Religious Issues in Bangladesh

Religion in Bangladesh is a sensitive issue, mostly because Bangladesh is officially a secular state but recognizes Islam as an official, state religion. Historically and doctrinally, Islamic scholars don’t accept nations that are secular because they think that religion, society and private life are all part of the great community they like to call ‘umma’.

The main religion in Bangladesh is Islam because it is practiced by almost 90 percent of the country’s population. The rest of 10 percent adhere to Hinduism. The type of Islam that is practiced in Bangladesh is Sunni Islam with a lot of Sufi influences. Sunni is the most numerous branch of Islam in the world. Countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have Sunni majority populations. The Sufi practices that influence the Islamic religion in Bangladesh are commonly known as mysticism. Sufi followers are poor men that don’t eat, don’t drink and spend their days in deep prayer in order to achieve spiritual connection with God.

Bangladesh has the fourth largest Muslim population in the world, with over 130 million followers, right after Indonesia, Pakistan and India. In its constitution, Bangladesh is recognized as a secular state. For a short period of time, when Bangladesh was under Pakistani rule, Islam was made the state’s official religion. But the Supreme Court or High Court of Bangladesh ruled that Bangladesh must return to the principles of the 1972 constitution, meaning that it mustn’t have an official religion.

The problem with Islam gaining too much power in Bangladesh is that it unbalances the genders issues. Islamic edicts or fatwas have been issued mostly against women by religious courts as punishments for their nonreligious behavior. Global NGO’s are fighting such edicts in order to maintain a fair judgment when it comes to men and women. Bangladesh is a country where gender issues, as well as religious issues are very sensitive subjects.