FCO Human Rights Report 2019
No specific mention of FoRB.
APPG Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief 2019
Although the constitution of Bangladesh is secular, and in 2010 the Supreme Court restored secularism as the fundamental component of the constitution, Islam remains the official state religion.
Minorities are concerned about the government’s affiliation with extremist Islamic parties, as they continue to give in to the demands of ultra-religious groups. According to Tasneem Khalil, an atheist blogger living in exile in Sweden, Hefazat-e-Islam Movement asked the government to remove stories and poems from school textbooks and to move a female statue representing justice from the Supreme court and the Government has agreed.
The fact that candidates of Islamic Andolon Bangladesh – a party which aims to establish a Caliphate – are taking part in the elections, holding rallies against the government and growing in popularity demonstrates the power of extremist religious parties in Bangladesh.
Atheists continue to fear persecution as the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed that those who offend Islam, or the Prophet, will be taken to court under ‘Section 295A’ of the penal code. This provision states that any person who has ‘deliberate or malicious’ intent to ‘hurt religious sentiments’ can be imprisoned. It has been used in practice to prosecute and imprison atheist and secularist activists”.
This de-facto blasphemy law has also given rise and justification to targeted vigilante violence against non-religious and minority religious groups. For example, the Christian community has faced violence as a result of false accusations of blasphemy from extremist Islamist groups. The victims of this violence receive no justice as none of the cases have been taken seriously or been properly investigated nor has any perpetrator of violence has been brought to justice.
The 11th general election in Bangladesh in December 2018 was called ‘farcical’ or a ‘debacle’ by the opposition and independent media, as they were held while opposition political candidates were being detained and while there was a huge crackdown against media, activists, students and anyone else critical of the government. The elections turned the country into an authoritarian regime
inclined towards extremist Islamic parties.
Anti-conversion laws remain a point of concern. In December 2018, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom published a special report on anti-conversion laws in South Asia in which it examined laws in Bangladesh, along with other countries in the region. According to the USCIRF Commissioner, these anti-conversion laws support extremists who seek to prevent anyone from leaving the majority religion.
The controversial Information and Communication (ICT) Act that was passed in September 2018 has been criticised as being a significant threat to freedom of expression and those vocal about atrocities committed by the State. It could also be used to further intimidate and harass persecuted religious and non-religious minority groups. This is because Section 57 of the ICT outlines criminal penalties for anyone who “causes to hurt or may hurt religious belief”, thereby creating a de-facto online blasphemy law.
In the UK Parliament, 2020
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