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Threats as Bangladesh mulls scrapping Islam as state religion

Bangladesh is officially secular, but Islam has been the state religion for almost three decades. More than 90 per cent of the population is Muslim, with Hindus and Buddhists the main minorities.

By: AFP | Dhaka | Published: March 10, 2016 10:29 pm
Bangladesh is officially secular, but Islam has been the state religion for almost three decades. More than 90 per cent of the population is Muslim, with Hindus and Buddhists the main minorities. (Source: AFP)

Hardline Islamist groups in Bangladesh on threatened large-scale protests if a court moves to scrap Islam as the official state religion of the Muslim-majority nation.

Bangladesh is officially secular, but Islam has been the state religion for almost three decades. More than 90 per cent of the population is Muslim, with Hindus and Buddhists the main minorities.

The High Court is considering a petition by secularists who say Islam’s status as the state religion conflicts with Bangladesh’s secular charter and discriminates against non-Muslims.

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Furious Islamist hardliners this week urged the court to dismiss the petition at a hearing on March 27, threatening large-scale protests if it moves to scrap Islam’s special status.

“Any move to scrap Islam’s status will undermine and defame the religion,” Mufti Mohammad Faezullah, secretary general of Islamist political party Islamic Oikya Jote (IOJ) said.

“Obviously the Islamic parties, general people and the clerics will resist the move by holding protests,” he said.

The court’s move threatens to exacerbate tensions between secularists and hardliners in the conservative nation, which has recently seen a spate of killings of atheist bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners.

“If there is such conspiracy and the government and the judiciary bow their heads to these people (secularists), Muslims of all walks of life will hit the roads; fire of resistance will light up across the country,” Hefajat-e-Islam, an Islamist group, said in a statement earlier this week.

Bangladesh was declared officially secular after a deadly liberation struggle against Pakistan in 1971.

But in 1988 the then-military ruler elevated Islam to the state religion of the South Asian country in an effort to consolidate power.

“By making Islam as state religion, the-then military government destroyed the basic character of our secular constitution,” Subrata Chowdhury, a lawyer representing the petitioners said.

“The minorities were relegated to second-class citizens of the republic.”

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina brought back secularism as a pillar of the constitution, but promised it would not ratify any laws that go against the central tenets of the religion.

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  1. N
    NARENDRA MODI
    Mar 15, 2016 at 12:39 pm
    The Muslim Prime Minister Narendra Modi should stop the Muslimization of India and stop blabbering in the stani Islamic origin language Hindi. India should revert back to Indian lanugages. Muslimization of India is already happening for last 60 years when the Muslim country outsourced language Hindi started being imposed across schools across India. Already North India has become completely stani language speaking and now the the Muslim PM Narendra Modi wants to make entire India stani language speaking. Unless India revert back to Indian language and stop the stanization, fate of India is doomed.
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    1. S
      Sushil
      Mar 10, 2016 at 9:45 pm
      That's the nature of Islam and Islamic people thru just want there should be only Islam and Islam in the world others didn't mean anything to them that's the bitter reality .And that's why world hates Islam!
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      1. Maulik Thakkar
        Mar 11, 2016 at 1:46 am
        Let there be demonstrations more Muslims can get killed then
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        1. A
          Augustus
          Mar 10, 2016 at 9:04 pm
          Surprisingly nobody seems to be commenting
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          Reply
          Adda