Bangladesh rebuilds temples torched in Muslim riots

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 5:13pm

Bangladesh has started rebuilding 19 Buddhist temples vandalised by Muslim mobs in violence triggered by anger over Facebook content that defamed the Koran, officials said on Thursday.

Army engineers will renovate the temples at a cost of nearly 120 million taka (US$1.5 million) on the orders of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who recently visited the area, district administrator Ruhul Amin told reporters.

“The army has already started work. We have sat with Buddhist community leaders to finalise the designs. The temples will be rebuilt almost to their old shape,” Amin said.

At least 120 Buddhist houses were also attacked, some of them razed to the ground, and dozens of shops were looted in last month’s violence that began at Ramu town in the southeastern Cox’s Bazaar district.

The violence spread to five towns and a dozen villages as rumours circulated that a young Buddhist man had posted photographs on Facebook insulting Islam. He denied responsibility for the posting.

In one image, a page of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, was shown being flushed down a toilet.

Buddhists, who make up less than one per cent of Bangladesh’s 153 million mostly Muslim population, are based mainly in the southeast near the border with Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Buddhist leaders said the two days of violence was on a scale unseen since Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan and declared independence in 1971.

Police said thousands of Muslims had taken part in the riots and nearly 300 people have been arrested.