In an attempt to diffuse religious tensions in the country

Published Fri, Nov 25, 2022 7:47 PM

Originally designed to be a secular nation, not tied to any one holy book, the Constitution of Bangladesh was meant to establish a state based on a melting pot of liberal culture with Bengali-distinct linguistic traditions.

That goal was undermined, as is so often the case in fledgling states, through a military junta by Ziaur Rahman. Islam was then introduced as the state religion to dominate Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians using military dictatorships, established first in 1975.

But the current government is ready to turn (back) the page.

“Bangladesh is a secular country; people of all religions shall live together in Bangladesh,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who controls 280 of 300 seats in parliament.

She added, “Religion may be personal, but festival is universal. And people in Bangladesh have always celebrated such festivals together.”

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Hasina, who brought down the last military regime (which had killed her father), has survived 19 assassination attempts. Now, the longest serving prime minister of the South Asian country, her latest action is expected to face little resistance beyond street agitations.

The decision to secularize the nation is not only a response to attacks on Hindus, but is meant to return equilibrium to religious freedoms for residents in the country—the right to choose to attend any church or mosque or temple with equal dignity for all.