Dhaka, Bangladesh – Bangladesh’s High Court on Monday rejected a 28-year-old petition calling for the removal of a constitutional provision recognising Islam as the official religion of the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.
The court ruled that the petitioning organisation, the Committee against Autocracy and Communalism, did not have the right to be heard in the court.
Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque, one of the three judges sitting on the bench, said that the court found that “the petitioner does not have locus standi and that is why the petition will be summarily rejected”.
The organisation’s lawyer, Subrata Chowdhury, said that he was “100 percent disappointed” with the decision.
“Without a hearing and without giving us any chance to present our argument on the point of locus standi, the court dismissed the case,” he told Al Jazeera.
Others, however, were pleased with the decision.
Lawyer Maulana MA Raquib, the president of the religious party Nezam-e-Islam who was present in court, said: “This is the decision of the highest court in the land. Islam should be the state religion. The majority of people in this country believe in Islam.”
He argued that having Islam as the state religion would not affect minority religions. “Minorities will not be discriminated against as there is a guarantee in the constitution for the minorities,” he said.
The petition was originally filed in 1988 after the then President Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad declared Islam as the state religion in a symbolic bid to win popular support while major political parties campaigned to oust him from power.
He resigned amid mass protests in 1990.
“We filed the petition then because Bangladesh was founded as a secular state, and having a state religion contradicts the basic structure of the constitution,” Professor Anisuzzaman, one of the leaders of the petitioning organisation, told Al Jazeera.
“The founding fathers of the country wanted to have a secular nation, and all of us during our liberation war subscribed to that and Bangladesh was founded on that basis.”
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