Law and Religion in Bangladesh

By Bhuiyan, Dr Md Jahid Hossain | Brigham Young University Law Review, July 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Law and Religion in Bangladesh


Bhuiyan, Dr Md Jahid Hossain, Brigham Young University Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

The rights of freedom of thought, religion, and conscience are possibly "the most precious" of all internationally recognized human rights.1 Religious freedom is crucial because it is one means of exercising a person's autonomy as a human being seeking to make his or her own choices. "Religious devotees" will perhaps become part of a community of "like-minded" individuals (like a church).2 They have certain beliefs about their relationship with God that they follow in their everyday life. They receive protection by rights of religious autonomy to perform such activities.3

Individual freedom stems from religious freedom, signifying that an individual should be given not only respect and protection from being compelled to accept those things that they consider to be false but also the freedom to reject those things that others consider to be true. The historical origin of "liberal" freedom lies in religious freedom (e.g., Locke's concept of toleration4 was a reaction to religious conflict). The First Amendment to the United States Constitution5 was adopted in a country in which many of the original European settlers joined the American colonies, not to escape from religion, but to practice their religion freely.6 The idea of the "right" of private conscience developed from freedom of religion. People are able to indulge in critical thinking and make decisions for themselves, instead of being coerced. Any society that awards due respect to religious liberty also permits competition between diverse assertions of truth, which lead to an environment of civil discussion, respect, and transparency.7 Religious freedom is violated when there are "coercive restrictions" on the freedom of individuals and communities to follow their chosen faith.8 At times, violence is used by the state for this purpose, and at other times, a "categorical hostility to any form of independent religious belief" is exhibited.9 At other times, an "exclusive version of [a certain] religion" is honored, while all others are denounced.10 There are several bodies that restrict religious freedom, such as "national and local governments, majority religious groups, and non-state actors such as terrorist organizations."11 This has an impact on the stability, security, and progress of many countries, leading to a detrimental impact on the peaceful cohabitation of their residents.12 The denial of freedom of religion leads to conflict, which affects everyone. It appears that this conflict has been prevalent since ancient times, is still persistent, and creates issues in many countries. There were recent conflicts for religious supremacy in Iran, India, and Sudan. Many Western European countries were also involved in religious conflict during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.13 Hence, religious freedom is beneficial as it creates an environment of peace, development, democratization, and other human rights. Whereas a lack of freedom of religion leads to socio-economic discrimination and can bring about inter-communal tension and extremism that hampers human development.14

Freedom of religion means the rights of the individuals to practice their religion without fear of restrictions from any civil authority.15 Casanova contends that the meaning of religious freedom is not necessarily the same in all places.16 Different countries may have their own meaning or interpretation of religious freedom that may be in conflict with one another.17 Policies that intend to implement international religious freedom may find themselves in conflict with some cultures' understanding and interpretation of the concept of religious freedom. Thus, there is an expectation of resistance to these policies.18

The object of this article is to trace the history of religious freedom for religious minorities in Bangladesh. It also examines the controversy of the phrase Bismillah-ar-Rahman-ar-Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) and the provision recognizing Islam as the state religion in the Constitution of Bangladesh. …

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