Dec 15, 2023

Bangladesh: Christian convert jailed over blasphemy allegations

Tobibul lslam, 39, a convert to Christianity, is seen by his Muslim neighbors as a sinner and a threat to the local community. On November 9, members of the community attacked Tobibul and his wife. A week later the police arrested and jailed Tobibul after a neighbor accused him of blasphemy. CSI is providing legal assistance to the family.

Blasphemy victim Tobibul Islam

Tobibul’s problems with his neighbors began in 2012 when he and his family converted to Christianity from Islam. Three other families in their village in Rangpur, northern Bangladesh, later also converted. Since then, the converts have faced repeated threats from Muslim neighbors determined to expel them from the village. But the Christian families stood firm until tensions suddenly escalated.   

Family attacked and threatened 

In the late afternoon of November 9, 2023, Tobibul’s four-year-old daughter, Tahira, was playing with the neighbors’ children when the mother of one of the girls appeared. She struck Tahira, calling her an “infidel” and saying she was not welcome in their yard. Alerted by her daughter’s loud cries, Mahmuda, Tobibul’s wife, hurried out to investigate. 

Soon, all the neighbors had gathered round. They started tearing at Mahmuda’s clothes and hitting her with a stick, badly injuring Mahmuda’s right knee. While all this was going on, Tobibul was working in the paddy fields. When he heard what had happened, he immediately rushed to the scene, only to be attacked himself. The angry mob threatened to kill the family if they did not leave the village within the next 72 hours. 

Volunteers from Engage Bangladesh, CSI’s project partner, tried to file a complaint with the police, but were rebuffed. After renewed pressure from Engage Bangladesh, the police finally agreed to file a report on the incident.  

Following the attack, the Christian families all left the village. Due to the lack of police support they are afraid to return home. 

Blasphemy allegations 

The intimidation and persecution of the Christian families did not end here. A week later, on November 17, a neighbor filed a complaint against Tobibul, accusing him of blasphemy. 

Maulana Sirajul Islam, who describes himself as a “devout Muslim,” alleged that on November 10 – one day after he and his family were attacked – Tobibul had made derogatory remarks about Islam “while attempting to convert people to Christianity” at the marketplace.  

The complainant accused Tobibul of disrespecting Islam, dishonoring its prophet and “leading the Muslim nation on the path to hell by spreading false propaganda.” 

Following these false accusations, the police arrested Tobibul on November 17. Through Engage Bangladesh, CSI is providing legal assistance and financial support to Tobibul and his family.  

Increasing attacks on Christians 

In the past ten years, Bangladesh has experienced an upsurge in radical Islam. Pressure on religious minorities is increasing, and violent attacks are a common occurrence. 

In January, the video of a baptism shared on social media triggered a violent mob attack on Christians in Gobta, northern Bangladesh. Ten people were seriously injured. 

Christians constitute a very small minority in Bangladesh, an estimated 0.3 percent of the population. 


*Update: Tobibul was freed on bail on January 14, 2024

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