In another Inquisitr article last week, it was reported that Bangladesh might drop Islam as the country’s official religion due to ISIS attacks, but the court ruled against the decision last week. Christianity Today reported that it took only two minutes for judges in Bangladesh’s highest court to dismiss the 28-year-old challenge to having Islam as the official religion. Justice Naima Haider ruled that the original group of 15 petitioners had “no standing to raise the issue.”
The attorney who filed the petition, Subrata Chowdhury, said he was very disappointed about the ruling.
“I’m very disappointed. This case was our baby. I’ve never seen anything like this. At least a proper hearing should have taken place. We had prepared so much.”
It’s possible the court made the hasty decision due to the 7,000 or so Islamist activists who protested the petition last week and Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, calling for a nationwide strike protesting the petition. Asia Times News reported that the matter had been absent from discussion tables until August 1 of last year, when another lawyer, Samendra Nath Goswami, filed another petition to drop Islam with the Bangladesh High Court.
Goswami’s petition raised the question of “how Islam could still be acknowledged as the state religion despite revival of ‘secularism’ as the state policy under a 2011 amendment to the Constitution.” That petition was dealt with in pretty much the same manner as the recent one — Goswami moved the petition but Justice Mohammad Emdadul Haque and Justice Muhammad Khurshid Alam Sarkar rejected it on September 7 after just a brief hearing.
According to Atimes, on February 29, Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha formed the three-member bench to hear the original petition, following a prayer on behalf of the petitioners.
Jamaat-e-Islami viewed the case as a “deep-rooted conspiracy” against religion. A statement from the group, whose top leaders have been tried and executed for war crimes, said that because Bangladesh is 90 percent Muslim, people would never accept a move by the government to drop Islam.
“The people will never accept any government move to remove Islam as the state religion from the constitution in an effort to please a handful of anti-religion persons.”
The court’s decision to review Islam as a state religion is due to recent attacks on foreigners and local minority groups by Islamist extremists such as ISIS. As reported in the previous Inquisitr story, recent attacks by ISIS, such as the stabbing death of a recent Christian convert from Muslim in Bangladesh, made petitioners hopeful their petition would be considered. The petition was filed soon after the country made Islam its official religion in 1988, and the recent attacks spurred the petitioners to push the petition again. The Bangladesh Supreme Court finally agreed to hear the petition last week, only to immediately dismiss it.
Fox News reported that the decision by the three-judge High Court panel not to drop Islam was expected. The reason the court said that the petitioners had no standing was because the petition was never registered with authorities. Ten of the original 15 petitioners had died since the petition to drop Islam was filed. For now, Islam will remain Bangladesh’s official religion. Murad Reza, the government’s lead lawyer who had opposed the petition, praised the court’s decision. Other Islamists, such as leaders of the group Hefajat-e-Islam, were also happy with the court’s decision not to drop Islam as the state religion.
“We thank the court on behalf of the nation for rejecting the petition, said Fazlul Karim Kashemy, who is a leader of the Hefajat group. “Muslims and non-Muslims in our society have been maintaining good relationship for long.”
Do you think a government should drop Islam as their official religion if Islamist extremists are attacking minority groups? Please feel free to share your opinions below.
[Photo by A.M. Ahad/AP]