Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bangladesh squashes secular desires; finds solace in new pro-Islamic constitution

As part of stunning developments in the land of Bangladesh, reigning Awami League Government, brushing aside hopes of secularists of apposite restoration of Constitution of 1972 and thus strengthening chronicle of secularism in the country, has decided to retain “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” and Islam as State Religion in fresh amendment of Constitution. The news, without a shred of doubt, has come as a shattering blow to proponents of secularism in Bangladesh hoping for years a secular, fundamentalism-free country. It can certainly be said that this approach of Awami League Government has not only delighted and strengthened Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh but has terrified minority groups– on the way to oblivion, once more also.

It has also been learnt that the decision of the existing government, signifying a radical shift from secularism to a pro-Islamic constitution, has exasperated a substantial population of the country too. These include pro-democracy, secularist activists and moderate Muslim population, not to speak of the minority Hindu, Christian and Buddhist groups.

What are the next steps of the government then? In accordance with government sources, an amendment of the constitution will be brought rapidly to preserve Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (in the name of Allah in the preamble of the constitution, most gracious, most merciful), freewheel policy to religious biased politicking and Islam as state religion. All these came to light only after the approval of the amendments of the constitution by a meeting of cabinet ministers chaired by Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina recently.

There were dissensions as well. Both Finance Minister AMA Muhith and Planning Minister AK Khandker opposed the proposal of keeping Islam as state religion vehemently. As indicated by the ministers, it will be in conflict with the constitution of 1972 ascertaining the state should be secular with equal rights to all citizens practicing other religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. When asked of ministers’ disagreements, Hasina remarked, “The committee report has been prepared in this regard on the basis of reality as there have been many changes in the past 40 years.”

Now let’s give a brief look into the Secular Constitution of 1972. The constitution stated clearly its guarantee to religious freedom and respect of all faiths and this was installed by none except Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, father of present Prime Minister Hasina and also leader of Bangladesh’s struggle to Liberation from of Pakistan. Military juntas that ruled the country for 15 years furbished up the constitution, promoting Islamization of Bangladesh.

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