Bangladesh Man Lynched for Allegedly Desecrating the Quran
A mob of hundreds of people in Muslim majority Bangladesh killed a man for his alleged desecration of the Quran, beating him and then setting him on fire, police said on Friday, adding that they couldn’t confirm if the victim was alive when he was burned.
The incident took place on Thursday evening in Burimari, a village about 400 km (250 miles) northwest of Dhaka, during a week when anger spilled out onto the streets over the French president’s defense of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
Police said protests erupted among worshippers after a rumor spread that the victim, Shahidunnabi Jewel, had stepped on the Islamic holy book after offering prayers.
“The two men offered afternoon prayers at a mosque in Burimari. What we have come to know from mosque officials is that one of them may have put his foot on a shelf where the Quran and other religious books are kept. An altercation ensued,” Abu Zafor, deputy commissioner of Lalmonirhat district where Burimari is located, told BenarNews.
“Some local people then took the two to the office of the local union council. As the rumor about the desecration spread, hundreds of people forced their way into the council office, beat up Jewel and at one stage dragged him out and then burned him.”
Sultan Jubair Abbas, Jewel’s friend, sustained injuries in the attack, police said.
Police – who took about three hours to arrive at the remote location -- have yet to arrest anyone for the killing and they are investigating the incident for the exact sequence of events to determine when Jewel was killed.
“This is hard to ascertain, whether he died before being burned. We are investigating it,” Abida Sultana, the superintendent of police in Lalmonirhat district, told BenarNews.
Videos of the attack went viral on social media on Friday. BenarNews reporters who watched the footage said it shows a section of the mob chanting the slogan “Naraye Taqbir, Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great.”
As of Friday evening local time, the Bangladesh government had not commented on the lynching.
Sharifuzzaman Sharfi, general secretary of Nagorik Sanghati, a civil society movement promoting good governance, told BenarNews that he doesn’t believe those who killed Jewel were protecting Islam.
“A section of religious zealots has been trying to destabilize the country on the pretext of protecting Islam. But in practice, they value Islam very little,” Sharfi said.
“The government should deal with these zealots with an iron hand.”
Meanwhile, thousands of people demonstrated in Bangladesh on Friday, for the second time in a week, to protest French President Emmanuel’s Macron’s comments on Islam after deadly attacks by Islamists in the European country killed four people this month.
Religious groups across the country held protest rallies after Friday prayers saying Macron needs to apologize and Bangladesh needs to sever ties with France.
‘A dedicated reader’
Police on Friday set up a three-member committee to investigate Jewel’s lynching. The committee is likely to submit a report on the attack on Sunday.
Jewel was 50 years old and worked as librarian at a school in Rangpur district, which is some 33 kms (21 miles) from Lalmonirhat district, where the village he was killed is situated.
On Thursday, Jewel set off for Burimari village to see his sister, district police superintendent Sultana said. He was accompanied by his friend Abbas. After they reached the village, the two men decided to offer afternoon prayers at the local mosque.
After the prayers, Jewel asked to examine some locked shelves inside the mosque because he suspected there were weapons stashed there, Sultana said. A mosque official allowed him to do so, and while Jewel was checking for arms, some locals thought he stepped on the Quran.
“The mosque official unlocked the shelf and Jewel started searching for arms. At one stage, he climbed on the lower shelf to check whether there were weapons in the upper shelf,” Sultana told BenarNews, adding that the Quran was on the lower shelf.
Abu Sayeed Newaz Nishat, chairman of Burimari union council, which is an elected local government body, said that he and other officials tried to keep angry crowds at bay.
“We calmed the people with the promise that we will hand them over to the police. But after Esha [evening prayers], suddenly angry people entered the office, breaking the window grills, and beat Jewel with sticks and dragged him out of my office,” Nishat said.
Jewel was a quiet man who liked to read, Shahriar Shuvo, a student of the Rangpur school where the victim worked, told BenarNews.
“Most of the time he used to sit in the library. He did not talk much. He was a dedicated reader. I saw him praying,” Shuvo said.