A Buddhist monk is seen in front of a Buddhist temple at Ramu of Cox’s Bazar district Bangladesh in this file photo. Tensions have gripped minority Buddhists and Muslims at Rangunia area of Chittagong over alleged defamation of Islam by a Buddhist monk. (Photo by UCA News)
A prominent blogger faces a possible jail term for allegedly defaming Islam after he opposed political and Islamist propaganda against a Buddhist monk and temple in Chittagong, a south-eastern district of Bangladesh.Asad Noor, a Muslim who turned self-declared atheist, was charged under the Digital Security Act (DSA), a controversial cyber law, for allegedly spreading rumors against Muslims amid an ongoing dispute between Buddhists and Muslims in the Rangunia area of Chittagong.A leader of a local branch of the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, filed the complaint against Noor on July 14, said Mahbub Milkey, the head of Rangunia police station. “Asad Noor is accused of spreading rumors and defaming Islam via Facebook and other digital platforms,” he said on July 17.Several hardline Islamist groups have been staging protests over the past few days, demanding a Buddhist monk called Sharnankar be punished for allegedly defaming Islam on Facebook.“The monk has fled the area, and we don’t know where he is now. We have deployed additional police in the area and will seek to avert any possible breakdown in law and order,” the police station chief said.Noor, however, defended the monk in a video blog, saying that a fake Facebook ID for the monk was created recently as a part of a conspiracy to target him and the temple.The aim was to grab the temple and the property. Noor also alleged that Ershad Mahmud, younger brother of information minister, Hasan Mahmud, was also involved in the plot.“I have been accused of defaming Islam by hurting religious sentiments of Muslims because I have protested against a conspiracy against the Buddhist community here,” Noor said in a Facebook post on July 16.“The fabricated charge against me shows there is no freedom of expression in this country, and the legal system is being exploited to cover up crimes and misdeeds of the ruling class and their cohorts,” he added.