Bangladeshi blogger threatened with death for criticizing Islamic fundamentalism | Taiwan News


Asad Noor, an outspoken Bangladeshi blogger, has faced threats and intimidation from state and non-state actors for supporting minorities and criticizing Islamic fundamentalism.

The atheist blogger illegally crossed the border between Bangladesh and India on February 14, 2019, with the help of an agent after intelligence agents confiscated his passport. Since then he has lived in India.

“In my YouTube and Facebook videos, I criticized Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, referring to the Quran and the hadiths. At the same time, I criticize political Islam. This is why the Islamists are angry with me, ”Noor told DW.

“The local police frequently search our home (in Bangladesh) to try to arrest me… my family has paid the price for my activism,” he added.

Read more: The disappearance of a Bangladeshi journalist throws a bad light on press freedom

Suspected attack on a monastery

In July, Noor published several video blogs protesting the persecution of the Bangladesh Buddhist minority community in Rangunia, a city in the southeast of the country.

A local leader of the ruling Awami League (AL) party sued the blogger in July 2020 under the digital security law, accusing him of “harming religious sentiments” and “propaganda against the spirit of the war of liberation “.

One of Noor’s video blogs featured the apparent vandalism of a Buddhist statue under construction at a Buddhist monastery in Rangunia. Noor claimed the attackers were supported by forestry officials and the local AL Party MP because they wanted to expel the monks from the area.

After the publication of his videos by Noor, local Islamist groups protested against the blogger and accused him of harming religious harmony between Muslims and Buddhists.

Police raided Noor’s family home in Rangunia and reportedly harassed his family members while in India. “Early on the morning of July 18, the police forcibly took away my parents and four other family members and illegally detained them for almost 48 hours,” Noor said.

“Nothing to do with religion”

The Buddhist monastery and an AL leader both claim ownership of the disputed land in Rangunia.

Abu Jafar, a former official in the disputed area, told DW that the land belongs to the government and “has nothing to do with religion”.

“The Buddhist monastery was built two years ago without any government permission. Some local political leaders are also using parts of the area without any permission, ”he said.

Noor said he wanted to support the minority Buddhist community in the area and “save Rangunia from another Ramu incident”. He referred to the September 2012 attack on a Buddhist community in the town of Ramu, in the south-east of the country. A mob of Islamist fundamentalists vandalized at least four temples and torched dozens of homes after a photo they considered defamatory of Islam was released online.

Read more: Bangladesh: Fake news on Facebook fuels community violence

Life on the run

Noor’s stance against religious fundamentalists in Bangladesh has sparked many protests in the past.

Hefazat-e-Islam, a radical Islamist group in the country, called for the blogger’s arrest and the death penalty for blasphemy.

Noor was first detained in December 2017 while attempting to travel abroad after Islamic religious clergy sued him for creating and disseminating content on social media that “harmed religious sentiments “. He was then released on bail in August 2018, to be detained again a month later by the military intelligence agency.

The blogger was finally released in mid-January 2019 and decided to leave Bangladesh and continue his online activism. Now in India, Noor still receives frequent death threats from fundamentalists.

He said some bloggers criticizing religious fundamentalism in the past had been murdered by religious fanatics.

“Although the serial killings of bloggers have stopped, that doesn’t mean Bangladesh has become a haven for bloggers. No one can guarantee it won’t happen again,” Noor said.

Picked up in India

After living in India for over a year, Noor was arrested on May 19 and held in prison for six months. He awaits his release on bail and hopes that his appearance in court will be postponed “at the end of the pandemic crisis”.

“My fate could be decided then,” he said.

Read more: Bangladesh: entrepreneur Sadiq harassed with death threats for pro-LGBT post

Paris-based human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately withdraw all charges against Noor and return his passport. The organization ranked Bangladesh 150th out of 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Human rights NGO Amnesty International issued a statement on July 21 urging the Bangladeshi authorities to “end the harassment and intimidation of Asad Noor’s parents, who have been targeted because of the their son’s activism for human rights ”.

He added that “human rights defenders must be able to carry out their important work freely and without fear”.


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