An illiterate man accused of writing a Facebook post that allegedly insulted Islam prompted an estimated 20,000-strong angry mob of Muslims to incinerate Hindu homes in a Bangladeshi village.
The accused blasphemer’s family has dismissed as “fake” the social media account allegedly used to blaspheme against Islam’s Mohammed, reports the Daily Mail.
Some residents have suggested the Facebook account affiliated with the tragic event may have been “hacked,” urging authorities to investigate the possibility of foul play.
The Dhaka Tribune reports that the Islamist mob—made up of residents from up to seven nearby villages—set ablaze at least 30 homes as well as looted a vandalized an undisclosed number of others.
Police officers were reportedly forced to use rubber bullets to disperse the thousands of Muslims who marched into the village on Friday, ultimately sending six people to Rangpur Medical College Hospital.
One of them, a youth identified as Hamidul Islam, succumbed to his injuries, resulting in at least one fatality and five injuries linked to the attack, notes Daily Mail, citing local media.
“The savagery of the attackers has left dozens of families homeless and penniless. Many victims are yet to return to their homes over concerns of further attacks,” adds the Dhaka Tribune.
Monmoth Chandra, identified as a witness to the attack, told the Tribune, “The mob pelted stones at our homes. We ran away fearing for our safety. The attackers then looted our homes and set them on fire.”
The incident took place last Friday in the mainly Hindu village of Thakurbari, in the Rangpur Sadar region of Bangladesh.
According to the Daily Mail, “The mob had been angered by a ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post published under the name of Titu Roy, a young man living in the area, but his family say it cannot have been written by him as he is illiterate.”
“We had heard that a Facebook ID named after Titu spread rumors and caused all the tension here. But my brother cannot even read a word,” Bipul Chandra, Titu’s younger brother, told a local newspaper,” adding, “How can he run a Facebook ID? We think someone else opened an ID and named it after Titu.”
Just about every predominantly Muslim country has some form of blasphemy law that prohibits or criminalizes the expression of opinions deemed to be insulting to Allah, Mohammed, Islam, or religious leaders. Bangladesh is no exception.
In the predominantly Muslim nation, the anti-blasphemy law even punishes anyone who “attempts” to insult the constitutionally sanctioned religion of the land Islam, notes the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a component of the American government.
The statue goes as far as criminalizing anyone who makes a “sound” or “gesture” deemed with a deliberate intent to “wound religious feelings,” notes the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a component of the American government.
Although the maximum punishment for blasphemy-linked crimes is up to two years in prison in addition to fines, some Islamic extremists impose their very own form of justice known to result in the killing of so-called blasphemers.
Consistent with the situation in other Muslim countries, the anti-blasphemy law in Bangladesh is used to target religious minorities.
Hindus make up the largest religious minority group in the country.
Although the Bangladeshi constitution states that “the state religion of the republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic,” violence targeting alleged blasphemers has “substantially increased,” notes the U.S. religious freedom commission