DHAKA: Around 10,000 people demonstrated in the Bangladeshi capital on Thursday in the second protest in a week over remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by an Indian official that sparked anger across the Islamic world.
Authorities in India have meanwhile ordered heightened security in several regions for coming Friday prayers after two people were shot dead in protests there last week, local media reported.
Last Friday people took to the streets in huge numbers across Asia following the comments by a spokeswoman for India’s ruling party on May 26.
The governments of nearly 20 countries summoned Indian envoys for an explanation of Nupur Sharma’s remarks about the Prophet.
Shouting slogans such as “Muslims of the world unite”, the Bangladeshi protesters on Thursday rallied in front of Dhaka’s biggest mosque and tried to march to the Indian embassy before being blocked by police.
“There were around 10,000 marchers. They were peaceful,” senior police official Enamul Haq told AFP.
The protest was organised by Islami Andolan Bangladesh, one of the largest political parties in Bangladesh, which is home to the world’s fourth-largest Muslim population.
Around 150,000 people demonstrated last Friday in major Bangladeshi cities including 20,000 in the capital Dhaka and thousands more in towns and universities.
Speakers at the Dhaka rally on Thursday called for a boycott of Indian products and demanded Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally lodge a protest with India.
Hasina, who has been in power for 13 years, is a close ally of India and has stopped short of condemning Sharma’s remarks.
Derogatory comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on social media often trigger violent protests in Bangladesh. They often also spark riots targeting minorities.
Last year, at least six people were killed when widespread anti-Hindu riots swept the southeast of Bangladesh after the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in a Hindu temple.
The march began at the country’s main Baitul Mukarram Mosque but was blocked by police as it headed toward India’s Embassy, a few kilometers away.
The protesters demanded that Muslim-majority nations boycott Indian products and cut off ties with New Delhi, and that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina publicly condemn the comments made earlier by the two officials in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Hasina has maintained warm relations with India. Information and Broadcast Minister Hasan Mahmud told a group of Indian journalists that the dispute is an internal Indian matter, according to reports by Indian media.
As they marched, the protesters chanted “Down with Modi” and “Insult to Islam, will not tolerate.” Many carried placards reading “We love Muhammad [PBUH].”
After police stopped the march, a group of five people was allowed to head toward the Indian Embassy, according to Shahidul Islam Kabir, a spokesperson for the sponsors of the protest, Islami Andolon Bangladesh. The group vowed to continue its demonstrations.
India’s governing party has suspended one of the officials and expelled the other, but protesters say the actions are not enough.
At least five Arab nations have condemned the remarks and lodged official protests against India. Pakistan and Afghanistan also reacted strongly to the comments by the two party officials. They follow increasing violence against India’s Muslim minority by Hindu nationalists who have been emboldened by Modi’s silence about such attacks since he was elected in 2014.