Protesters display placards during an anti-France demonstration in Dhaka on Nov. 2. (Photo: AFP)
A Muslim mob torched and vandalized 10 houses belonging to Hindus and a government office in Bangladesh over allegations that a Hindu man hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims with a Facebook post supporting French cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The violence occurred in Korbanpur village in Comilla district, more than 100 kilometers from capital Dhaka, on Nov. 1. The mob also vandalized the office of local Union Council chairman Bankumar Shiv, also a Hindu.
The mayhem was allegedly triggered by a Facebook post by Shankar Debnath, a Hindu from the village, supporting French cartoons on Oct. 31. The attacks sparked panic among Hindus in the area, local media reported.
A case was filed under the controversial Digital Security Act against Shankar and Anik Bhowmik, another accused, and police sent them to jail after arresting them on Nov. 1.
Azimul Ahsan, additional superintendent of police in Comilla, confirmed the violence and said additional forces have been deployed and the situation was under control in the area.
Pictures and a video of the attack were circulated on Facebook, sparking a public and media outcry.
Mayeen Ahmed, a Muslim, expressed anger on Facebook over the violence.
“Those who have done such a heinous act in the name Allah, please read the Quran, the constitution sent by God, at least once this time. God has promised you hell for that,” he wrote.
Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, condemned the violence and demanded exemplary punishment for the perpetrators.
“This is unacceptable. It shows our country does not have a culture of tolerating any criticism including religious criticism at all. Religion is a sensitive issue that involves emotions. But it shouldn't lead anyone to burn someone's house. It is a crime that must be punished,” Father Gomes told UCA News.
The incident came only days after the brutal beating, murder and burning of the body of Shahidunnabi Jewel, a mentally challenged Muslim man, by a Muslim mob for alleged desecration of the Quran in Lalmonirhat district on Oct. 29.
The cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and their support by French President Emmanuel Macron have sparked global Muslim outrage and street protests in many Muslim-majority countries including Bangladesh that called for a boycott of France and French products.
For the past several days, huge rallies in Bangladesh by radical Islamist parties condemned the cartoons and abused Macron by burning his effigies and slapping shoes on large pictures of the president.
Islamists also attempted to lay siege to the French embassy in Dhaka but were held back by police.