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Court challenges state religion status

Government should explain why Islam as official religion in the constitution should not be declared illegal.

Court challenges state religion status
Bangladesh Supreme Court (photo: reporter, Dhaka

June 10, 2011

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Catholic leaders have welcomed the High Court asking the government to explain why the status of Islam as state religion in the constitution should not be declared illegal. A High Court bench issued its ruling on June 8 in response to a long-pending writ petition filed by 15 citizens 23 years ago. The court appointed 12 senior lawyers to hear  their opinion on the matter. The hearing on the ruling begins on June 16. “I welcome the ruling. We have to go back to the original secular constitution of 1972,” said Oblate Bishop Bejoy D’Cruze of Khulna. The chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Inter-religious Dialogue added: “Giving Islam the status of a state religion was apolitically-motivated decision.”  To make a religion a state religion puts indirect pressure on others  to follow it, which is not right anyway, he said. Rosaline Costa, the Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh coordinator agreed. “The status of Islam as state religion ushers political gains for a particular government and political parties. It also encourages religious extremism,” she said. “Everyone should realize that religion is personal and that the state is for all,” she added. The writ petition was filed June 9, 1988 when the government led by military ruler HM Ershad inserted a section in the eighth amendment of Bangladesh constitution to give Islam the status of state religion. The Awami League-led grand alliance government that came to power after December 2008 elections pledged in its pre-election manifesto that it will go back to the original constitution of the country. Related Reports: Forum demands action on violence
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