New research by WISERD Co-Director, Professor Paul Chaney and Dr Sarbeswar Sahoo (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi) analyses civil society organisations’ (CSOs’) perspectives on religious freedom violations in Bangladesh. These have been recently thrown into stark relief following the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 2011 that confirmed Islam as the State religion of the Republic. This has supported the rise of a range of Islamic extremist groups, led to religious radicalization and attacks and threats against religious minorities. Whilst communal tensions are nothing new, of late, they have escalated to unprecedented levels. The reasons for this are not just weak governance or the absence of a strong state, but also the clash of secular and religious ideologies and a government clamp-down on civil society.
Thus the new study provides a timely assessment of Bangladesh’s fulfilment of its international obligations on religious freedom, and shows how the politicisation of religion and the resultant conflict between ‘secularism’ and ‘extremism’ have been fuelling inter-communal tensions and religious intolerance. In particular, civil society organisations present powerful accounts of religious-based violence accompanied by a narrative of police malpractice/ judicial failings, discrimination, oppression and incitement. Consonant with the classical work of liberal theorists, the new publication argues that unprecedented importance now attaches to safeguarding civil society criticality in order to defend religious freedom and uphold human rights in the Republic.
The research is the joint outcome of two studies: Trust, human rights and civil society and Good Governance and Social Justice in India and Bangladesh.