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'Bismillah' and Islam as state religion to stay

PM tells 14-party meet

The words “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim” in the preamble to the constitution and declaration of Islam as state religion will remain as they are, since they reflect the beliefs of the people, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said yesterday.

She was meeting 14-party leaders at her official residence Jamuna. It was the first such meeting since the Awami League-led grand alliance came to office in January last year.

Hasina, also president of AL and chief of the 14-party combine, however said the spirit of the original constitution would be restored with inclusion of the High Court verdict that declared illegal the fifth amendment, said meeting sources.

On the issue of Bismillah and Islam in the constitution, she told the leaders they must accept the reality.

The matter came up when an alliance leader suggested that the 1972 constitution be restored to uphold secularism.

The fifth amendment incorporated “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful) into the preamble and the eighth amendment gave Islam the status of state religion.

The Supreme Court on Sunday vacated its stay on the HC verdict on the fifth amendment, which legitimises the regimes between August 15, 1975, and April 9, 1979.

At yesterday's meeting, the prime minister stressed the need for strengthening the 14-party coalition, formed during the BNP-Jamaat coalition rule.

She endorsed the alliance leaders' proposal for holding meetings of the combine regularly.

Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, AL presidium member and deputy leader of the House, was made coordinator of the coalition.

The leaders resolved to bring the war criminals to book as early as possible, and to help the government achieve its goals.

Briefing newsmen afterwards, AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam said they have decided to meet regularly from now on.

The top leaders of the coalition discussed the government's activities in last one year. They praised the way Hasina has been leading the government, added Ashraf, also LGRD and cooperatives minister.

Later, the prime minister hosted a dinner for the alliance leaders to mark the occasion of the grand alliance's one year in office.

Those present included JP leaders HM Ershad, Rawshan Ershad, Anisul Islam Mahmud, Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu and Ruhul Amin Hawlader, Worker Party President Rashed Khan Menon, General Secretary Bimal Biswas, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haque Inu, General Secretary Syed Zafar Sazzad, Samyabadi Dal President Dilip Barua, Islami Oikya Jote Chairman Misbaur Rahman Chowdhury and Islamic Front Bangladesh leader Shaikh Khandaker Golam Mowla.

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If Islam becomes the state religion of Bangladesh, it will be difficult to maintain a balance between religion and secularism. The present administration think seriously before it declares that the state religion of Bangladesh is Islam and the country remains secular. If the state religion is Islam, the country is Islamic Republic. Let the country decide whether Bangladesh will be secular or religion-based state. The people should be given the right to decide that. A Referendum? May be.

It should also be made clear that nobody will be allowed to use religion for his own purpose.

: Mobaidul Huq

I think it is a violation of a secular state philosophy and the government should stick to its original constitution declared at the time of creation of Bangladesh . To gain sympathy to religious groups for their votes and keep some of Islamist parties in its Grand Alliance , the Govt. is flirting to these people , but missing one important point . Bangladesh is no longer a secular state .

: Manzoor Husain Sarkar





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