Islamic extremists threaten cricket star Shakib over a Hindu symbol
by Sumon Corraya

In Kolkata Shakib al-Hasan allegedly took part in a ritual at a pooja mandap (small Hindu temple). This led to one man posting a video on social media threatening to kill the cricket champion and dismembering his body. Fearing retaliation, the player said he was misunderstood and apologised. In Bangladesh, public opinion is divided over the case with some lamenting Shakib’ capitulation to extremists.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Controversy continues to rage around cricket player Shakib al-Hasan, a Bangladeshi Muslim, over his participation in a Hindu ceremony in Kolkata (India) last Thursday.

The storm stems from the popular champion’s alleged participation in the inauguration of a pooja mandap, a wooden temple, with offerings and prayers.

The morning after the event, a Muslim extremist named Mohsin Talukdar, from Sylhet, repeatedly insulted and threatened Shakib in a video uploaded to Facebook saying that he would cut his throat and dismember his body (picture 2) for insulting Islam and Muslims.

Cricket is widely popular in Bangladesh and South Asia. And public opinion split between defenders and opponents of the cricket player. In a couple of days, his official Facebook fan page lost nearly a million followers after mainstream media released images of the "inauguration" of the pooja mandap.

In an attempt to appease feelings, Shakib's radical enemy Moshin said he was sorry for his "offensive" remarks but urged the cricket champion to apologise for having "offended Muslims".

The second video, however, did not stop police from arresting him this morning at his home for making death threats in the first video.

For his part, Shakib said that he did not take part in the inauguration of a pooja mandan but still asked for “forgiveness" for what happened.

“It is not possible to understand the context and the story by looking only at a picture. However, if anyone felt offended that I went there, I ask your forgiveness,” he said.

Shakib explained that he had played for the Kolkata Knight Riders team and is well known in the West Bengal city. During his visit, he was invited to an event at a time when Indians celebrate the Deepavali (Diwali) festival.

When asked, he lit a candle for Deepavali as a token of friendship. For some this is a poor excuse; for others, his apology is a just caving in to extremists who continue to use Islam to threaten and attack.

“Shakib is a grown man,” said Nirmol Palma, not the person’s real name, speaking to AsiaNews. “He took part in a Hindu activity and Islamic extremists reacted to it negatively.”

To avoid a violent reaction, he “said he was a practising Muslim,” and apologised for “doing something wrong.”