• Urgent Action

Urgent Action: Singer Arrested for “Hurting Religious Sentiment” (Bangladesh: UA 18.20)

February 18, 2020

Bangladeshi folk singer Shariat Boyati has been arrested under the draconian Digital Security Act for stating that music is not forbidden in the Qur’an. He faces up to five years’ imprisonment on vague charges of hurting religious sentiment. Arrested for solely exercising his right to freedom of expression, Shariat Boyati must be immediately and unconditionally released.

  1. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
  2. Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 18.20. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.
Mr. Asaduzzaman Khan, MP Minister Ministry of Home Affairs Bangladesh Secretariat Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
Ambassador Mohammad Ziauddin The Embassy of Bangladesh 3510 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 Phone: 202 244 0183 Fax: 202-244-2771 | 7830 Email: [email protected] Contact form: http://www.bdembassyusa.org/index.php?page=contact Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Honorable Minister Khan, I am concerned by the unjust detention of a Bangladeshi folk singer Shariat Boyati who was arrested on 11 January 2020 for sharing his opinions at an event. Stating his belief that music is not forbidden in the Qur’an, Shariat Boyati criticized some hard-line Islamic scholars for fabricating and misrepresenting religious norms. Accused under section 28(2) of the draconian Digital Security Act, which criminalizes the publication or broadcast of “any information that hurts religious values or sentiments”, Shariat Boyati faces up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 10 million takas ($117K USD). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Bangladesh to “urgently revise the Digital Security Act to ensure that it is in line with international human rights law and that it provides for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention, and other undue restrictions of the rights of individuals to the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion”. As the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief told the UN Human Rights Council, “subjective feelings of offensiveness…should never guide legislative actions, court decisions or other State activities”. Defending music is not a crime. Shariat Boyati must not be punished for exercising his right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I urge the Bangladesh government to immediately and unconditionally release Shariat Boyati and drop all charges against him and all those implicated solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression; and promptly amend the Digital Security Act such that it complies with international human rights law, including the ICCPR, to which Bangladesh is a state party. Yours sincerely, ADDITIONAL RESOURCES