25 February 2018

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06/08/2011 BANGLADESH

Bangladeshi Premier to keep Islam as state religion

Sheikh Hasina wants to keep the 2007 amendment to the original secular constitution, deemed illegal by the Supreme Court. The Islamic parties most concerned about a return to the Charter of 1972, which bans parties based on religion.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina wants to keep Islam the state religion, thus preserving the illegal changes to the Constitution, made in 2007 by the provisional government. In a statement yesterday the prime minister responded to those calls for the restoration of the original secular constitution, as established by the Supreme Court in July 2010. But the most radical Muslims support the Hasina’s position: If the decision of the Court were to prevail, the parties based on religion – which are all Islamic – would have to quit government.

Under the old Constitution it was forbidden for any party to refer to religious principles. With the 2007 amendment, however, several Islamic parties, including the United Islamic Front – currently in opposition, but of significant political - were created. Sheikh Hasina does not want shari'a (instead the United Islamic Front would, ed), but still wants to retain those elements brought into the Constitution following the assassination of her father.

The original Constitution of Bangladesh was written in 1972, the year of the country split from Pakistan, and was based on four fundamental principles: secularism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. The first great champion of the Charter was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of the Awami League (the majority coalition), the first premier of the State and the Hasina’s father. With the formation of a caretaker government backed by the military, the Constitution changes were made: in the preamble it reads "Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim" (In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, most Compassionate "), Islam is declared the State religion and political parties of a religious foundation can be voted to parliament.

Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country. With a population of 150 million people, it is one of the poorest nations in the world, but the third largest Islamic state in the world. Hindus are about 9% of the population, Buddhists and Christians, a tiny minority.

See also

29/12/2008 BANGLADESH
Elections begin in Bangladesh amid tight security
At least 50,000 soldiers and 600,000 policemen are deployed to secure polling stations. Local and foreign observers are monitoring the process. Peace and stability are needed to attract foreign investments.

12/01/2007 BANGLADESH
National state of emergency is imposed, elections postponed, but it all seems a contrived manoeuvre
President Iajuddin quits as head of caretaker government and delays elections as the opposition demanded. Tensions remain high though as the UN ends its support to the electoral process. For some analysts a creeping coup d’État is underway.

19/05/2008 BANGLADESH
Leader of largest Islamic party arrested on corruption charges
Nizami, a religious leader who heads the Jamaat-e-Islami, was a minister in Khaleda Zia’s cabinet. His is the latest arrest among the country’s political elite and main political players.

17/12/2008 BANGLADESH
State of emergency lifted to pave the way for elections in Bangladesh
Vote is scheduled for 29 December. The two former women prime ministers, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, begin their campaign. Both were jailed for corruption but are now free. Army action raises doubts.

13/05/2008 BANGLADESH
Doubts remain in Dhaka over elections under a state or emergency
After postponing elections for more than a year, the provisional government announces elections for the third week of December. But the announcement does not mention whether after 16 months the state of emergency will be lifted or not. Discussions with the main parties are bound to be difficult.

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