• Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Attacks on minorities increased

US religious freedom report 2013 says on Bangladesh

Diplomatic Correspondent

Hindus and other ethnic and religious minorities in Bangladesh faced increased harassment and physical attacks amid last year's political turmoil, according to a US report.

The 2013 International Religious Freedom Report, released on July 28, said there were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice.

A large number of arson attacks and looting of minority religious sites and private homes took place across the country, especially against the Hindus.

Members of the Sunni Muslim majority at times harassed and physically attacked members of the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Ahmadiyya Muslim minority groups, said the report, done by the US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

The government and many civil society leaders stated that violence against minority groups normally had economic or criminal dimensions, and could not be attributed solely to religious belief or affiliation, it added.

Government officials, including police, were sometimes slow to protect them from violence, and there were several reports of involvement of government-affiliated actors in such violence.

The report quoted religious minority leaders who complained that the ruling party men sometimes instigated such violence for political purposes.

The role of religion in the state played a considerable part in the political disagreements between the major parties, although the definition of Islam as the state religion has not been accompanied by any broad changes in the country's legal framework.

Representatives of religious minorities complained that the government sometimes failed to prevent abuses by nongovernmental actors against them, and police in some instances failed to arrest the perpetrators and the courts failed to administer justice effectively, it said. 

Quoting Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), the report said 495 statues, monasteries, or temples were destroyed; 278 homes and 208 businesses were demolished; 188 persons were injured; and one person was killed during the year.

Local and international press, human rights organisations, and Hindu community leaders blamed Shibir for the attacks. Both the BNP and its ally Jamaat called for the attacks to cease and refused to accept any blame for the violence.

ASK stated that violence by Jamaat supporters had been designed to dissuade the government from conducting further war crimes trials.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, tensions over issues that were not originally religious in nature sometimes acquired religious overtones because many of the inhabitants were Buddhist, Hindu or Christian members of tribal groups.

The International Christian Concern (ICC), an international NGO, stated that a small ring of five to 10 traffickers approached families in the hills, promising to provide Christian educational opportunities to their children.

Published: 12:01 am Friday, August 01, 2014

Last modified: 9:22 pm Friday, August 01, 2014

TAGS: Bangladesh Hindus ethnic religious minorities physical attacks International Religious Freedom Report

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