‘God Is Great, Hang the Atheist Bloggers!’: Hundreds of Thousands Rally in Bangladesh for Anti-Blasphemy Laws

Bangladeshi Hefajat-e-Islam activists brandish sandals as they shout slogans during a rally in Dhaka on April 6, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of hardline Islamists rallied in Bangladesh’s capital on Saturday to demand authorities enact anti-blasphemy laws punishing bloggers and those believed to have insulted Islam.

“God is great – hang the atheist bloggers!” some chanted, according to the Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera.

“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed,” Shahidul Islam, an imam who reportedly walked 20km to be at the rally, said.

Thousands of Hifazat-e-Islam activists gather for a rally to demand authorities enact an anti-blasphemy law punishing people who insult Islam, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, April 6, 2013. (Photo: AP)

International reports indicate the bloggers have been stirring controversy by seeking punishment for Islamist leaders found guilty of war crimes during the nation’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan.  Bangladesh says as many as 3 million people were killed and 200,000 women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators during the horrific war.

The bloggers also want a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party, for campaigning against Bangladesh’s independence more than four decades ago.  But they deny the allegation that they are atheists.

“Wrong information has been spread out by some of the activists,” Shakil Ahmed of Ekattor television in Bangladesh told Al Jazeera.

Bangladeshi Hefajat-e-Islam activists carry placards during a rally in Dhaka on April 6, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

The Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, which helped organize the rally, listed listed 13 demands of the government and the nation’s people.

They include putting “absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah” in the nation’s constitution, which is largely secular, and passing a law providing for capital punishment for maligning Allah, Islam and its prophet Muhammad.

They also want to declare the minority Ahmadiya sect living in the country non-Muslims and banning “all foreign culture, including free mixing of men and women.”

Al Jazeera sources say the government is unlikely to accommodate all the protesters’ requests — though four online writers were arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiment last week — but the economy will take a hit no matter what.

As is, a blogger or online commenter can reportedly face up to ten years in jail for writing determined to be defamatory to Islam.

Al Jazeera has more on the story:

​The Associated Press contributed to this report.