World

Bangladesh Considers Removing Islam As State Religion

| by Diana Kruzman
An alley in BangladeshAn alley in Bangladesh

Following a string of terrorist attacks against Christians and Hindus, Bangladesh is considering abandoning Islam as its official state religion.

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh began to hear arguments, supported by religious minority leaders, challenging the state’s adoption of Islam and expressing a desire to return to a secular state. Although Bangladesh was established as a secular nation in 1971 after splitting from Pakistan, its constitution was amended in 1988 to declare Islam the state religion, a status that remains to the present day.

The case comes after a series of attacks against religious minorities in the country, including Hindus, Christians, and Islamic minority Shi'ites. Muslims form 90 percent of Bangladesh’s population. Hindus account for 8 percent, and other religions such as Buddhism and Christianity make up the rest.

U.S. officials have warned Bangladesh of the growing threat of ISIS, although the country claims that the terror attacks against religious minorities have all come from home-grown terrorists. According to Daily Mail, in a written testimony to the U.S. Senate, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that ISIS had claimed responsibility for at least 11 high-profile attacks on foreigners and religious minorities, including the attacks on Paris in November 2015. Furthermore, he wrote that the Ansarullah Bangla Team and al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent had killed at least 11 writers and bloggers, who were known for their progressive views, in Bangladesh since 2013.

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In December 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the town of Bagmara, which some reports claimed had killed “dozens” of worshippers during Friday prayers, reported Al Arabiya. However, the government officially reported that only three people had been injured, and blamed the local extremist group Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) for the attack.

“We have made arrests on each and every so-called ISIS-claimed attack,” a Bangladesh police official told Breitbart. “The attackers have confessed their crimes in court. They have also confessed being a Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh member, and denied any linkage with ISIS.”

Sources: Daily Mail, Breitbart, Al Arabiya / Photo credit: Sam Sherratt/Flickr

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