If he lived in the West, Abdul Latif Siddique wouldn’t have been arrested. He would just have been excoriated as a racist, bigoted Islamophobe, and shunned by the political and media elites. We are, in other words, significantly more open to the freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry than is Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh Politician Detained for Offensive Comments on Muslims,” by Arun Devnath, Bloomberg, November 25, 2014:
A former member of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s cabinet surrendered to police after he was accused of offending Muslims by saying “so much manpower is wasted” during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Abdul Latif Siddique, who was fired as telecommunications minister two months ago after he made the comments during a trip to the U.S., was arrested and detained today in Dhaka, Mohammad Jahangir, a police sub-inspector, said by phone. He has yet to apply for bail and the trial is pending.
“During Hajj, so much manpower is wasted,” Siddique said on Sept. 28, according to The Daily Star newspaper, referring to the annual trip to Mecca. “More than two million people have gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. They have no work, no production.”
Siddique is one of Bangladesh’s most senior politicians to be arrested under laws that criminalize any behavior that hurts the religious sentiments of people, a charge that could land him in jail for two years. Of the country’s 166 million people, 90 percent are Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Siddique returned to Bangladesh two days ago after spending time in India. Hasina last month removed Siddique from the Awami League party’s presidium, its highest policy making forum. He had 22 separate police cases filed against him over the remarks.
Hefajat-e-Islam, an Islamist group, is demanding the death penalty for Siddique and has threatened to besiege the capital Dhaka.