Freedom of religion in Bangladesh

The Constitution of Bangladesh includes secularism as one of the four fundamental principles,[1] despite having Islam as the state religion by 2A.[2] Islam is referred to twice in the introduction and Part I of the constitution and the document begins with the Islamic phrase Basmala (بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ) which in English is translated as “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful” and article (2A) declares that :"Islam is the state religion of the republic".[2] Bangladesh is mostly governed by secular laws, set up during the times when the region was ruled by the British Crown.[3] The constitution also states that "the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions".[4] "Freedom of religion" is its basic structure guaranteed by the Bangladeshi constitution in which it calls for equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their religious differences and it also bans discrimination on the grounds of religion on various platforms. Bangladesh is one of the few secular Muslim-majority nations and "proselytizing" i.e. conversions from one religion to another are generally accepted and is legalized by law under article 41 of the constitution, subject to law, public order, and morality.[5] Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. But in 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.[6] The High Court also strengthened its stance against punishments by Islamic edict (fatwa), following complaints of brutal sentences carried out against women by extra-legal village courts.[7]

Status of religious freedomEdit

Legal and policy frameworkEdit

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but also states that other religions can be practised in harmony.[8] Islamic law plays a role in civil matters pertaining to the Muslim community; however, there is no formal implementation of Islamic law, and it is not imposed on non-Muslims. Family law has separate provisions for Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. Family laws concerning marriage, divorce, and adoption differ depending on the religious beliefs of the people involved. For example, under the Muslim family ordinance females inherit less and have fewer divorce rights than men.[9] The jail code makes allowances for the observance of religious festivals by prisoners, including access to extra food for feast days or permission for religious fasting.[9] In 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.[6][10] The High Court also strengthened its stance against punishments by Islamic edict (fatwa), following complaints of brutal sentences carried out against women by extra-legal village courts.[7]

In 2011, the government passed the Religious Welfare Trust (Amendment) Act, which provides funding for the newly formed Christian Religious Welfare Trust as per the Christian Religious Welfare Trust Ordinance of 1983.[11] In 2011 the government also passed the Vested Property Return Act, which enables the potential return for property seized from the country's Hindu population.[12] In 2012, the government passed the Hindu Marriage Registration Act, which provides the option for Hindus to register their marriages with the government. The aim of this bill was to protect the rights of Hindu women, whose rights are not protected under religious marriage.[13] In 2013, Supreme Court deregistered the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist political party, for violating the constitution, thereby banning it from participating in elections. However, the ban was not enforced in practice.[14]


Religious studies are compulsory and part of the curriculum in all government schools. Students attend classes in which their own religious beliefs are taught. Schools with few students from minority religious groups are generally allowed to make arrangements with local churches or temples to hold religious studies classes outside of school hours.[15]

The government operates training academies for imams, and monitors the content of religious education in Islamic religious schools, or madrassahs, and announced its intention to make changes to the curriculum, including modernising and mainstreaming the content of religious education.[15]

There are tens of thousands of madrassahs, some of which are funded by the Government. However, there were two types of madrassahs in the country: Qaumi and Alia. Qaumi madrassahs operated outside of the government's purview. Therefore, Alia madrassahs received support and curriculum oversight from the government whereas Qaumi madrassahs did not.[15]

However, in most cases, the teachers in the religious and moral education classes in Bangladeshi schools specifically place more emphasis on subject Islam than universal religious education, and the non-Muslim students hardly or even don't receive formal education from their institutions and thus have to study on their own. Semi-governmental educational institutions often appoint mawlanas to conduct religious classes who are reluctant to teach non-Muslim students their own textbooks. In the country's national curriculum, as part of the subject Bengali, Prophet Muhammad's Farewell Sermon is taught to all students regardless of religion and caste in 5th grade; the continuity of study on Muhammad's life-related topics can be seen in the later classes as well and is obligatory for students from all creeds. Islamic History and Heritage is also included in humanities at college level.


Persecution of HindusEdit

List of massacres targeted at Hindus and Buddhists minorities, mainly by radical Islamists and Razakar:

In 2016 violence over blasphemy accusations lead to the destruction of 15 temples and 100 homes though authorities suggest only 8 temples and 22 houses were damaged.[16] According to the BJHM report in 2017 alone, at least 107 people of the Hindu community were killed and 31 fell victims to enforced disappearance 782 Hindus were either forced to leave the country or threatened to leave. Besides, 23 were forced to get converted into other religions. At least 25 Hindu women and children were raped, while 235 temples and statues were vandalized during the year. The total number of atrocities happened with the Hindu community in 2017 is 6474.[17] During the 2019 Bangladesh elections, eight houses belonging to Hindu families on fire in Thakurgaon alone.[18]

Persecution of ChristiansEdit

Bangladesh is number 41 on the World Watch List for religious persecution of Christians, between UAE and Algeria.[19]

In 2016, four people were murdered for their Christian faith.[20] The growing Christian population is met by growing persecution.[21]

Persecution of AhmadisEdit

Ahmadis have been targeted by various protests and acts of violence, and fundamentalist Islamic groups have demanded that Ahmadis be officially declared kafirs (infidels).[22][23][24]

Persecution of atheistsEdit

Several Bangladeshi atheists have been assassinated, and a "hit list" exists issued by the Bangladeshi Islamic organisation, the Ansarullah Bangla Team. Activist atheist bloggers are leaving Bangladesh under threat of assassination.[25][26]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Ahmad, Ahrar (16 December 2020). "Secularism in Bangladesh: The troubled biography of a constitutional pillar". The Daily Star.
  2. ^ a b "The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh: 2A. The state religion".
  3. ^ "People & Culture in Bangladesh". Lonely Planet.
  4. ^ "The state religion". Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  5. ^ "The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh: 41. Freedom of religion".
  6. ^ a b "Verdict paves way for secular democracy". The Daily Star. 30 July 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  7. ^ a b Andrew Buncombe (11 July 2010). "Bangladeshi court outlaws fatwa punishments". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  8. ^ "Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh" (PDF). University of Minnesota. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Bangladesh". US State Department Report on Religion Freedom. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Bangladesh SC declares illegal amendment allowing religion in politics". The Hindu.
  11. ^ "Christian welfare trust fund raised".
  12. ^ "Bangladesh". US State Department Religious Freedom Report 2011.
  13. ^ "Hindu marriage registration law passed".
  14. ^ "Bangladesh". US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2013.
  15. ^ a b c "Bangladesh". US State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2013.
  16. ^ "Hindu Temples and Homes in Bangladesh Are Attacked by Muslim Crowds". The New York Times. 2 November 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  17. ^ "BJHM: 107 Hindus killed, 31 forcibly disappeared in 2017". Dhaka Tribune. UNB. 6 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Hindu houses under 'arson' attack ahead of Bangladesh elections". The Statesman. 28 December 2018.
  19. ^ "World Watch List - Countries Where Christianity is Illegal & Oppressed". Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  20. ^ "Historical churches are facing increased persecution in Bangladesh". Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Thousands of Muslims Converting to Christianity in Bangladesh Despite Rising Persecution". The Christian Post. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  22. ^ Rahman, Waliur. "Violent Dhaka rally against sect". BBC News. 23 December 2005.
  23. ^ "Bangladesh: The Ahmadiyya Community – their rights must be protected". Amnesty International. 22 April 2004.
  24. ^ Bangladesh: Bomber Attacks a Mosque, The New York Times, 26 December 2015
  25. ^ "'You'll be next': Bangladeshi blogger gets death threat on Facebook". The Times of India. Kolkata. 30 May 2015.
  26. ^ "Al-Qaeda branch claims responsibility for murder of writer-blogger Avijit Roy: Rab, police doubt reported claim". The Daily Star. Transcom Group. 4 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  • United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Bangladesh: International Religious Freedom Report 2007. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

Further readingEdit

  • Benkin, Richard L. (2019). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Akshaya Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-88643-52-3.
  • Dastidar, S. G. (2008). Empire's last casualty: Indian subcontinent's vanishing Hindu and other minorities. Kolkata: Firma KLM.
  • Kamra, A. J. (2000). The prolonged partition and its pogroms: Testimonies on violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946–64.
  • Taslima Nasrin (2014). Lajja. Gurgaon, Haryana, India: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 2014.
  • Rosser, Yvette Claire. (2004) Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh, New Delhi: Rupa & Co. ISBN 8129104318.
  • Mukherji, S. (2000). Subjects, citizens, and refugees: Tragedy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, 1947–1998. New Delhi: Indian Centre for the Study of Forced Migration.
  • Sarkar, Bidyut (1993). Bangladesh 1992: This is our home: Sample Document of the Plight of our Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Tribal Minorities in our Islamized Homeland: Pogroms 1987–1992. Bangladesh Minority Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, (and Tribal) Unity Council of North America.