Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Islamic fundamentalist group Hifazat-e-Islam Bangladesh has threatened retaliation and a general strike if the Supreme Court seriously considers dropping Islam as the state religion.
The judges are currently holding public hearings to decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which makes Islam the state religion.
“Bangladesh is a country where 92 per cent of the people are Muslim. If anybody removes our religion from the constitution, we shall oppose them. If the government and the Supreme Court do it, they will offend our religious sentiment,” said the Hifazat-e-Islam Bangladesh Secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi. Huge mass protest and people will follow with dire consequences.
The leaders of the Islamist group met in Chittagong. At a press conference, they expressed their opposition to the petition brought to the Supreme Court by activists, writers and educators.
The latter base their initiative on the fact that this sectarian element was absent from the country’s first constitution in 1971. The eighth amendment making Islam the state religion came only in 1988.
For their part, fundamentalists call on Muslims to join a mass strike planned for this Friday. “If we become involved in protest over this issue, this government will responsible,” Islamabadi said.
“Millions Muslims will come out to protest against Supreme Court,” he added, “and will punish those who want to drop Islam as the state religion.”
Hifazat and Bangladesh-Islam was founded in 2010 to challenge the government’s secular education policy.
“We abide by the court, but we hope it will not take any decision which will force religious people to take to the streets and cause chaos in the country,” Islamabadi noted.
Others told AsiaNews that the extremists’ warning is "unfortunate." For one Hindu, the Islamists “are blind; they only think of themselves. They do not respect the Supreme Court and want a State of militants."
"Their demands are immoral,” said Rosaline Costa, a Catholic activist. “The party has no legal basis or recognition by the State. Since it made its first public appearance in 2013, it has aroused a lot of controversy because it is fighting against the nation's progress, development and the empowerment of women."
The activist also pointed out that the first constitution signed in 1971 was based "on four pillars. One was the secular state. The eighth amendment was approved instead under the government of the military dictatorship (led by General Hussain Muhammad Ershad), but has never been accepted by the people. Therefore, the question of the legitimacy of this amendment should be settled. The government needs to move forward in its action."