Bangladesh: Protests over dropping Islam as state religion

11 Mar 2016 | Written by Gaurav ; Edited by Vaneet Randhawa

Hardline Islamist groups in Bangladesh threatened large-scale protests over a court hearing that sought to scrap Islam as the official state religion of the Muslim-majority nation.

The High Court is considering a petition by secularists who say Islam's status as the state religion conflicts with Bangladesh's secular constitution.

Islamic political parties alleged that the government sought to undermine Islam as a religion.

In context: Secularism in Bangladesh

Introduction Bangladesh and religion: An overview

Secularism is one of the four fundamental principles according to the original 1972 Constitution of Bangladesh.

In 1977, the military ruler Ziaur Rahman brought in the fifth amendment to the Bangladeshi Constitution which removed the secularism clause from their constitution.

Keeping in mind that a majority of the population was Muslim, he subsequently declared Islam as the official religion of the country.

Over 90% Muslims

Bangladesh has a population of approximately 169 million, of which over 90% are Muslims. Christians, Hindus and Buddhists are the main minority groups who collectively account for about 10% of the population.
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Bangladesh restores secular clause in constitution

Jul 2010Bangladesh restores secular clause in constitution

Bangladesh's Supreme Court restored secularism as one of the basic tenets in the country's 1972 Constitution.

The court ruling was silent on the changes made during the military rule that declared Islam as the state religion.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, which initiated a review of the Constitution through a parliamentary committee indicated that Islam would remain the state religion.

Bloggers Secular bloggers: A constant target in Bangladesh

Since 2013, several secular writers and bloggers in Bangladesh were killed by Islamic extremists.

Some of the prominent cases included those of Asif Mohiuddin, Ahmed Rajib Haider, Sunnyur Rahaman, Shafiul Islam, Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rhaman, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Neel and Faisal Arefin Dipan.

Prior to this, attacks on Taslima Narsin, Humayun Azad and Shamsur Rahman also caught global media attention.

Recent AttacksAttacks on religious minorities, foreigners

Since 2014, there have been a slew of attacks against Bangladesh's minority populations, including Hindus, Christians and Shi'ite Muslims.

The attacks were attributed to radical groups in the region, including those with ties to ISIS.

Several attacks on foreigners raised concerns that radical Islamist elements in Bangladesh were underminig its secular charter.

Hence, the government is considering dropping Islam as the state religion.

11 Mar 2016Bangladesh: Protests over dropping Islam as state religion

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28 Mar 2016Jamaat-e-Islami calls nationwide strike over Bangladesh religion issue

Bangladesh's largest Islamist party called a nationwide strike to protest a legal move to scrap Islam as the state religion.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party said the issue was a "deep-rooted conspiracy" against religion in the Muslim-majority nation.

In an official statement, the party said, "Bangladesh is a 90% Muslim nation. The people will never accept any government move to remove Islam as the state religion."

02 Jul 2016Hindu priest becomes the latest victim of Bangladesh's minority killings

Anonymous assailants wounded and critically injured a Hindu priest in southwest Bangladesh.

Just a day ahead a Hindu temple worker was hacked to death in an offense by assumed terrorists.

Police said the incident exhibited hallmarks of recent crimes on minorities by terrorists.

Since April, over a dozen people have been killed and there is a sharp spike in such targeted killings.