Protesters from an Islamist political party hold effigies of French President Emmanuel Macron and French Prime Minister Jean Castex during a demonstration in Dhaka on Oct. 28 calling for the boycott of French products and denouncing Macron for his comments over Prophet Muhammad caricatures. (Photo: AFP)
A mob beat to death a mentally challenged Muslim man and burned his body over allegations of hurting religious sentiments by desecrating the Quran in northern Bangladesh.
The killing came on the same day a suspected terrorist murdered three people in a knife attack at a French Catholic church amid ongoing anti-France protests in the Muslim world over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The brutal incident occurred in Burimari, a town in the Patgram area of Lalmonirhat district close to the Indian border, on Oct. 29.
The victim was identified as Shahidunnabi Jewel, aged about 50, a former employee of a school in neighboring Rangpur district who lost jobs recently due to his mental illness.
Jewel and another man named Abbas visited a mosque in Burimari riding a motorcycle and participated in a prayer meeting. A quarrel started between him and local Muslims that led to his lynching.
Abida Sultana, police chief of Lalmonirhat district, told UCA News that the allegation of desecration of the Quran was baseless.
“Some said that the victim claimed they [Jewel and Abbas] were intelligence officers and had information about arms in the mosque. A brawl started with Muslims in the mosque and they were beaten up as tension built up. Some locals and a member of the union council tried to stop them and put them inside a house and informed the police,” Sultana told UCA News.
By this time, claims of desecration of the Quran had spread and thousands of people gathered around the complex. The mob defied requests from police and union council members to stay calm, smashed the door and snatched Jewel, she noted.
“When I reached the area with additional police force, I found the victim was already dead and his body was set on fire in the middle of an intercession. The mob also hurled bricks at police cars. It was an absolutely unimaginable scene,” Sultana said.
The police official suspects the involvement of a third party and added that a murder and public disorder case was due to be filed by police.
The Church condemns the brutality and demands punishment for the perpetrators, said Father Anthony Sen, convener of the Justice and Peace Commission in Dinajpur Diocese, which covers the area.
“This absolute barbarism should not be tolerated. It is partly because of lawlessness in the country and a serious lack of education, radicalism and overt sentiments that trigger such brutal actions,” Father Sen told UCA News.
“This horrific culture of violence is prevalent in various countries including Bangladesh and Pakistan, which is inhuman. This brutal case should be properly investigated and the perpetrators must face exemplary punishment. The government must make legal reforms to stop this culture of violence.”
The latest mob violence shocked the nation and triggered a massive public outcry and social media backlash.
“It is difficult to differentiate extremist violence from Nice to Lalmonirhat. We must be held accountable. I take responsibility for the attack as a member of the Muslim community. Every Muslim should take responsibility and apologize. We must commit to uproot extremism to make this world safe and livable for people of all races and religions,” Baki Billah, a prominent blogger and online activist, wrote on Facebook.
Mob lynching on suspicion is not new in Bangladesh but cases of mob beatings and murders over blasphemy are rare.
In 2018, eight people were killed and 30 were injured in mob violence as rumors spread about child trafficking.