Anti-Blasphemy Protests in Bangladesh Turn Violent

Jim Yardley and Julfikar Ali Manik, New York Times, May 06

Violence erupted across Bangladesh on Monday as Islamist fundamentalists demanding passage of an anti-blasphemy law clashed with security forces, leaving a trail of property damage and at least 22 people dead after a second day of unrest.

For nearly two weeks, Bangladesh’s feuding political parties and Islamic movements have essentially called a truce as the country reeled from the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which has left 661 people dead, a figure expected to rise as work crews continue clearing the wreckage. Five clothing factories operated inside the building, and the disaster has focused global attention on unsafe conditions in the garment industry.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had called on Islamic hard-liners to postpone their planned march — described as Siege Dhaka by supporters on social media — but they refused. The march was organized by Hefajat-e-Islam, a group of Islamic hard-liners who have called for Bangladesh’s Constitution to be drastically amended with a 13-point program that would ban intermingling between men and women and punish by execution Bangladeshi bloggers accused of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad.

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