Against the international backdrop of rising religious tensions, this article explores contemporary civil society views on religious freedom in Bangladesh. It uses critical frame analysis of the corpus of civil society organizations’ (CSOs) submissions to the United Nations’ third cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR), 2013–18. It provides a timely assessment of Bangladesh’s fulfilment of international obligations on religious freedom, and shows how the politicization of religion and the resultant conflict between ‘secularism’ and ‘extremism’ have been fuelling inter-communal tensions and religious intolerance. In particular, CSOs’ UPR submissions present powerful accounts of the principal human rights pathology affecting the country today, religious-based violence. This is accompanied by a narrative of police malpractice, judicial failings, discrimination, oppression and incitement. A further key finding is ‘situated knowledge’ or first-hand accounts of legal restrictions and government repression of civil society organizations. Consonant with the classical work of liberal theorists, we argue that unprecedented importance now attaches to safeguarding civil society criticality in order to defend religious freedom and uphold human rights in the Republic.
Journal of Civil Society 16(3) pp 191-215