Hundreds of people in a Bangladeshi town have beaten and lynched a man who had allegedly desecrated the Muslim holy book, police said. The crowd on Thursday seized two men who had been in official custody after they were accused of stepping on a Quran in the main mosque of Burimari in Lalmonirhat district, more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) northwest of the capital, Dhaka.
They beat one man to death and then burnt the body, district police chief Abida Sultana told the AFP news agency. Sultana said the two men told the imam at the mosque that hardline fighters might have stored illegal arms inside the building, the DPA news agency reported. The two men then tried to search for the weapons on a shelf where the Quran and Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) were kept, in a way the imam found disrespectful to the holy books, an altercation followed and the locals initially confined the two men to a room. Several hundred people then rushed to the scene in the night and took away one of the men to a nearby area where they beat him and set his body on fire, said the officer.
Police recovered the charred body of the man, local government official Abu Newaz Nishat said. The footage of the attack went viral on social media shortly after the incident, the 35-year-old victim was reportedly struggling with psychological problems after he recently lost his job as a librarian at a college in neighbouring Rangpur district, Nishat said. Police did not find any weapons at the mosque and the second man was taken into protective custody by the police. Rumours and superstitions frequently lead to violent incidents in Bangladesh, more than 50 people were killed in mob beatings in 2019, according to rights watchdog, Ain o Salish Kendra.
The incident also came amid mounting anger in the Muslim-majority country over allegedly Islamophobic comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron, tens of thousands of people took part in anti-France rallies this week in the capital Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong, calling for a boycott of French products. More demonstrations have been called on Friday after the weekly Muslim prayers.