Bangladesh govt retains Islam as state religion

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Dhaka, Jun 21: Despite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's pledge to restore Bangladesh's secular character, the state's government would retain Islam as the country's official state religion.

In 1972, Bangladesh was declared a secular republic. But after a few constitutional amendments, two military dictators abandoned the principle and made Islam the state religion in 1988.

After Sheikh Hasina came into power as the Prime Minister, she had taken steps to restore secularism, but the constitutional amendments that had been approved by her cabinet on Monday, Jun 20 stopped short of full reform.

Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed said that Islam would remain as "the state religion", but the Bangladeshi Hindus, Buddhists and Christians could practice their religion freely, without any restrictions.

Hasina's Awami League's left-wing coalition partners have condemned the decision. A large part of Bangladeshis and also few cabinet ministers have not taken this decision whole-heartedly. The mass-circulation Kaler Kantha daily newspaper said that two senior cabinet ministers argued against the proposal, but were overruled.

Ataur Rahman , a Dhaka-based politics professor, said that it would create "legal and political problems as it makes it hard to understand, ideologically, the Bangladeshi state."

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