9 Apr 2013

Blasphemy law not wanted by PM

5:23 am on 9 April 2013

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh has rejected demands by Islamists groups for a new blasphemy law to punish those who defame Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

In a BBC interview, she said existing laws were sufficient to punish anyone who attempted to insult religion.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of an umbrella organisation of Islamists held a massive rally two days before in Dhaka, calling for the death penalty for those guilty of blasphemy.

Ms Hasina said: "They have demanded it. Actually, we don't have any plan to (bring in the law). We don't need it. They should know that existing laws are enough.

"This country is a secular democracy. So each and every religion has the right to practice their religion freely and fair.

''But it is not fair to hurt anybody's religious feeling. Always we try to protect every religious sentiment."

Jamaat-e-Islami has issued a deadline of three weeks for the government to meet its demands, including tough punishment for those who it describes as atheist bloggers, who are also accused of making derogatory comments against Islam.

"We will go through all the demands and then we will see. If there is any reasonable one, we will fulfil. If it is not reasonable or not suitable for our country or society we will not accept it," Ms Hasina said.