DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Several thousand Muslims marched from the main mosque in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to denounce India’s government for allegedly inflaming tensions between Hindus and Muslims, leading to clashes that left at least 40 dead and hundreds injured.
After Friday prayers, thousands of Muslims left the Baitul Mokarram Mosque in Dhaka and joined the rally, chanting slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They threw shows at posters of Modi and burned a portrait of him. Many of the protesters carried banners saying, “Stop killing Muslims” and “Save Indian Muslims.”
The protesters also demanded that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cancel a plan to invite Modi to a commemoration next month of the 100th anniversary of the birth of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Rahman, Hasina’s father, led a political movement that created the separate nation of Bangladesh after a nine-month war with what is now Pakistan in 1971.
“I ask the prime minister to immediately cancel Narendra Modi’s invitation,” Nur Hossain Kasemi of the influential Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam told the protesters. “If she fails to do so, the people of the country will be forced to take action and surround the airport. They will build resistance.”
But he asked Bangladeshi Muslims not to harm Hindus.
“I remind the Muslims of our country that we believe in harmony. We don’t believe in violence. We shall not harm any non-Muslims in this country,” he said.
Tensions in India between Hindu hard-liners and Muslims protesting the Modi government’s Hindu-first policies have been building for months. Violence exploded in parts of New Delhi on Sunday night, the eve of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first state visit to India.
Hindus and Muslims attacked each other with guns and swords, metal rods and axes, leaving the streets where the three days of rioting occurred resembling a war zone.