Bangladesh to swing away from secularism back to Islam

Bangladesh, in a dramatic U-turn from secularism, will adopt Islam as the state religion and allow religion-based political parties to function.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday came out in favour of retaining Islam as the state religion, moving away from/flouting the secular provisions in the constitution that were incorporated when the country gained independence in 1971.

Bangladesh is a Sunni Muslim majority country. With a population of 150 million, it is the poorest nation in the world and the world’s third largest Muslim country. Hindus account for 9 percent of the population, with the rest being Buddhists and Christians.

For centuries the minority religious communities faced persecution. The worst political-genocide bled the nation when India and Pakistan partitioned in 1947, triggering mass migration of Hindus to neighbouring India and Muslims into Pakistan.

Pro-secularist advocates argue that the rural population and urban middle-class are largely moderate Muslim and practices a tolerant Sufi Islamic philosophy. Opponents of the change say moderate Muslims will be tormented by Islamist political groups, which have an upper hand in state polity.

The ruling Awami League, which Hasina leads, has been a champion of secular politics for decades. Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founding prime minister, enshrined secularism in the constitution adopted in 1972.

Critics argue that Hasina’s decision is tantamount to defiance of the highest court’s landmark judgment in July last year. The court asked the government to restore the principles of secularism in the constitution.

Taking a departure from the 1972 constitution, Hasina said that the Arabic phrase “Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim” (“In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate”) will remain above the preamble of the constitution.

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Categories: Asia, Bangladesh, Islam

4 replies

  1. President Obama defending the right to build mosques near 9/11 site:

    But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

  2. In a Global village it is critically important to separate the State from Church, Mosque or Synagogue! This knol with its several comments takes an encyclopedic approach on this subject.

    Those who want more religion in the public discourse have not read their Bible, for example, “They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. At that time they sacrificed to the LORD seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the LORD with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the LORD gave them rest on every side.” (2 Chronicles 15:10-15)

  3. President Obama explaining the dialogue between religion and law:

    He says that we can draw our inspiration from our scriptures but we have to translate the message into a language that is understood by other fellow citizens from different religions. Hear him in his own words – Watch on YouTube:

    Additional materials on separation of Mosque-Church and State:

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