World Watch Monitor

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister has pledged that anyone who offends Islam or its prophet will be prosecuted.

Sheikh Hasina said the religion of Bangladesh “is Islam". "Anyone who pronounces offensive comments against it, or against the Prophet Muhammad, will be prosecuted according to the law,” she said, as reported by Asia News.

Her comments come as its near-neighbour Pakistan continues to be divided over the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman cleared last week after eight years on death row for alleged blasphemy against Islam and Muhammad.

The Prime Minister, speaking on 4th November at a gathering of madrassas in Dhaka, added: “There is no place for Islamic militancy, terrorism and corruption. Bangladesh wants to show that Islam is a religion of peace and wants to be a peaceful, prosperous and developed country.”

Last month a new 19-party coalition was formed in an effort to oust Hasina. The coalition, which the Prime Minister claimed was an alliance of corrupt parties, includes Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami.

Thomas Muller, analyst at Open Doors International’s World Watch Research unit, said “the inclusion of this radical Islamic party and long-term ally of the BNP [Bangladesh National Party] is making minorities, including Christians, nervous” ahead of the elections, scheduled for the last week of the year.

Bangladesh’s Christian minority have asked for the elections to be moved as that would coincide with Christmas and as the run-up to the elections are “frequently marred by acts of violence and persecution against minorities”, Asia News reported.

The general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Assocation, Hemanto Corraya, said: “Our religious festival will be ruined, because many people will be forced to stay home to vote, and will be unable to celebrate Christmas with relatives.”

“The best time to hold the elections would be before 20[th] December or in the first week of January 2019,” said BCA president Nirmol Rozario.

The chief election commissioner is due to consider the appeal in the next week, according to Asia News.