Bangladesh rejects anti-blasphemy law

Featured - April 10th, 2013

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has firmly rejected demands by Islamists groups that the country institute a law to punish those who speak against Islam.

“We don’t need it,” she said in an interview with BBC, adding that existing laws were sufficient to punish anyone who attempted to insult religion.

The leader’s comments came just days after hundreds of thousands of supporters of the Hefajat-e Islam held a massive protest in Dhaka. The Islamist organization placed forward 13 demands and threatened a siege should the government fail to meet their demands within three weeks, reports The Associated Press.

The demands include the death penalty for those guilty of blasphemy, the barring of women from working with men, and the stoppage of all cultural activities defaming Islam.

Hasina said the demands were contradictory to the Bangladeshi Constitution and reaffirmed the country’s stance as a “secular democracy”.

“Each and every religion has the right to practice their religion freely and fair. But it is not fair to hurt anybody’s religious feeling. Always we try to protect every religious sentiment,” Hasina told BBC.

Hasina also defended her government’s decision to arrest four bloggers last week on suspicion of harming religious sentiment. She denied accusations the government was yielding to Islamist pressure.