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Minorities denounce charter changes
Retaining Islam as the state religion is 'a confusing slap in the face' for ethnic groupsThe Bangladesh parliament
- ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
- July 5, 2011
They branded charter changes that restore the original 1972 constitution â€śconfusingâ€ť and in â€śconflictâ€ť with the secular spirit of the 1971 liberation war.
On June 30, parliament passed the 15th Constitution Amendment Bill, restoring four fundamental principles â€” nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism â€“ contained in the 1972 constitution.
However, it also retained Islam as the state region and â€śBismillahir Rahmanir Rahimâ€ť (In the name of Allah, the most merciful) in its preamble.
These were not features contained in the 1972 charter, religious and ethnic leaders say.
â€śRetaining Islam as state religion means to look down other religions. A country doesnâ€™t need a state religion at all. Secularism alone would be the best provision,â€ť said Oblate Bishop Bejoy Dâ€™Cruze of Khulna, who heads the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue.
However, the prelate admitted the provision does give â€śeveryone the equal right to practise their own religion.â€ť
â€śThe government canâ€™t restore the original constitution because of political opposition,â€ť Bishop Dâ€™Cruze said.
Hindu lawyer Rana Dasgupta, secretary of a major religious minoritiesâ€™ forum said he too is disappointed with the changes.
â€śTheyâ€™ve shattered the dreams of 20.5 million minority people who voted for the Awami League. Retaining both secularism and Islam as the state religion the government has invoked the Islamization of secularism,â€ť he added.
The amendment also ignored demands from countryâ€™s 45 indigenous groups to be called â€śindigenous peopleâ€ť instead of â€śtribes, minor races, ethnic sects or communities.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™re hurt, saddened and aggrieved. We wanted to be recognized as indigenous, but the government has termed us tribal and ethnic minorities,â€ť said Sanjeeb Drong, an indigenous Garo Catholic columnist and general secretary of the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum.
It is frustrating to see that the ruling party â€śhas backtracked from its election manifesto where it had pledged to call us indigenous.â€ť
Minorities voice concern for their rights