Persecution of Ex-Muslims (Bangladesh)

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Christian doctor who converted from Islam, killed by men local media described as militants[edit]

A Bangladeshi Christian doctor who converted from Islam 15 years ago has been killed by men local media described as militants.

The Bengali daily newspaper "Janakantha" reported that "Islamic warriors" killed Doctor Gani Mondol on the night of Sept. 18 as he was walking home from work in Jamalpur district, 140 kilometers north of Dhaka. The daily mentioned that local people cited the manner in which Mondol was slain -- his throat was slit -- as consistent with the way the "warriors" operate.
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Some local Muslims did not take kindly to his conversion 15 years ago, and that they had been spreading rumors about him. However, she reported that Mondol's two elder brothers, both Muslims, maintained good relations with him.

Rights group urge US to rescue ex-Muslims in Bangladesh; a country spiraling rapidly downward into the hands of Islamic extremists. Christians are not safe, especially Muslims who convert to Christianity[edit]

US-based Christian Freedom International (CFI), which conducted an investigation in the impoverished Asian nation, claimed former Muslims are persecuted throughout the country. "Bangladesh must stop the persecution of minority Christians," said CFI President Jim Jacobson.

"The country, by all accounts, is spiraling rapidly downward into the hands of Islamic extremists. Christians are not safe here, especially Muslims who convert to Christianity." In a statement published by CFI, 35-year old Shahjahan Mollah, said he had troubles pastoring his house church of 27 converts in the village of Butia, about 120 miles (192 kilometers) north of the capital Dhaka.
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Reports of persecution of Christians comes at a time of growing violence. In August, 2005, there was a string of bomb attacks. There have also been deadly church bombings.
. . .

Secular human rights group Amnesty International (AI) said in a recent report that "among the main victims of the violence" in 2004, "were members of minority communities and politicians." In addition "human rights defenders continued to be harassed and attacked. Thousands of opposition activists were arbitrarily detained [and] at least seven people were executed," AI claimed.

Muslim villagers deprive Christians of water, savagely beat 10 Christian converts from Islam with bricks and wooden clubs, threatening to burn down their homes. Extremists say they will kill two Converts[edit]

Muslim villagers armed with bricks and wooden clubs savagely beat 10 Christian converts in Nilphamari district, Bangladesh, on Tuesday (June 26) and threatened to burn down their homes if they did not leave by today.

The mob gave the Christians an ultimatum on Wednesday (June 27) to leave the village within 24 hours, threatening more beatings along with home burnings; that deadline expired today without incident. Muslim extremists also threatened to kill two Christians.
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After receiving news of the beating, the advocate traveled to Durbachari Bhatiapara and Laksmirdanga villages to find that the mob had bound both male and female converts with ropes in their homes and seriously wounded them. Several victims required hospital treatment, and one house was destroyed in the attack.
. . .
Muslim villagers had told the Christians, referring to local authorities, "Nobody will come to save you. We are stronger than they are!" the advocate told Compass.
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The attack came after 42 men and women from Muslim backgrounds were baptized at a local river on June 12. Within days, authorities at the mosque in Durbachari banned Christians from using the village tube-well, a serious deprivation as it is the area's only source of potable water. The Christians have since resorted to carrying water from a river 600 meters from their homes. Muslim extremists also issued death threats against Abul Hossain and Barek Ali, two villagers appointed as leaders of the new converts.

Christian converts again beaten and threatened with death. Police assigned to protect them for 3 months pull-out after a week. Muslim villagers abduct convert[edit]

Islamic radicals in a Bangladesh village have meted out more beatings and death threats to Christians after a special police force meant to offer protection for three months withdrew after only a week.

The Islamic extremists in Durbachari village, Nilphamari continued their violence against Christians last week.

Moreover, a national newspaper on Sunday (July 15) printed an article about the Nilphamari Christians, clearly naming, and thus targeting, the Rev. Albert Adhikari as a key advocate for Christians in the area.

The article quoted the leaders of three prominent Islamic groups, who called for a ban on the activity of Christian individuals, churches and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout Bangladesh.
. . .

He also learned that Muslim villagers had seized a local Christian, known only as Hatem, the previous night (July 10). They beat Hatem, a fruit salesman, and questioned him about his conversion from Islam before binding him with ropes and leaving him in a food storage area overnight.

Muslim villagers and foreign Islamist missionaries hauling recently converted Christians to mosques and forcing them to reconvert to Islam. Local Muslims also vandalizing their homes and taking their daily essentials[edit]

Muslims in Durbachari village then began capturing and hauling all male converts to a mosque to return to Islam, forcing them to sign or provide fingerprint signatures on written or blank papers. As nearly all the converts cannot read, area sources said, they did not understand they were signing or giving fingerprint signatures to return to Islam.

Earlier, on July 26, a local source said, local Muslims and Tabligh Jamat missionaries gathered in a schoolyard near the homes of some of the Christians who had been baptized in a river on June 12. Using a microphone, the Muslims threatened violence if the converts did not come out.

Fearing for their lives, the Christians emerged and gathered. The source said the Muslims asked them why they had become Christians and, furious, told them that Bangladesh was a Muslim country "where you cannot change your faith by your own will."

They said, "How dare you become Christian in a Muslim country?" the area source said. After that incident, some believers went to the local police station seeking protection, but police did not respond.

Most of the Christians are laborers who rely on new opportunities each day to feed their families, and the Muslim villagers are withholding work from them, Christian sources said. Local Muslims are also vandalizing their homes and taking their daily essentials.

Family of Christian converts beaten with iron rods and cut with machetes by Muslim neighbors. Local council threaten to burn home if they file assault case[edit]

"Suddenly they got equipped with sticks, iron rods, knives and machetes," she said. "Several places of my head were lacerated by machetes and iron rods. They also cut two of my fingers when I tried to fend off their attacks. They beat me in several places of my body by iron rods and sticks."

Begum said her husband Abdur Rahman, a 48-year-old gatekeeper at Memorial Baptist Hospital, and her 27-year-old son Selim Rahman, heard her screams and were also beaten when they rushed to help her. "They thrust at my son with machetes and a sharp knife and stabbed him in his thigh," she said. "They beat my son with sticks and iron rods, knocking him down. They also beat the kneecap of my husband and other parts of his body."

When her 18-year-old daughter Rosy Rahman came to their aid, the attackers punched her in the neck and chin, she said. "They beat her in various parts of the body with sticks," Begum said. "Shamelessly they removed her wrap over the breasts in front of dozens of onlookers."

One of the attacking neighbors, she said, told her, "Nobody will come to save you if we beat you, because you are converted to Christianity from Islam." Begum, her husband and elder son were admitted to a nearby hospital. Her husband is still hobbled, walking with the aid of a stick.
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Begum said local Muslims threatened to beat the Christians again if they filed a case against them. "They threatened that if we file a case, they will carry out an arson attack, and our house will be burnt to the ground," she said. "They will evict us from the locality. They will beat us again and our life will be in great trouble."

The family informed local governing council members about the attack, but they demanded 20,000 taka (US$300) to settle the matter and also threatened them, she said. "The local council officials also told us that if we file any case in the police station, our houses will be burnt to ashes and we will be evicted from the locality," she said. "The Muslim neighbors are spreading rumors that we beat them, that we borrowed 22,000 taka from them and that we did not pay them back the money. But we do not have anyone to stand beside us and listen to us."

Muslim villagers coerce brothers to expel their elderly parents from home for converting to Christianity. Ishmael (70) and Rahima (55), now living in a shelter, say they would rather starve to death than return to Islam[edit]

Ishmael Sheikh, 70, and his wife Rahima Khatun, 55, were baptized on Nov. 9. By the end of the month, Sheikh told Compass, Muslim neighbors in Kathuly village, near Gangni town in Meherpur district, had compelled their two sons to expel them from their house. Meherpur district is 270 kilometers (168 miles) west of Dhaka.

The ailing Sheikh told Compass that his two sons had come under tremendous pressure from neighbors in the village, which was entirely Muslim before the coupled received Christ. The neighbors threatened that the children of Sheikh’s sons would not be allowed to marry anyone from the village if the brothers allowed their parents to remain in the home.
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The couple went to a shelter used by itinerant minstrels who sing traditional Bengali songs a half kilometer away from their home. “I got salvation in Jesus,” Sheikh said. “In this shelter without food, I am ready to flirt with death by debilitating illness or by attack by Muslim neighbors, but never will I go back to Islam.”

Daughter converts to Christianity in the US, and Muslims marginalize her family in Bangladesh. Her husband leaves her and family members cry out for divorce[edit]

Kazi Quamrunnessa Luna moved to the United States after earning her degree in Bangladesh. She is married to Tazim Bhuiyan, of Muslim faith, with whom for over a decade, she tried to have children without success. The repeated condemnations and curses launched against her by her husband’s family because she failed to get pregnant, gave rise to tensions and malaise that the woman tried to relieve by starting a journey of faith. After attending Hindu temples and several churches, Luna met Pastor James Roy – of the Missouri Lutheran Church - with whom she embarked on a spiritual path.

This year she decided to convert to Christianity and received baptism in the United Bengali Lutheran Church of America. Her husband has returned to Bangladesh and family members are crying out for divorce if "Luna does not return to Islam." Kazi Zebunnessa, Luna’s younger sister, reports that "since that man has spread the news" a climate of exclusion and threats has been created around the family

“My brother - says Kazi - can not even go to mosque. We are surrounded by an atmosphere of stigma, and if the Luna returns to Bangladesh, it is likely they will issue a fatwa against her and her life will be in danger”. Luna's mother added that she could not "take any more pressure from people” for a decision that is "just my daughter’s" and denounces a general climate of "insecurity".

Death threats made against the family of a Christian who converted from Islam in Australia. Father ordered by Islamic group to “sacrifice” his son because the latter’s conversion has brought into disrepute the whole Muslim community[edit]

Upon hearing of his son’s conversion, Rashidul’s father Ruhul suffered a stroke and was partially paralysed. He remains under treatment. The family home was ransacked by local Muslims.

Ruhul told AsiaNews that since his son’s conversion he has been ostracised by Muslim clerics and cannot even go to the local mosque to pray. He and his family are confined to their own home and no one pays them any visit anymore.
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Last Saturday he received a letter from ‘Allahr Dal’ (Allah’s Group), an extremist Islamic group banned for its violent views. In it he is accused of being a “tool” of Christians to destroy Islam. They order him to “sacrifice” his son Rashidul because the latter’s conversion has brought into disrepute the whole Muslim community. He concludes saying that “we don’t even have the courage to go to the police” to file a complaint.

A Christian convert's mother wants to convert. Her husband frequently tortures her for their son's conversion, beats her and burns her Bible. He threatens to do the same to her and her daughters[edit]

When my husband was pushing me hard to bring my son back in Bangladesh , I shared with my husband about the conversion of my son to Christianity on 20th December 2009, my husband get mad to know about the fact and start beating me as he hear the news, and said I am responsible for his conversion to Christianity because I allowed my son to study in Christina college named “Notre Dame College, run by roman catholic church , said Khainur. My husband frequently tortured me after the event and forced me not to communicate with my son Md. Jahirul Islam; he said to stop supporting my son for his higher study.
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Recently my husband Md. Aminul Islam who leaved us came back to our home on 5th of September 2009, I shared with my husband that I myself now believes in Christ and will convert to Christianity, he bind tightly me and roughly beat me and beat my daughter Arifa Sultan before my two small twin daughter Sumai and Sayma said Khainur. My husband Md. Aminul Islam took the bible that was in our room that we get from Pastor Alex khan, he burned the bible before us, and said If you don't come back to Islam I will burn you, your daughter Arifa and son Jahirul like this bible said Khainur
Bible burned: Christian converts' family deeply persecuted
William Gomes, ModernGhana, September 12, 2009

Christian convert, his wife, and his child, flee their home which was set on fire by Muslims. All three have been threatened with death by a group of a hundred people[edit]

A freelance journalist and human rights activist, married to a Catholic and father of a child, Gomes had recently received threats, but on September 25, his accusers passed from words to deeds. Led by Nazmi Mohammed Uddin Titu, a local leader of the Chatra League movement of young Muslims, a group marched on the house of the young man accused of apostasy.
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Already September 23 there had been warning signs. Mohammed Mijan Bandari, the local leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had assaulted Gomes’ cousin, Mohammed Farouk, who with his wife went to visit his relative and family. The human rights activist intervened in defence of his cousin, with the help of his mother and father, only to receive death threats from Bandari and the Islamist group of a hundred people. The crowd only dispersed after the arrival of the police to calm tensions.

Muslims protest Baptism of 55 converts. Two Christian families suffer severe beatings and extortion[edit]

Muslims vehemently protest baptism of converts, fabricate false charge against church leaders. Two Christian women in Bangladesh’s northern district of Jamalpur said village officials extorted relatively large sums of money from them – and severely beat the husband of one – for proclaiming Christ to Muslims.

Johura Begum, 42, of Pingna village said a member of the local union council, an area government representative and the father of a police officer threatened to harm her grown daughters if her family did not pay them 20,000 taka (US$283).
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“The council member threatened me, saying I had to give him 20,000 taka or else we could not live here with honor, dignity and security,” Begum said. “If I did not hand over the money, he said I my grown-up twin daughters would face trouble.”

Begum said her husband is a day-laborer at a rice-husking mill, and that 20,000 taka was a “colossal amount” for them. She was able to borrow the money from a Christian cooperative, she said. “I gave the extortion money for the sake of our safety and security,” Begum said. “It not possible to say aloud what abusive language they used against me for inviting people to God.”

Villagers backed by a political leader of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League party also allegedly extorted 250,000 taka (US$3,535) from another Christian woman, 35-year-old Komola Begum of Doulatpur village, whose husband is a successful fertilizer seller.

The villagers claimed that she and her husband had become rich by receiving funds from Christians. After the baptisms, local Muslims beat her husband to such an extent that he received three days of hospital treatment for his injuries, she said. Komola Begum, who had invited 11 persons including three women to the baptisms, told Compass that her husband’s life was spared only because she paid what the Muslims demanded.

Muslim thief confesses to crime, but Police arrest and charge Christian convert instead[edit]

Primary suspect testifies convert from Islam was not involved, but police file charge anyway. Police in Nilphamari district have charged Christian day laborer Abul Hossen with cattle theft four days after the primary suspect confessed and testified that Hossen had no part in it, according to a defense attorney and a local official present in the courtroom.
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The union council chairman and Hossen’s lawyer did not elaborate further on Islam’s confession, but Hossen told Compass that Islam also testified that the local union council secretary of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League party and his associates initially incited the thief to accuse him. Christian villagers have said that influential Muslims had Hossen accused in order to discredit his ministry.
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“After reaching the police station, police asked me bluntly whether I became Christian or not and when did it happen,” Hossen said. “I told them the month and the year of my conversion.” Officers also asked him whether his wife and father were Christians,

Convert to Christianity kidnapped and tortured, stripped naked and forced to bow and stand for hours; they threaten to put a boiled egg in his anus. Now hiding in Hong Kong, but fears for families safety; house attacked[edit]

He was tortured for his Christian faith, but still wanted to "sing the songs of David." He was naked, but "Jesus Christ" clothed him "with His Love." Words of Christian rights activist William Nicholas Gomes, a former Muslim who fled rough police and Islamic extremists in his native Bangladesh.

Speaking to BosNewsLife, the 27-year-old Gomes confirmed Thursday, August 25, that he now lives in Hong Kong. "I have received a visa for six months."

But the young man, who stays in a crowded hostel on the Chinese island territory, misses his young wife Annie Jhumur Halder and two small sons, Felix Eugene and Lalon Mark.

"I am afraid that Muslim fundamentalists will do something bad to her and kill my young sons. They already attacked our house," he added in an extensive interview with BosNewsLife. "I am not allowed to bring them to Hong Kong, because my wife is a housewife without the 'right' qualifications."

COURT RULING

Gomes spoke after a High Court in Bangladesh reportedly ordered police and angry Muslims on Wednesday, August 24, to stop harassing his family in the capital Dhaka. "But I don't think it will help as there is no rule of law in Bangladesh," he cautioned.

His distrust of authorities is rooted in experience. On May 21, he was taken off the streets in Dhaka, pushed into a car, and driven to a building of Bangladesh's notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

The elite police force has been linked to killing at least 200 people since 2009, when the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Rapid Action Battalion has been accused by rights groups of killings and other abuses.

Gomes feared he would be one of those killed. "While driving in the car, they blindfolded me and took away my wallet and mobile phone. Two men put their guns to my head shouting: 'You're a son of a dog.' I am not. I am a child of the living God."

CLOSELY WATCHED

Authorities had long been following him. "I have been under 24-hour surveillance."

He had traveled throughout Bangladesh to investigate racial discrimination and other human rights violations in villages on behalf of the independent Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), founded in 1986 by a group of jurists and activists.

Gomes also covered religious rights issues as a reporter for Catholic news agency AsiaNews.

While traveling, he made it a point to pray and speak with people about his new-found faith in Christ. "While walking over often muddy roads, I prayed that each home would become part of the Body of Christ, His Church."

Gomes believes this angered authorities.

CHRISTIAN FAITH

"I am sure I was targeted for my Christian faith," he said, recalling his recent ordeal.

After driving the frightened Christian to the RAB complex, police allegedly pushed Gomes into an elevator and brought him to the building's ninth floor for torture. "They undressed me and shouted: "How can you be circumcised and become a Christian?"

Gomes had the answer. Though born in a Muslim family, he said, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in 2003 in the Catholic Church where he also met his wife.

"I was baptized there and grew in the Word of God. My family was initially angry, but my parents soon saw how my wife and I changed because of our faith in Christ."

Yet, his tormentors were not interested in hearing the Gospel, Gomes told BosNewsLife. "They forced me to bow and stand naked for hours. And threatened to put a boiled egg in my anus. They also wanted me to make the Muslim greeting, but I refused. I am only bowing for God."

POLICE MISTREATMENT

He said he was bleeding because of the mistreatment and falling to the ground. Yet, Gomes stressed, he knew God was with him. "I realized that Jesus was naked when he was put to the cross," to die for the sins of this world, before his resurrection on the third day, he explained.

They also tried to make Gomes confess to "false accusations that I had spied for Pakistan and other charges." Eventually police let him go, but he was apparently forced to flee his Asian nation. "The only place where I could go within a day was Nepal."

William Nicholas Gomes, now hiding in Hong Kong, says he wants to continue spreading Christ's light in a dark world.

Yet, while in Nepal, he said "the Lord" used him to spread the Gospel, or Good News, of Christ. "Last Sunday a friend of mine was baptized there and now attends a mission school."

Last month, he managed to escape to Hong Kong with AHRC's financial support. "I am currently also receiving medical attention for post-traumatic stress disorder and take many medicines because of my experience."

Gomes doesn't know whether he will be allowed to return to Bangladesh and finish his law studies. "I am afraid that they will abduct me even at the airport. They have detained many Christians, including evangelists. Bangladesh is a country where we can not openly evangelize."

ABUSES CONTINUE

It was difficult to reach Bangladeshi officials to discuss the situation. Prime Minister Hasina has pledged to end rights violations such as extrajudicial killings by police forces, but Amnesty International says abuses continue.

About 90 percent of Bangladesh's 142 million people are Muslims, adding to difficulties for minority Christians. "However I pray for my Muslim brothers. Especially for those who tortured me. I stand by them. I am not a magic man, but I will preach the Word through my live," Gomes said. "Moammar Gadhafi and all the big leaders of this world will one day face God's justice."

He acknowledges that he often feels lonely. "I want to ask readers of BosNewsLife, Christians around the world, to pray for me and my family. Prayer is all I need now," he explained, his voice trembling.

While writing a book about his life ('The criminal injustice system') Gomes is also spending time on finding "a living church" in Hong Kong, Asia's financial hub. "I am not interested in beautifully decorated churches as you can see them here…I want to dwell where I can sing the songs of David, and be glad in the Lord."
Tortured Bangladesh Christian Activist Hiding In Hong Kong
Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News, August 26, 2011

Imam converts to Christianity while abroad. Returns home with his wife only to be ostracized by his community, threatened, forced to move from home to home and beaten almost to death. Spends two months in hospital[edit]

"I believe in Christ. I welcomed him" for "he is my saviour," said Vincent (not his real name for security reasons), a former Bangladeshi imam who is now Catholic and for this reason has endured persecution for a long time in his native community.

His journey towards conversion began abroad, far from Bangladesh. It led him first to baptism in the Presbyterian Church. After that, he fell in love with a Catholic woman, married her and then converted to her faith. Once they were back in Bangladesh, Vincent and his wife were welcomed by threats and violence. Members of his community beat him almost to death.

Islam in the state religion in Bangladesh but the constitution does not recognise Sharia and guarantees freedom of worship. This makes it one of the most open Muslim states, where conversions can occur in an atmosphere of general tolerance.

However, Islam's social and cultural ascendancy is such that in many communities all sorts of pressure is put on people. In some cases, notaries refuse to sign papers testifying to conversions. In other cases, like that of the former imam, people resort to physical and psychological violence.

After almost two months in hospital, Vincent is back home. But the same Muslims who followed him and held him in high esteem when he was their imam now cannot accept his new "status".

Beating is also not enough. Other forms of violence can be used. Both husband and wife have been ostracised, forced to move from home to home. Vincent eventually lost his job and now has to do odd jobs to survive.

Today he is a troubled man. Yet, his community's banishment has not pushed him away from Jesus. He continues to attend Mass now more than ever, and repeat, "I believe in Christ. In him, I was reborn. He is my Saviour."
Ex imam convert to Catholicism almost killed
Maria Gomes, AsiaNews, March 4, 2012