A support group for madrassa teachers and students is behind the demand. As early as 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh presented the Bangladesh government with a 13-point plan that included a blasphemy law.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – More than 10,000 Muslims took part in a rally in Dhaka on Monday calling for a boycott of French products and the closure of the French embassy following French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments about a Mohammed cartoon.
Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, an Islamist support group for madrassa teachers and students, held the protest at the Malibag-Mouchak overpass in Shantinagar. Protesters gave the Bangladeshi government an ultimatum to close the French embassy in Dhaka.
“We demand the Government of Bangladesh shut down the Embassy of France within 24-hour and French President Emmanuel Macron must ask forgiveness from the world’s Muslims for insulting the Prophet Mohammad,” said Junaid Babunagari, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh’s general secretary.
Protesters gathered in the morning in front of Bangladesh's main Baitul Mokarram mosque in Dhaka. They then marched towards the French embassy, which is located a few kilometres from the mosque.
The rally ended around 1:00 pm after the group crossed the Bijoy Nagar intersection, where they faced a police blockade. “Out of respect for police and journalists and the sentiment of the Muslim brothers participating, we stop here today,” said Junaid Babunagari.
Whilst protesters called for a boycott of French products, Babunagari warned that the next time, they would not stop at the intersection but would continue to the embassy and destroy it if their demands are not met.
"We are friends of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and also of our government,” he said addressing the Bangladesh government. “We want the government to remain for another 100 years, but the fundamental principles of Islam must be applied. And so are the demands for it. The demands of Hefazat-e-Islam must be met.”
In view of the situation, Bangladeshi authorities expressed an official position on the French question in response to the Islamist demand to boycott French products and close the French embassy.
At a press conference yesterday, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said that Bangladesh will not tolerate any terrorist activity in the name of religion.
“We call on all people not hurt religious feelings in the name of free speech,” he said. However, “We also shall not tolerate any terrorist activity in the name of religion.”
The secretary told protesters to remain calm and be patient on the French issue, adding that “We shouldn't mix religion and financial matters. We should remain patient.”
Back in 2013, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh submitted a 13-point plan to the Bangladesh government that included a request for the introduction of a blasphemy law.