DHAKA: Thousands of protesters in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday clashed with police, as security forces used tear gas and batons against demonstrators angry over what they perceived as an image insulting Islam that had gone viral over social media.
Police said that the street protests began after the main Friday prayers at the Baitul Mukarram mosque in the centre of Dhaka.
Demonstrators gathered to protest images that earlier emerged on social media of a copy of the Quran — Islam’s holy book — at the feet of a statue in a Hindu temple in eastern Bangladesh.
The clashes in the capital city follow reported incidents of vandalism at Hindu temples across other parts of the Muslim-majority country. The rise in communal tensions came as the minority Hindus celebrated the last day of their largest religious festival — the Durga Puja.
Sajjad Hossain, a deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said several people were injured after the police charged with batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd which was attempting to break through a police barricade.
“They started pelting stones at us, they attacked us,’’ Hossain said.
It was not clear immediately how many were injured in the melee, authorities said.
At least three of the protesters were detained for questioning, the deputy commissioner added.
Protesters chanted anti-India slogans and criticized Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whom critics accuse of being close with New Delhi.
Bangladeshi authorities have ordered an investigation into the image of Islam’s holy book placed in the temple, while Hasina has warned against any attempts to disturb communal harmony in the country. But Hindu organizations said the attacks continued in other parts of the country where dozens of Hindus were injured and their temple statues vandalized or toppled.
Since Wednesday, at least 100 people had been arrested across the country involving alleged attacks on Hindu temples, authorities said.
Around 9% of Bangladesh’s more than 160 million people are Hindu.