17:39 - March 28, 2016
News ID: 3459409
TEHRAN (IQNA) – Bangladesh’s High Court on Monday rejected a petition brought by secular activists challenging Islam’s status as the country’s official religion.

The petition had threatened to inflame political tensions over the role of Islam in the Muslim-majority country.

Bangladesh’s first constitution, framed after independence in 1971, adopted secularism as one of its main principles, along with socialism. A constitutional amendment in 1988 declared Islam the state religion.

Lawyers for the petitioners, a group of 15 activists, had argued that recognizing Islam as the country’s official religion contradicts the secular nature of the state.

Muslim groups had called for a general strike on Monday, protesting the challenge. The call for action was withdrawn by Muslim political parties after the High Court dismissed the petition following a brief hearing.

The three-member panel of judges said in its ruling that the petitioners had "no locus standi,” a legal term that means the plaintiffs have no grounds for the complaint and haven’t shown that they have been harmed by the law they are seeking to challenge, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The South Asian nation’s population is almost 90% Muslim, with Hindus making up 8% and Christians and other faiths the remaining 2%.

Some lawyers and activists have argued that Article 2A of the constitution, which recognizes Islam as the "religion of the Republic,” contradicts Article 12, which declares secularism to be a principle of the state.

Those who oppose dropping Islam as the state religion point out that Article 2A also says: "The State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions.”

Bangladesh, long cited as an example of a moderate Muslim-majority country, has faced a surge of extremist violence in recent months amid concerns international terrorist networks such as Daesh (ISIL) and al Qaeda are seeking to gain a foothold there. Such groups are exploiting a political vacuum created by the bitter rivalry between the ruling Awami League and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, security analysts in Dhaka say.

Daesh has claimed several attacks on foreigners and religious minorities since September.

The Bangladeshi government has denied that extremist groups such as Daesh are operating in Bangladesh, and has blamed domestic extremist groups instead.

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