Saturday (April 6), protestors in the South Asian country of Bangladesh gathered for several demonstrations demanding that the government create an anti-blasphemy law and death penalty for bloggers who speak against Islam.
According to a report from Al Jazeera, around 200,000 protestors gathered nationwide for what protest organizers dubbed “the long march,” with many walking from small towns and villages to converge upon the capital city of Dhaka. Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam and its supporters were among the loudest in the throng, shouting their disdain of atheist bloggers who they accuse of writing blasphemous anti-Islam posts.
“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed,” said Imam Shahidul Islam. Since February, 70 persons have been killed after a prominent Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (also known as Jamaat) leader was sentenced to death. Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was reportedly killed by Jamaat group members and supporters for protesting the Islamic group.
Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are under trial for war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 independence battle. Bloggers, who have long said they are not atheists, have demanded capital punishment for any members found guilty of the committing crimes during the war which claimed over three million lives. Four bloggers were arrested last week on charges of publishing anti-Islamic posts via their blogs.
It was reported by officials that the protests at Dhaka and abroad were peaceful although an Awami League leader was killed after government protestors and an Islamist group crossed paths in a town southwest of Dhaka.
See photos of protesters and imprisoned bloggers in the gallery. Watch Al Jazeera’s report below: