Published: Monday, April 8, 2013

HEFAJAT DEMAND

Hasina rejects blasphemy law

Dismisses possibility of emergency, defends recent cop action, rejects CG restoration demand

Sheikh Hasina speaks exclusively to the BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Dhaka. Photo: BBC Online

Sheikh Hasina speaks to the BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan during an exclusive interview in Dhaka. Photo: BBC Online

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has firmly rejected the demand for a new anti-blasphemy law to punish those who defame Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Reacting to Hefajat-e Islam’s demand for such a law, Hasina said during an interview with the BBC that existing laws were sufficient to punish anyone who attempted to insult religion.

Her comments came a day after hundreds of thousands of supporters of the radical Islamist organisation held a massive rally in the capital’s commercial hub Motijheel.

The marchers of the umbrella organisation called for the death penalty for those guilty of blasphemy.

Hasina said: “They have demanded it. Actually, we don’t have any plan to [bring in the law]. We don’t need it. They should know that existing laws are enough.

“This country is a secular democracy. So each and every religion has the right to practice their religion freely and fair. But it is not fair to hurt anybody’s religious feeling. Always we try to protect every religious sentiment.”

The radical Islamists have given a three-week ultimatum to the government to meet their demands, including tough punishment to those who they describe as atheist bloggers, who are also accused of making derogatory comments against Islam.

“We will go through all the demands and then we will see. If there is any reasonable one, we will fulfill. If it is not reasonable or not suitable for our country or society we will not accept it,” the prime minister said.

She also defended her government’s decision to arrest four bloggers last week on suspicion of harming religious sentiment through their work.

The arrests prompted eight blog operators to black out their websites, with liberals accusing the government of yielding to Islamist pressure.

But the prime minister dismissed those accusations.

“No, [it's] not that. If anybody tried to hurt any sentiments of any religion or any religious leader, there is a law. We can take any action.”

‘UNDER ATTACK’

Bangladesh has been rocked by a series of protests by opposition parties in recent weeks.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, has been holding demonstrations demanding the immediate release of its leaders, who are facing war crimes charges. Two of its senior leaders have already been convicted by a special tribunal. Seven more are still facing the trial.

More than 80 people have been killed in clashes in the last few months, most of them shot by police. Human rights groups have accused the security forces of using excessive force to control the riots.

Hasina defended the police action.

“Security forces are law enforcing agencies, they have to protect people and people’s property. You know many police officers were killed… If police are under attack, what will they do?” Hasina said.

The prime minister also rejected calls by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to restore a neutral interim caretaker administration to oversee parliamentary polls.

The BNP has made it clear that it will not take part in any election held under the incumbent government because it says the polls will not be free or fair.

“If they don’t participate in the election, as a political party they will lose their seats,” Hasina said.

With increasing political violence and instability, there is apprehension that the government might declare a state of emergency to bring the situation under control.

But the prime minister firmly dismissed those fears, saying the government had no plans to impose emergency rule.

  • Mojibor Rahman

    Many thanks to Sheikh Hasina for her firm decision.

  • http://www.facebook.com/preobala Preo Bala Biswas

    Many many thanks for your firm stand.

  • Amrit Barua

    Thanks to Prime Minister her firm determination against the evil demand of Hefazat and other like minded groups. But I think, it will be a wise decision to restore CG or similar system to calm down the country from political turmoil. Government should not delay in realizing the fact that under given situation, election without CG or similar system, won’t acceptable to people. I’m pretty sure, if Sheikh Hasina, goes to opposition, she will also struggle to restore CG giving many excessive.

    • trybestone

      How come the demands are evil ? Are we now talking about evil, sin, hell and heaven in a secular state. If few thousands so called activist gathered in Shahbahg and their demand is getting all attention from the PM. Hefazat had more than a million man march and you want the PM to reject them and call it evil. The PM belongs to entire nation and she can’t discriminate with one group over other. If she does than she is the PM of only AL and its sister concern.

      • Elpadrinobc

        Deameaning women…. Is that not evil? Resorting to violence, is that not evil? Spreading false propaganda by calling war criminals “saccha musolmans” and lunar astronauts? Socrates took hemlock for telling the truth. The majority were against him but he stood his ground. Bangladesh has approximately 150 million people. I don’t think they would that crazy enough to support talibanization of Bangladesh.

      • Tonmoy Ahmed

        You know what is the difference between the protesters of SHAHBAG and MOTIJHEEL.If you ask anyone at SHAHBAG why you have come here?He will answer “I have come here against the verdict of Kader Mollah and to ban JAMAT.”On the other hand If you ask anyone of Mothijheel why you have come here ? He will surely say “Our ‘Hujur’ has told us some atheist have dishonored our beloved Prophet so we have come here to hang them”.They really do not know who has written this and what and where it has been written.They only know someone has written and something has been written.If this ‘Hujur’ tells them to go against the law they will probably do this and that we are seeing in AFGHANISTAN and PAKISTAN.

      • COLVINOD

        The way slowly but surely the regressive Islamist groups are gathering people and arms it is time to think where from the money is coming. Do not forget ISI of Pakistan waiting in the wings to avenge. They are masters in this art of destroying other countries. What their Army can not fight upfront they stab from behind.

        • dialemma

          I don’t think these guys and the Jamaati – Islam are the same .

  • http://www.facebook.com/preobala Preo Bala Biswas

    We congratulate to our leader for her firm decision.

  • rafique ahamed

    no comment.

  • saidur rahman

    What about Article 2A of the Bangladesh Constitution “The state religion of the Republic is Islam”! is it okay for all religion?

  • Zman7

    Bangladesh is a secular democracy, its existing laws are sufficient to bring anyone to book for any insulting comments against any religion. I firmly support the ideological stand of the PM in this respect that there is no need for any anti-blasphemy law; and also adore her brief (but quite meaningful) comment that “This country is a secular democracy.”

  • dialemma

    But , are these bloggers going to be punished or not ? yes … no ?

  • Reaz Hassan

    Hasina is in perfect accord with the vast majority of the countrymen in her rejection to legislate blaspheme law. Ordinary laws are sufficient remedy to deal with religious crimes, if a government is committed to maintain the sanctity of all religions.
    Police brutality is a black spot in her fair cheek, and she would be remembered for all times for committing crimes against humanity. No government dared to use fire arms so indiscriminately against its own citizens in in the past six decades. The last known case was Jalliwanwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in April, 1919 when Gen. Dyer killed 379 persons and injuring 1200. The foundations of British raj was then shaken.
    It is unfortunate that she is still inflexible about the caretaker government system. If she has any doubt about the wish of the people, let there be a referendum on the issue. I understand her concern of being routed if there a free, fair and credible election but how long can she cling to power without people’s sanction?
    Regarding Emergency, her government may not impose such extraordinary law as it is the prelude to inviting the Army. But the government is fragile, and the economy is taking a massive blow. Whether she likes or not, if summer comes, will winter be far behind?

  • Abdur Rahman

    Stay firm. We are confident, Sheikh Hasina who tactfully handled BDR mutiny only in the second month of forming Govt., can handle middle-age mongers as well.

  • Tonmoy Ahmed

    Anti blasphemy law ! Surely our law enforcement force will misuse it. So better to throw it away in the dustbin.

  • Vikram Khan

    And that worries me… if a leader tells that (s)he does not have any intention in impose emergency law, the army is in the streets a few days later…

  • http://www.facebook.com/ruhul.insaf Ruhul Insaf

    If the existing laws were implemented, and if the one-year-old High Court order on the bloggers were acted up, then this situation would not have developed. Now we are sadly and impotently witnessing the decline of a promising economy right in front our eyes. The more days go by, the more things become worse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sm.ahmed.37 S M Iftekhar Ahmed

    I accept her stance on their being no need for a stricter anti-Blasphemy law, but she must not be rigid when it comes to the Caretaker or some sort of an interim neutral caretaker government during and slightly before the elections, which should not have been removed in the first place. Bangladesh would not be the only country in the world with an interim non-party or neutral government during the elections, look at Pakistan, where sadly, the situation is much worse. Democracy means that political parties should work together for the greater good of the people, not insulting the opposition when you are in power or creating havoc for the government when you are the opposition. If this mentality persists, democracy will continue to be a joke in Bangladesh.

  • Muhammad Lateef

    We love not only our mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts, also like and fancy our fathers, brothers, sons and uncles. Loyalties to our relations are not unrestricted, and limitless, we cannot adopt and behave like demons and devils in the name of faithfulness and allegiance and cause mischief in the environment, in the world in the material world and mundane matters must know where, when and how to stop. As Muslims we are obliged and duty bound to demonstrate unlimited and infinite affection, love and infatuation towards our Creator and His Messenger (p.b.uh). Now, consider a situation whereby any arrogant and insolent individual uses, filthy, derogatory, insulting or abusive language against any of our above mentioned relatives, shall we ignore him? forgive and forget the incidence ,and close our ears and eyes? The answer is definitely NO. I must tell frankly that we love our Creator and Cherisher many fold times than our parents or siblings. Wise people say that the mischief is more severe and baneful than a murder. Another important aspect is, whether some one likes it or not Bangladesh is inherently and essentially a Muslim state waiting to be transformed into an Islamic state sooner than later it is going to happen,…. whether or not some people like this. .

    • Faysal

      Insulting religions is not worse than murder. And not everyone wants to live in an “Islamic state” – we all know what kind of Islamic states there are – Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. – ALL Islamic states and ALL failed states. NEVER mix politics with religion. I am a Bangladeshi that wants a SECULAR state so that NO mullah can ever rob us of our freedom of movement, freedom of religion and freedom from persecution in the name of religion. Religion is a PERSONAL matter and it should remain personal. Do not bring it into politics. And God forbid Bangladesh transforms into an Islamic state like Pakistan.

      If you want to live in an Islamic state then go to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, don’t live in Bangladesh.

  • Abdur Rahman

    Before making any claim for CG system, BNP should appologise to the people openly for what they did with the CG of 2006. BNP in general and Khaleda Zia and Tareq Rahman in particular, are solely responsible for discrediting CG system and they always tried to manipulate every CG in the past. It is only because of their idiotic playing with CG system that 1/11 emergency came. And they toyed just to ridicule the CG idea of Sheikh Hasina. Therefore, before they claim CG, they should beg forgiveness of the people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rahul.ahmed.735507 Rahul Ahmed

      What was so bad about the caretaker government? People are not stupid as AL would like us to be.

  • Imam U Ahmed

    Thank you,Madam PM,for firm stances,although little late.Firmness in words and deeds are the needs of the day.

  • M.Ashraf

    The blind are trying to teach colours. We are still a country with majority of people following Islam and will continue to be so in years to come. Political leaders will come and go, cheaper by the dozen. We will strive, till common sense and the norms of our parents and grand parents prevail. Respect for the all religions begins with understanding ones own religion. Without the general restoration of law and order for all Bangladeshis, the whinging and whining of minorities will be no more than background noise.

    • Mohd Shah Alam Khan, Canada

      Thanks for your honest comments. You know in 1971 why a Muslim country becomes non-Muslim country? At that time the Islamic political parties like Jamaat and other Islamic parties were making problems to the neutral Muslims. We are well experience about the Muslim country. That is why we go for secular state. Yes I admit I have no idea what the present sentiment of people of Bangladesh. If again you people want to have Muslim country yes you could. Jamaat and BNP use Islam to go power and after got the power they forgot to make Bangladesh as Islamic country or introduce Islamic law. Allah is great; Joy Bangladesh, Allah Varasha

    • Elpadrinobc

      Whinging and whining of minorities…. You mean to say that the minorities are whinging unnecessarily? intolerance breeds hatred. Love and forgiveness and knowledge conquers all. We can do well without your condescending comments againsts minorities. How would you feel if your shop were looted because you were of a minority group?

  • trybestone

    Yes a democratic nation where the PM calls a corrupt as Patriot. Hasina with her arrogance and partiality will drag this nation towards chaos and anarchy. She will not suffer as her children don’t live in this nation so their future is not effected.

  • Masud

    Hefazat people dont like women in public and women leading political parties. They like macho man Ershad as a leader. Ershad expressed his gratitude by supporting and supplying soft drinks.

  • Dev Saha

    People have enough of Blasphemy law in Pakistan. It’s main aim is to harass minorities, who already have been passing through a tough time even though they have not insulted anybody.

  • Elpadrinobc

    Hasina has done well considering the obstacles she has in front of her. She has an ignorant mass to lead though.

  • Mohd Shah Alam Khan, Canada

    After long time she says like a PM; thank to her. Let us see her next steps to control the Jamaat Shibir. I would like say almighty Allah knows batter and Allah take care right time with right person. Allah is great; Joy Bangladesh, Allah Varasha

  • Rosak Khan

    We demand free and fair election, hence restoration of CG is a must. Unless you do so, the country will never forgive you.

  • Sharif

    If our prime minister are always silent in any speech, it would be better to our nation. Her speech sometimes arrogant, it is not better for our country. If her speech is 30 minutes, 25 minutes will be obloquy to the opposition party, so when will be delivered or directive the constructive speech to our nation. The bad politics should avoid to our main two leader and always respect each other.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Shafiqul.Islamm Safiqul Islam Safi

    Well said our honorable prime minister about present situation of country.
    Thanks BBC.

  • Tonmoy Ahmed

    Read my comment again.

  • KT Shamim

    Excellent!