feelings of the people”.

“We've taken the actions in line with the country's ICT (Information Communication Technology) Act,” he told AFP.

Authorities have also asked blog operators to “moderate” their posts to try to filter out anti-religious writings, another official said.

Tensions have risen in Bangladesh over the alleged anti-Islamic blog posts by Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was hacked to death near his home in the capital Dhaka last week.

In recent weeks Haider and fellow bloggers had launched huge protests demanding a ban on the largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, and the execution of its leaders for alleged war crimes in the 1971 war for independence.

Police have yet to comment on a motive for Haider's killing. But his brother said Haider was targeted by Jamaat's student wing for his online activities.

Fellow bloggers said a pro-Jamaat website had issued a veiled threat against Haider. Jamaat has condemned the murder and denied any role.

Since Haider's death, Bangladeshi social media has been flooded with his alleged blog posts and those by other bloggers mocking Islam, triggering protests by a number of Islamic groups and clerics.

On Wednesday up to 5,000 religious party activists rallied in the capital Dhaka demanding punishment – some calling for execution – of blasphemous anti-Islam bloggers, police said. There were also protests in other cities.

The groups have also called for protests against the “atheist bloggers” in the country's nearly half a million mosques after weekly prayers on Friday.

The government has warned of tough steps against those who incite social tension, and urged newspapers and blogs not to publish defamatory writings against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

It has also given police protection to some bloggers in the wake of Haider's murder, police and bloggers said.

“Some newspapers, which are funded by war criminals, are trying to portray us as anti-Islam,” said Imran Sarker, a blogger who played a key role in organising the protests against Jamaat and its leaders for their alleged wartime roles.

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


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