Protesters in Bangladesh rally against atheist bloggers

Updated 07 April 2013
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Protesters in Bangladesh rally against atheist bloggers

DHAKA: Hundreds of thousands of Jamaat-e-Islami supporters rallied in Dhaka yesterday after staging a “long march” to the Bangladeshi capital to demand the execution of atheist bloggers for allegedly defaming Islam.
It was the latest protest to rack Bangladesh, deepening tensions between secularists and the largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders are under trial for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence.
The radical group converged on Dhaka’s main commercial hub to protest against what they said were blasphemous writings by atheist bloggers, shouting “God is great — hang the atheist bloggers.”
They defied a pro-government national strike by secular protesters — who staged a smaller rival protest in Dhaka yesterday — aimed at foiling the radical’s group march.
“Around 200,000 people attended the rally,” Dhaka’s deputy police commissioner Sheikh Nazmul Alam said, while protest organizers put the number at over half a million.
Authorities said, meanwhile, two activists of the ruling secular Awami League had died in the last 24 hours in clashes with Jamaat-e-Islami demonstrators, bringing to 96 the number killed in violence linked to the war crimes trials.
Protest organizers called yesterday’s rally the “long march.” Many began traveling by foot on Friday from remote villages to Dhaka’s Motijheel area that became a sea of white skull caps and robes.
“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Muhammad,” said Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20 km.
Hefajat-e-Islam, another group supported by tens of thousands of seminaries, organized the rally in support of its 13-point demand that included enactment of a blasphemy law to execute atheist bloggers.
There has been vociferous debate between staunch atheists and fundamentalists in Bangladesh’s social media for years, but it took a deadly turn in February when an anti-Islam blogger was murdered.
Earlier in the week, four online writers were arrested on charges of hurting Islamic religious sentiments in a country where 90 percent of people are Muslims.
Following recent protests over the war crimes tribunal, the government has blocked a dozen websites and blogs to stem the unrest. It has also set up a panel, which includes intelligence chiefs, to monitor blasphemy on social media.
Under the country’s cyber laws, a blogger or Internet writer can face up to ten years in jail for defaming a religion.
Dhaka was virtually cut off from the rest of the country from Friday afternoon when secularists called a 22-hour nationwide strike to obstruct the march and private transport operators halted services fearing violence.
Islamists who could not take part in the march staged rallies in cities and towns across the country, with some 7,000 taking part in a protest in the port city of Chittagong, local police officer Nazrul Islam said.
Two Jamaat leaders have already been convicted by the tribunal, which critics accuse of fabricating charges as part of a government bid to settle political scores, rather than to deliver justice.


New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

Updated 20 September 2019

New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

  • The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field
  • De Blasio had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination

NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said during an MSNBC television appearance that he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential campaign.
De Blasio, 58, launched his candidacy in May with the central campaign message “Working People First,” becoming the 24th Democrat to attempt to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and a long list of experienced politicians.
News of the mayor ending his presidential bid was greeted with sarcasm by Trump.
“Oh no, really big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years! Part time Mayor of New York City, @BilldeBlasio, who was polling at a solid ZERO but had tremendous room for growth, has shocking dropped out of the Presidential race,” Trump tweeted early on Friday. “NYC is devastated, he’s coming home!“
De Blasio had registered little support in polls and was eclipsed by progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
De Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a “central reason” for his decision was the party’s rules for qualifying for televised debates. He had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination.
“The bar is so high so early that for a lot of us — clearly, some of my fellow chief executives, governors — couldn’t make that cut,” de Blasio said. “It’s clear to me it’s a high bar, and that it’s one I’m not going to be able to meet.”
De Blasio had emphasized during the campaign a list of progressive wins under his leadership, including universal pre-kindergarten, the end of the policing practice known as stop-and-frisk and paid sick leave, all in a city that has a bigger population, more than 8 million, than most US states.
Most New Yorkers had appeared unenthused about de Blasio’s presidential aspirations. A Quinnipiac University poll in April found more than three-quarters of New Yorkers did not feel he should make a White House bid.