Freedom of religion in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a Muslim Majority nation with Islam as its state religion of the country professed by the majority and freedom of religion is guaranteed by its constitution in which it gives equal rights to all citizens irrespective of religion. The major religion in Bangladesh is Islam (90%), but a significant percentage of the population adheres to Hinduism (9%).[1] Other religious groups include Buddhists 0.6%, (mostly Theravada), Christians (0.3%, mostly Roman Catholics), and Animists (0.1%).[note 1] Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, but Islam was made the state religion in the 1980s. But in 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.[4] The High Court also strengthened its stance against punishments by Islamic edict (fatwa), following complaints of brutal sentences carried out against women by extra-legal village courts.[5]

Status of religious freedom

Legal and policy framework

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but also states that other religions can be practised in harmony.[6] Islamic law plays a role in civil matters pertaining to the Muslim community; however, there is no formal implementation of Islamic law, and it is not imposed on non-Muslims. Family law has separate provisions for Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. Family laws concerning marriage, divorce, and adoption differ depending on the religious beliefs of the people involved. For example, under the Muslim family ordinance females inherit less and have fewer divorce rights than men.[7] The jail code makes allowances for the observance of religious festivals by prisoners, including access to extra food for feast days or permission for religious fasting.[7] In 2010, the High Court held up the secular principles of the 1972 constitution.[4][8] The High Court also strengthened its stance against punishments by Islamic edict (fatwa), following complaints of brutal sentences carried out against women by extra-legal village courts.[5]

In 2011, the government passed the Religious Welfare Trust (Amendment) Act, which provides funding for the newly formed Christian Religious Welfare Trust as per the Christian Religious Welfare Trust Ordinance of 1983.[9] In 2011 the government also passed the Vested Property Return Act, which enables the potential return for property seized from the country's Hindu population.[10] In 2012, the government passed the Hindu Marriage Registration Act, which provides the option for Hindus to register their marriages with the government. The aim of this bill was to protect the rights of Hindu women, whose rights are not protected under religious marriage.[11] In 2013, Supreme Court deregistered the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist political party, for violating the constitution, thereby banning it from participating in elections. However, the ban was not enforced in practice.[12]

Education

Religious studies are compulsory and part of the curriculum in all government schools. Students attend classes in which their own religious beliefs are taught. Schools with few students from minority religious groups are generally allowed to make arrangements with local churches or temples to hold religious studies classes outside of school hours.[13]

The government operates training academies for imams, and monitors the content of religious education in Islamic religious schools, or madrassahs, and announced its intention to make changes to the curriculum, including modernising and mainstreaming the content of religious education.[13]

There are tens of thousands of madrassahs, some of which are funded by the Government. However, there were two types of madrassahs in the country: Qaumi and Alia. Qaumi madrassahs operated outside of the government's purview. Therefore, Alia madrassahs received support and curriculum oversight from the government whereas Qaumi madrassahs did not.[13]