News / Asia

20 Killed in Clashes Between Bangladesh Police, Islamists

Islamist protestors throw bricks and stones towards Bangladeshi police during clashes in Narayanganj, some 20 kms from Dhaka, May 6, 2013.
Islamist protestors throw bricks and stones towards Bangladeshi police during clashes in Narayanganj, some 20 kms from Dhaka, May 6, 2013.
Aru Pande
Fiery clashes between Bangladeshi security forces and Islamic hardliners demanding the implementation of anti-blasphemy laws have killed at least 20 people in and around the capital Dhaka since Sunday. 

Police worked Monday to clear Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, of any remaining protesters, a day after tens of thousands of members of the radical Islamic group Hefajat-e-Islam took to the streets.

Islamists blocked roadways and fought with police late Sunday, while shouting “God is great” and calling for the Awami League-led government to enact stronger Islamic policies.


  • Coalition of Islamic organizations, scholars and clerics
  • Rose to national scene after murder of blogger Rajib Haider, who had been accused of anti-Islam writings
  • Seeking anti-blasphemy law that includes death penalty
  • Wants law to punish bloggers who insult Islam
  • Wants a ban on women and men mixing in public
  • Calls for an end to candlelit vigils
The newly formed Hifazat-e-Islam has put forth a list of 13 demands including mandatory Islamic education for all, the segregation of men and women, and death to so-called "atheists".

Former Bangladeshi law minister and current Supreme Court senior advocate Kamal Hossein said such demands will get little support in a country that - despite being 90 percent Muslim - has remained secular since independence.

“I can honestly say that there is complete consensus in the country on non-communal democracy and not getting communalism revived again, not seeing religion mixed up with politics," Hossein said. "Pakistan is having enough difficulties with it for people to just look across [and see how they are faring]. And I have spoken to people from Pakistan and they say ‘you are so fortunate to have been able to have non-communal politics.”

  • Police try to detain an activist of Hifazat-e-Islam during a clash in front of the national mosque in Dhaka, May 5, 2013.
  • Members of the media rescue assist an injured activist of Hifazat-e-Islam during a clash with police in front of the national mosque in Dhaka May 5, 2013.
  • Members of the media assist an injured police officer during a clash with activists of Hifazat-e-Islam in front of the national mosque in Dhaka, May 5, 2013.
  • A police officer shoots rubber bullets during a clash with activists of Hifazat-e-Islam in front of the national mosque in Dhaka, May 5, 2013.
  • Bangladeshi activists from Hifazat-e-Islam, a newly formed group, set a police jeep on fire during a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 5, 2013.
  • Islamic activists block a road during a protest to demand that the government enact an anti-blasphemy law, Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 5, 2013.

Hifazat’s protest is in response to mass rallies earlier this year that were fueled by social media. The bloggers and young demonstrators are calling for the death penalty for those who committed war crimes during Bangladesh’s fight for independence from Pakistan in 1971.

In February, a special war tribunal sentenced the leader of Bangladesh’s main Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami to death for his role in mass killings, rapes and other atrocities committed during the war. Jamaat is an ally of the country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Former minister Hossein said the ruling government must send a strong unified message to those who try and question the country’s constitution that is based on secularism.

He added that mal-governance, corruption, and a lack of accountability in Bangladesh have created an opening for extremist voices. Hossein pointed to the recent garment factory collapse that killed more than 600 people as an example.

“The parliament member who is supposed to have given all kind of cover for these criminal activities [that led to the factory collapse], she is not being asked to explain what has happened [in parliament]. This dissatisfaction with what should be a strong democracy is what opens up the possibility for others to come and say ‘we have the answer' -- of course, they don't have the answer,” Hossein stated.

For now, Bangladeshi authorities are left to clean up the aftermath of Sunday’s violent protests and mourn many of the police and paramilitary soldiers who are among the dead. Police have banned all rallies and demonstrations in Dhaka on Monday to prevent further clashes.

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Comment Sorting
by: Aron from: Bangalore
May 06, 2013 7:41 AM
Does not make sense. Why are they not fighting against corruption & poverty? They want a sick law to be enforced to kill the minorities. Human creatures! We are still animals! Long way to go!

by: dibya from: India
May 05, 2013 11:13 PM
Bangladeshi has been a killing field for 100 years due to islamist . Chakma buddist have been prosecuted and hindus have been marginalised form 20 % to 2% . The country is an extremely unsafe for non-muslim . Land , women are most targetted. Millions people have been butchered here . It is nothing but a Zoombie land

by: Tony Cantero from: Los Angeles, CA
May 05, 2013 10:13 PM
Religious zealots all share a common trait; they never excelled beyond a high school education. In USA, Christians and Catholics are conspiring to repeal the "separation of church and state" clause of the US Constitution. Fortunately, the number of church patrons are dropping nationwide, which is a reflection of people turning away from religion and focusing on science instead.
In Response

by: Roman from: Oman
May 07, 2013 2:39 AM
this is not a fight for religion, this is a political plot, and the government is suppressing the voice of Muslim parties, and political disputes are turning into a religious affair. it is not a platform for religious dispute rather political stress. The government started this whole thing by putting behind key leaders of Jamat ul islam, in the name of war crimes which are alleged and biased. all these events are repercussions of the event started by the government. These media reports seem to forget that. PS: understand that the elections are nearing soon! open your eyes and mind while reading a news article. just don't post

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