Bangladesh has been considering dropping Islam as its official religion following a spate of extremist attacks against adherents of other denominations. The nation’s Supreme Court started hearing arguments earlier this month that challenge the status of Islam as the official state religion. This development comes after a string of attacks against Hindus, Christians and Shiites for which Islamic extremists have consistently claimed responsibility.
When Bangladesh was founded in 1971, after its split from Pakistan, it was declared a secular nation but an amendment to the country’s constitution in 1988 established Islam as the official state religion. This issue, however, is being debated currently in the latest court battle that is believed to have found support in the country’s religious minorities.
In the meantime, the United States has also issued a warning that Islamic State may be stepping up recruitment in Bangladesh despite the government insisting the prevailing extremist problems are homegrown.
One Bangladesh police official told the media, “We have made arrests on each and every so-called ISIS-claimed attack. The attackers have confessed their crimes in court. They have also confessed being a Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh member, and denied any linkage with ISIS.”
However, the American director of National Intelligence reaffirmed that the attacks in question were in fact orchestrated by various terrorist groups. In a written statement to the United States Senate, James Clapper highlighted the claims of responsibility from Islamic State for at least 11 high profile attacks on religious minorities and foreigners. He also noted the statements of Ansarullah Bangla Team and al-Qaeda, who previously claimed to have killed at least 11 progressive bloggers and freethinkers in Bangladesh since 2013.
While Muslims constitute approximately 90 percent of Bangladesh’s population, Hindus make up 8 percent with other religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, accounting for the rest.
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