Bangladesh arrests publisher for "offensive" book on Islam


Bangladesh police have arrested and charged a publisher after Islamists in the Muslim-majority nation warned of violent protests over one of his books which they deemed offensive, an officer said Tuesday. Police also shut down Shamsuzzoha Manik's stall at the country's book fair in Dhaka where he was selling copies of "Islam Bitorko" (Islam Debate), which includes a controversial chapter on sex and Muslims.

"There was a chapter entitled 'Muslim Manosher Jouna Bikriti' (sexual perversion of the Muslim mind). The contents were offensive," said senior police officer Abu Baker Siddique. "We got complaints from many people and we were worried that it could trigger a serious deterioration of law and order," he told journalists.

Manik was the translator and publisher of the book. The 73-year-old's arrest on Sunday comes amid mounting fears over freedom of speech in conservative Bangladesh, which has seen a series of killings of secular bloggers and publishers blamed on Islamist militants.

A small hardline Islamist group called Khelafat Andolon (Caliphate Movement) warned on Sunday that it would storm the month-long book fair unless Manik was arrested within 24 hours.

Police have charged Malik under the country's tough Internet law with publishing material that hurts religious beliefs. He faces up to 14 years in jail if convicted. Police arrested Malik, the owner of publishing firm Ba-dwip Prokashoni, at his home in the capital and raided his offices, seizing copies of the book.

"We've confiscated the book after we've found it can hurt religious sentiment of Muslims," Siddique said.

There was no comment from Ba-dwip, but the head of state-run Bangla Academy which holds the book fair every year supported the arrest. "We've asked publishers not to showcase such controversial books in the fair stalls which would hurt people's religious sentiments. It was an unforgivable crime," academy director general Shamsuzzaman Khan told reporters.

Some publishers and secular authors last year fled the country in fear of attack over their work. Others are too scared to speak out against what critics say is an erosion of freedom of speech and the rise of religious extremism. Last year police shut a stall at the fair of another publisher, Rodela, following similar complaints on a book about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.    (AFP)

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