08/05/2009, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Dhaka, death threats against the family of a Christian convert from Islam

by William Gomes
A year ago, Rashidul Khandaker, who was in Australia for business, converted to Christianity. Since then his family in Bangladesh has been marginalised and now it has received threats from an extremist group. Experts say such dangers should not be underestimated.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – After graduating from a top Bangladeshi university Rashidul Amin Khandaker went to Australia to expand his father Ruhul’s business. Here he discovered Christianity and was attracted by the faith’s beauty. On 26 July 2008 he was baptised by Fr Dominic Ceresoli, parish priest at St Therese in the Archdiocese of Sydney. As a result of this his family has met with the disapproval of the community and has been ostracised. Now they have received death threats.

Upon hearing of his son’s conversion, Rashidul’s father Ruhul suffered a stroke and was partially paralysed. He remains under treatment. The family home was ransacked by local Muslims.

Ruhul told AsiaNews that since his son’s conversion he has been ostracised by Muslim clerics and cannot even go to the local mosque to pray.

He and his family are confined to their own home and no one pays them any visit anymore.

He cannot understand why they have been rejected. Following his son’s conversion he read the Bible and the Qur‘an and did not find that many differences. Instead he said that the Holy Qur‘an itself describes Christians as Muslims’ closest friends.

Last Saturday he received a letter from ‘Allahr Dal’ (Allah’s Group), an extremist Islamic group banned for its violent views. In it he is accused of being a “tool” of Christians to destroy Islam. They order him to “sacrifice” his son Rashidul because the latter’s conversion has brought into disrepute the whole Muslim community.

He concludes saying that “we don’t even have the courage to go to the police” to file a complaint.

Speaking to AsiaNews, a Christian woman, Annie Halder, said that such threats should not be underestimated.

Allahr Dal is thought to be closely linked to Muslim extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The lives of Christian converts from Islam are in great danger in Bangladesh. We have seen converts murdered as the government failed to protect them.”

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