Bangladesh court bans religion in politics: law minister

Published: July 29, 2010
A file photo of security personnel standing guard outside Bangladesh's Supreme Court. PHOTO: REUTERS

A file photo of security personnel standing guard outside Bangladesh's Supreme Court. PHOTO: REUTERS

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court has reinstated a ban on Islamic political parties after striking down a key constitutional amendment, law minister Shafiq Ahmed told AFP on Thursday.

In a detailed verdict released late Wednesday, the Supreme Court scrapped the bulk of the 1979 fifth amendment, including provisions that had allowed religious political parties to flourish and legalised military rule.

“Secularism will again be the cornerstone of our constitution,” Ahmed said.

After independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh’s first constitution made secularism a key pillar. Following a 1975 coup, the army-led government amended the constitution’s guiding principle to “faith in Allah” in 1979.

Religious parties, which were banned in the original 1971 constitution but legalised by the 1979 amendments, are now banned again as the “faith in Allah” provision has been thrown out, said Ahmed.

“Islamic parties cannot use religion in politics any more,” he said.

In 1988, a second military-led government made Islam the state religion in the Muslim-majority nation and incorporated Quranic verses into the constitution. Neither of those changes are affected by the court verdict.

“But following the scrapping of the fifth amendment, these later amendments can now be challenged in court,” Ahmed said.

In the verdict, the Supreme Court declared the 1975-1990 military rule illegal, and recommended punishing military dictators, Ahmed said.

Since the Awami League’s landslide election win over the Islamic-allied Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 2008, the government has cracked down on Islamic groups and political parties. The new government outlawed one Islamic party in October last year, accusing it of destabilising the country.

Four other Islamic organisations, including the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh, were earlier banned after they carried out a series of nationwide bombings that left 28 people dead in 2005.

This week, the four leaders of the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, were arrested by the country’s fledgling war crimes court, set up to try those responsible for atrocities during the 1971 independence war.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Schazad
    Jul 29, 2010 - 4:51PM

    Oh My God!! This is awesome. I think its high time that Pakistan learn from someone like Bangladesh a thing or two. We have been plagued by this cancer and we need to get rid of religion from politics too. I wish CJ should this initiative in Pakistan since no one has the guts to do it.Recommend

  • Arshad
    Jul 29, 2010 - 5:42PM

    Looks like God has been Kind to Bangla Desh. O’God help us do this too. It is my biggest wish in life. The day it happens, I promise to try be a perfect practicing Muslim in thanks to God for ridding us of this curse. Recommend

  • Ateek FreeGaza
    Jul 29, 2010 - 6:20PM

    Its good but it is actually to ban Jama’at e islami in B’desh, whatever good decission.Recommend

  • Bibi
    Jul 29, 2010 - 6:59PM

    Bangla Desh,
    Keep up the good work.Recommend

  • Deee Haider :)
    Jul 29, 2010 - 7:14PM

    This super news… wish we could get rid of all of them from Pakistan too…

    Even CIA also don’t need them anymore so these religious parties can be banned. No?Recommend

  • Faseeha
    Jul 29, 2010 - 7:23PM

    Excellent. Faith in Allah is a personal element and it cannot be enforced or secularized by temporal constitutions.
    Constitutions with religious clauses give the clergy inroads to power. Instead of preaching the people to worship God and serve humanity; the clergy get into the battle for power.
    I hope the Pakistani legislators also adopt such measures. Our generations will be indebted to the present assembly if such steps are taken. Recommend

  • Zarghun Khan
    Jul 29, 2010 - 7:49PM

    Bangladesh is a great nation. Its sole aim is to better the lives of common Bengalis. Its strength is that “Bangladesh belongs to Bengalis”. It does not face identity problem.

    Pakistan is a different case. It derives its identity from the “ideology of Islam”. So it can never ban religious political parties because that will be in conflict with its very foundation.

    So my friends, be ready to live in the “Islamic Republic”, offer your prayers five times a day, grow beards, observe fasting, hate shia if you are Sunni and hate sunni if you are shia, hate the demned infidels, work with dedication for the establishment of a universal islamic caliphate, help your muslim brethren in Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir or anywhere in the world in their Jihad against the infidels, and wait for paradise where you will own dozens of virgins and lots of wine and honey – rivers of them flowing in your quarter of paradise.

    Your current miserable existance which is characterized by poverty, disease, illiteracy and suicide bombings is not a problem because this will pass anyway when you die. God almighty is just testing your endurance. If you endure these miseries with patience and resolve, you will pass the test and will find a place in paradise.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahsan Khan
    Jul 29, 2010 - 9:02PM

    It is a good step in the right direction. To make Bangladesh a secular state they should ban the religion (Islam) in the State Affair (The system of Government) as well.
    Otherwise this banning of the religious political parties, itself is a political act. It is simply to keep the opposition parties out of the power sharing. Recommend

  • Tilsim
    Jul 29, 2010 - 11:38PM

    Congratulations to Bangladesh!!! What a wonderful moment. Now muslims there can get their self-respect back from those who distort the religion in the blind, unscrupulous and violent pursuit of power.Recommend

  • Happy
    Jul 29, 2010 - 11:53PM

    Bangla Desh,

    I wish this could be done in PAKISTAN also..
    so that we could get rid of some perennially present leaders of Deeni Jamaats in Govt…and some others who are always on fringe and trying to enter the govt….
    we don’t need mixing of religious parties with Politics….Recommend

  • Rahmat Bano
    Jul 30, 2010 - 1:03AM

    “Islamic parties cannot use religion in politics any more.”
    How most Pakistanis pine and long for this to happen here. Dragging religion into the steamy world of politics does a dis-service to religion. The moral corruption and rampart leg pulling in politics gives religion an unwanted character, which repels most peace loving and spiritual Muslims. The purpose of religion is to worship The Almighty and serve humanity; ‘political religion’ drifts us away from this. The dazzling of power, the trappings of undue financial gain and the striving for worldly status is against the true spirit of Islam the religion of submission. The learned ulemas should stick to their track and let politics and affairs of the state be handled lowly humans. Recommend

  • Kamal ud Deen
    Jul 30, 2010 - 8:22AM

    The separation of the state and religion is a fundamental requirement for taking Pakistan out of the sink hole of intolerance and bigotry. Recommend

  • Riaz
    Jul 30, 2010 - 3:16PM

    VERY GOOD DECISION OF SC OF BANGAL! I salute SC over historical decision and hope Pakistan to make such decision.Recommend

  • Amin m
    Jul 30, 2010 - 6:31PM


  • Aug 2, 2010 - 6:42PM

    and here is supreme court of pakistan making theocratic provisions of constitution untouchable by calling them fundamental features of constitutionRecommend

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Aug 2, 2010 - 10:53PM

    Can we have a similar law in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Aug 3, 2010 - 9:23PM

    Well, this might be interesting to some of you :

  • Shahjahan Bhatti
    Aug 4, 2010 - 11:41AM

    Excellent ! Bangladesh has good educated leadership. I suggest them to make best use of technology to become a model for other Muslim countries. Space science and nanotechnology can lead Bangladesh to sky. Wish you all the best. You are lucky that you got good leadership. Recommend

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