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Court orders protection of religious sites

Home Ministry and police force put on alert

Court orders protection of religious sites
The Supreme Court has ordered tighter security reporter, Dhaka

October 4, 2012

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The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the Home Ministry and police chief to increase security around houses of worship across the country, after a series of attacks on Buddhist and Hindu communities. The violence in southeastern Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar districts on Saturday and Sunday, allegedly over a photo posted by a Buddhist on Facebook of a burning Qu’ran, left 19 temples, 100 homes and several shops burnt to the ground. “The constitution of the country ensures the security of every citizen and protects religious freedom. Recent violence against minorities shows how vulnerable they are, and they need protection,” said Supreme Court lawyer Yunus Ali Akand, a Muslim who petitioned the court for the ruling. He added that the government was continuously failing to protect the rights of minorities. Earlier this year there were two major hate attacks against Hindu communities, in southeastern Chittagong in February and northwestern Dinajpur in September. Dozens of Hindu temples and homes were burnt down by Muslim mobs. Radical Islamists were blamed for orchestrating the violence, and some have been charged in court. The court also ordered authorities to explain within a week why law enforcement failed to stop the violence more quickly. Father Tapan De Rozario, a Catholic diocesan priest and professor of World Religion at Dhaka University welcomed the court directives, but said that sustaining religious harmony is the best protection against violence. “With the court order I hope the administration will be more sincere now, but the real protection is supposed to come from the heart,” said Fr. Rozario. Muslims make up about 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 152 million people, and the majority practice a moderate form of Islam. However, in 2001 the country began to see a sharp rise in militant-driven violence, when religious minorities, especially Hindus, came under a series of attacks. The center-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party which came to power in 2001, allied with radical Islamist parties, initially denied the presence of militants. But after a media outcry it banned two Islamic militant outfits, arrested and executed their top leaders. Related Reports: Muslims destroy Buddhist sites Police hold 240 for anti-Buddhist violence
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