Bangladesh rejects 1988 petition against Islam’s official status

 A petition challenging Islam's status as the official religion of Bangladesh was rejected Monday, 28 years after it was first submitted.

The petition was filed by 15 elders when the then military ruler Hossain Muhammad Ershad declared Islam the state religion in 1988.

“Islam stands as the official religion of Bangladesh as the court scrapped the petition,” Additional Attorney General Murad Reza told reporters.

The court ruled that the petitioners have no eligibility to challenge the constitutional provision in question, he added.

The court decided this month to hear the petition in the wake of the killings of at least four secularist bloggers and a publisher in 2015 and two priests in 2016 by suspected radical Islamists in Bangladesh.

Several thousand Muslims rallied in Dhaka after prayers on Friday, demanding that the petition not be considered by the court.

More than 90 percent of Bangladesh's 160 million people are Muslim, with Hindus and Buddhists making up most of the rest.

Secularism was introduced as a principle of the state when Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971. But the 1988 amendment to the constitution replaced it with Islam as the state religion.

The court first heard the petition against that move in 2011, and asked the government to respond.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that year amended the constitution, reinstating secularism as one of the main pillars of the constitution, but retaining Islam as the state religion.

Subrata Chowdhury, a lawyer for the original petitioners, said that the 10 who have lived long enough to see Monday's ruling would decide later whether to appeal against it.

Last update: Mon, 28/03/2016 - 16:36

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