From today’s New York Times:
Two days of rioting in Bangladesh by conservative Islamists demanding an antiblasphemy law have left at least 19 people dead, more than 100 wounded and dozens of shops and vehicles destroyed, the official news agency BSS reported on Monday. The violence convulsed a country that was still reeling from a safety crisis in the garment industry that was set off by a deadly factory collapse last month.
Police officers armed with water cannons, sound grenades, tear gas and cudgels battled the protesters on Sunday and Monday in Dhaka, the capital, while the authorities banned further rallies and closed an Islamist television station accused of inciting the trouble, BSS reported on its Web site. It said at least three of the dead were police officers.
. . . Bangladesh’s population is overwhelmingly Muslim, but its government is officially secular. Confrontations between conservative Islamists and the governing Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have become increasingly violent this year, inflamed in part by judicial prosecutions of Islamists for war crimes related to the country’s fight for independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The tensions have been further aggravated by what Islamists regard as unpardonable blasphemies by bloggers, who are accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The Hefazat-e-Islami organization has been demanding a new law that would severely punish such acts, but Ms. Hasina has rejected the demand.
1. Those who are rioting are not the “atheist bloggers” or those who “insult the Prophet Muhammed.”
2. The rioters are calling for more extreme laws to punish critics of Islam, even though strong laws are already on the books. The atheist bloggers (four of whom have been jailed) can, for instance, be sentenced to up to ten years in jail for “hurting religious sentiments.” You can bet your tuchus that nobody is going to jail in Bangladesh for hurting Christian sentiments.
3. These are not just a few rioters, but thousands of them. And they explicitly say they’re acting in the name of Islam. It’s hard to avoid the impression that many of them have literally been driven insane by their faith.
How much more evidence do we need that the extremists and their supporters are more than just a tiny fraction of Islamic faithful, or that they’re motivated by things other than religion?