Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz has commented on the Anti-France demonstration in Bangladesh. In the past week, Bangladesh had witnessed large demonstrations against French President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of his comments that “Islam has a problem.” His comments came after several terrorist attacks by radical Islamists in various parts of France, including the beheading of a schoolteacher for showing a carton of Muhammad in a classroom, convulsed the nation. The French government has actively supported the teacher’s decision, underscoring the freedom of expression. Riaz, speaking to Aljazeera English, said that “The growing Islamisation of the Bangladeshi society is a major contributory factor in this regard. It has become easy to use these kinds of issue as a tool for mobilization.” The report, titled “Why is Bangladesh protesting against France?” also quoted him saying that the populist appeal of the issue and the anti-Western sentiments have brought most of the common people into the mix. 

Professor Riaz believes the demonstrations are helping the Bangladesh government, which he says has turned into an authoritarian regime. “First, by allowing these demonstrations to take place, the government is boosting its claim that opposition’s right to assembly has not been curtailed, thus it contributes to its assertion that the country is a functioning democracy.” Secondly, he said, these portray Bangladeshi politics to the international community “as a choice between radical Islamism and secularism, and present itself as a better alternative” despite its “[government] abysmal record of human rights violations and curtailment of fundamental freedom.”