01/07/2010, 00.00
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Government backs Supreme Court decision banning Islam-based parties

by William Gomes
Justice minister says decision to be confirmed in appeal. Fundamentalists protest; Islamic leader calls ruling a conspiracy, announces a "mass movement" to reinstate amendment.
Dhaka (Asia News) – The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld a decision by the High Court banning religion-based parties, Justice Minister Shafique Ahmed said. This makes the fifth amendment to the constitution null and void. The latter had enabled Islamist parties to emerge.

The minister said that the ruling "will force religious parties of Bangladesh to drop religion from their name”. At present, about 12 parties refer to Islam, including the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, an important ally of the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Meanwhile protests by various Islamic parties who oppose the court ruling continue.

The minister's remarks have in fact added fuel to the fire of opposition, with demonstrations by the country's Islamist fringe escalating.

Amir Mufti Syed Rezaul Karim, head of the Islami Andalon Bangladesh (IAB), called the decision a "clear conspiracy against Islam", and plans a "mass movement" to reinstate the amendment.

In 2009, police and elite security forces arrested 600,000 people, including 518 terrorists or individuals affiliated to extremist organisations with close ties to Islamist parties represented in parliament.

The terrorists were planning to attack the US Embassy, churches and sensitive places in neighbouring India.

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