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Bangladesh’s Islamist activists and shout anti-India slogans during a demonstration in Dhaka. Photo AFP

Anger erupts in Bangladesh and India as thousands protest over comments about Islam

  • Thousands of demonstrators marched in Dhaka and around India chanting slogans and urging nations to cut ties with the country and boycott its products
  • 1 official has been suspended and 1 expelled after Modi’s ruling party denounced insults of religious figures, but protesters say the actions are not enough

Thousands of people marched in Bangladesh’s capital and in parts of India on Friday to urge Muslim-majority nations to cut ties with India and boycott its products unless it punishes two governing party officials for comments deemed derogatory to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The protesters in Dhaka also criticised the country’s government for not publicly criticising the comments made last week by two officials in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party.

One official has been suspended and the other expelled after the BJP denounced insults of religious figures, but protesters in Bangladesh and India said the actions were not enough. They marched after Friday prayers through streets near the main Baitul Mukarram Mosque in downtown Dhaka. Many chanted slogans against Modi.

“The global Muslim community has been united. We ask the whole world to boycott Indian products,” said Moulana Imtiaz Alam, leader of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, a platform of various Islamist parties that support the introduction of Islamic law in the country. Alam called for the two Indian officials to be arrested and punished.

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Protesters hurled rocks at police in several towns and cities and police used wooden batons and tear gas to disperse the protests in Hyderabad, Saharanpur, Prayagraj, Moradabad and Kanpur. Some of the demonstrators hurled rocks at security forces from rooftops, TV images showed.

Mohammed Salim Qureshi, a protester outside New Delhi’s main Jama Masjid mosque, said that the suspension of one official and the expulsion of the other was not enough. “They should be arrested,” he demanded.

Ahmed Bukhari, the imam of Jama Masjid, said the Friday protest was spontaneous.

A paper effigy of the BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma was burned in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

At least five Arab nations have lodged official protests against India, and Pakistan and Afghanistan also reacted strongly this week to the comments made by the two BJP officials. They follow increasing violence targeting India’s Muslim minority carried out by Hindu nationalists who have been emboldened by Modi’s silence about such attacks since he was first elected in 2014.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has maintained a warm relationship with India for more than a decade despite growing anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh, India’s neighbour and a major trading partner.