/ Agencies) - About 25 thousand Muslims set on fire and destroyed 22 Buddhist
temples and hundreds of homes in south-eastern Bangladesh, one of the rarest and
most violent attacks against the Buddhist community in the country. The violence
took place on the night of September 29th and was sparked a photo posted
on Facebook, deemed "offensive" against Islam. According to some
protesters, a Buddhist in the area posted the image on the social network. For
the moment, the authorities have arrested a young man, Uttam Kumar Barua, but
it is unclear whether he is really responsible for the having posted the photo.
During the disorder, two Hindu temples were also demolished.
The violence has affected dozens of villages of the upazila (sub-districts) of Ramu, Ukhia, Patia and Teknaf (Chittagong Division). The most serious losses were reported in Ramu, where 15 Buddhist temples were razed to the ground and more than 100 houses burnt. It all started around 10 pm (local time), when hundreds of people invaded the area of Choumuhani, staging a protest. The crowd soon swelled, reaching thousands of people and breaking the security cordon of police. Around midnight, people started to spread gunpowder and gasoline, and set fire to temples and homes. Among the places of worship destroyed, there was also the 250 year old temple of Shima Bihar,.
So far police have arrested 26 people for public disorder. According to local authorities, Muslim Rohingya, the Muslim minority originally from Myanmar's Rakhine State, fomented the protests. For months, this community has been a victim of ethnic persecution: the country, in fact, does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, but considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country (90%). With a population of about 161milioni of people, it is one of the poorest nations in the world, but the third largest Islamic state in the world. Hindus are about 9% of the population, Buddhists and Christians, a minority of the small percentage of just 1%. However, the Buddhist community has never experienced violence on this scale.