Hasina wants Islam as Bangladesh state religion
Dhaka: Bangladesh's ruling Awami League would like to retain Islam as the state religion but wants all religions to enjoy equal rights, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.
In a reversal of a policy laid down by her late father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh to freedom, Hasina said she favoured retaining "Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim" above the preamble of the Constitution.
The 1972 Constitution had secularism as one of its pillars. This was removed after Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975. Bangladesh is now an Islamic republic, with 90 percent of its people being Muslims.
Hindus constitute about nine percent and indigenous tribals follow Buddhism. There is a sprinkling of Christians.
Hasina told the media after a two-hour meeting with the parliamentary committee that her party "is not against having Islam as state religion".
She suggested that the Constitution should have "provision for ensuring equal rights to people of other religions", The Daily Star reported on Wednesday.
Hasina also said her party was against banning religion-based political parties but it wanted some restrictions on them.
This is the first time a Prime Minister appeared before a parliamentary committee that is reviewing the Constitution in the light of a Supreme Court verdict last year that annulled several amendments brought about during 1975-90 when Bangladesh was a military-ruled nation.
Jatiya Party, a major component of the Hasina-led ruling alliance, wanted the state religion to be retained.
But the Left leaning Workers Party, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Ganotanri Party and National Awami Party strongly opposed the Jatiya Party proposal.