A Mulsim mob beat a man to death and burned his body after he allegedly desecrated a copy of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, at a mosque in northern Bangladesh on Thursday. A second man attacked by the mob survived and is currently under police protection.
The incident occurred in the Bangladesh town of Burimari, located in the country’s northern Lalmonirhat district near the Indian border.
United News of Bangladesh (UNB) identified the victim on Friday as “Shahidunnabi Jewel, 42… a former librarian of Rangpur Cantonment Public School and College” in the Bangladeshi city of Rangpur.
The incident began at the Burimari Bazar Central Mosque on Thursday, according to local police reports cited by UNB.
“Sumonta Kumar Mohonto, officer-in-charge of [the local] Patgram Police Station, said Jewel came to [the] Burimari [mosque] in the afternoon with Sultan Zubair Abdar,” the surviving second victim of the attack.
“After offering Asr [afternoon] prayer at the central mosque, he went to get a Quran from a shelf. As he was trying to take one out, a number of Quranic and Hadith [sayings of Prophet Muhammad] books fell at his feet, leading to an argument between him and the Muezzin,” or the man who calls Muslims to prayer at a mosque.
“Locals took Jewel and Sultan to the Union Parishad [municipal] office adjacent to the mosque as the argument escalated,” UNB reported.
After locals moved the men to the municipal office for safety, “A rumor was spread in the market and nearby village that two men were arrested for ‘disrespecting the Quran,’” according to the report.
Shortly after the rumor spread, a mob “stormed the UP [Union Parishad] office and dragged one of the men [Jewel] outside before lynching him in front of the office. They then took the body to the Lalmonirhat-Burimari National Highway and burned it with firewood and petrol. There were 5,000-6,000 people,” UP Member Hafizul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune on Thursday. He said he was among the group of locals who moved the men to the municipal building.
“[P]olice, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) [members] and firefighters rushed to the spot” after being alerted to the incident according to UNB. Police officers “fired 17 blank shots” into the air to disperse the mob “but failed to take control of the situation.”
“Ten policemen, including the OC [officer in charge of the local police station], were injured as the mob kept hurling brick chips,” according to the report.
The police managed to rescue the second victim, identified as Abdar, and admitted him to a local hospital for treatment for injuries he sustained in the attack.
Lalmonirhat Deputy Police Commissioner Abu Zafar said police are currently investigating the incident and that “legal steps would be taken.”
According to the Dhaka-based human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra, “[m]ore than 50 people were killed in mob beatings in 2019” in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where “[r]umors and superstitions frequently lead to violent incidents.”
Founded as a secular state in 1971, Bangladesh later re-established Islam as its state religion. Secularist groups presented the country’s supreme court with a petition to remove Islam as the state religion, but the Bangladesh High Court in 2016 rejected the petition.