Bangladesh

Muslims (90%, Sunnis), Hindus (9%), Other (1%) (2011).

Bangladesh is a constitutionally secular country with religious freedom. In 1980, Islam was introduced as the state religion, which the Supreme Court revised in 2011 and emphasized the secular principles of the 1972 constitution. The government is trying to allow equality of religions.

Under the Criminal Code, statements or acts made with intentional and malicious intent to insult religious sentiments are subject to a fine and imprisonment for up to two years. Although the Code defines no “intention to offend religious feelings,” the courts have interpreted it as offending the Prophet Muhammad. The Penal Code allows the government to confiscate all copies of newspapers, journals or other publications containing a language that “creates hostility and hatred among citizens or denigrates religious beliefs”. The law applies similar restrictions to online publications.

While there is no law against apostasy in Bangladesh, cases of persecution of apostates are reported. Dozens of atheist and secular Bangladeshis who treat Islam “disrespectfully” have been attacked, including Humayun Azad, the target of a failed machete assassination, and Avijit Roy, who was killed with a machete. Some imams are said to have promoted the killing of converts from Islam.

Since 2013, bloggers, publishers, human rights activists, teachers, doctors and professors have been systematically murdered with machetes.

Responsible for the murder series of secular bloggers is mainly the Ansarullah Bangla team, an extremist group of Muslims who are claimed to be close to El-Quaida.

On the eve of the third such murder in 2015, Sajeeb Wazed, son of the Prime Minister, said: “We are going fine here (We are treading a fine line here?)  … We do not want to be seen as atheists. It does not change our basic beliefs. We believe in secularism. But since our opposition party relentlessly plays the religion card against us, we can not present ourselves ?cannot present ourselves as what? . It’s about perception, not about reality.” (I am not entirely clear of the precise meaning of this section. )

After attacks on bloggers who had accused militant fighters of criticizing Islam, (is this correct? Or were the bloggers the militant fighters?) Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that bloggers “should control their writing … People should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything that any religion “It could not hurt any faith or religious leadership.” I don’t quite follow the German here. ) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed said, “It is not at all acceptable (’absolutely unacceptable’ better here?) for anyone to write against our Prophet or other religions.”

In addition to the killings themselves and the lack of security for all bloggers under threat, police and government officials have threatened to arrest the bloggers for writing about “atheism”. Freethinkers are under threat and many bloggers have fled the country to seek asylum abroad.

In 2015 and 2016, several religious critical intellectuals, LGBTI activists and others perceived as “un-Islamic” were murdered. In addition, two western foreigners were killed. In a terrorist attack on a popular with foreigners restaurant in the state capital Dhaka followed by hostage-taking in July 2016, 20 people were killed, including 18 foreigners. The Islamic State and “Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent” have become known for the attacks, which they claim are still active in Bangladesh. In addition, there is regular intra- and interreligious violence. (German Ministry of Foreign Affair)

On 5 June 2016, alleged extremists killed Mahmuda Khanam Mitu, 30, the wife of the chief constable in Bangladesh’s second-largest city. She was stabbed nine times and shot in the head as she took her son to his school bus stop. At least three attackers escaped on a motorcycle. Mitu is just the second woman to be killed by extremists the same way as the other recent attacks. Her husband, Babul Akter, was recently promoted to his new role following a series of crackdowns on banned Islamist extremist groups such as the Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. Police told the Associated Press that they could not rule out that members of the groups Akter fought had murdered. (Washington Post)

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