Bangladesh police break up Islamist protest

DHAKA (Reuters) - Around 2,000 Muslim protesters took to the streets of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Friday, angered by the publication of a cartoon they say offended their religion.

Witnesses said police wielding batons broke up the protest, which started outside the city’s Baitul Mokarram mosque after Friday prayers.

Bangladesh is under the emergency rule, and all protests are banned.

Outrage erupted two weeks ago when Prothom Alo’s satire magazine Alpin printed a cartoon in which a small boy referred to his cat as “Mohammad cat”.

Prophet Mohammad is highly revered by Muslims, and the protesters strongly objected to the use of his name for a cat.

“We do not have any political motive. We are here only to protest against those who offended our religion,” said a leader of Hizb-ut-Tahir, an Islamist group, that led the protest.

The government has already banned the publication of the magazine and arrested the cartoonist Arifur Rahman. The newspaper has also apologised and appealed for forgiveness.

The protesters said it was a deliberate attempt by the cartoonist to ridicule Islam’s Prophet Mohammad and thus the editor and the publisher of the newspaper should be arrested.

They also demanded the closure of the newspaper.

Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency since January when an army-backed interim government took charge following months of political violence.