Religion in Bangladesh

religion in the country

Islam is the state religion of Bangladesh by article 2A of the constitution, however "the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions". As per 2011 census Muslims constitute over 88.02% of the population, while Hindus constitute 8.5% and remaining rest constitute 3℅. A survey in late 2003 confirmed that religion is the first choice by a citizen for self-identification. The Constitution denominates Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism.


  • During my school years in the 1980s, religion was a matter of personal choice. No one batted an eyelid if you chose not to fast during Ramadan. Today, eat in public during the holiday and you may be chided by strangers. Thanks to shows on cable TV, social media and group meetings, Islamists have succeeded to an alarming degree in painting secularism as a threat to Islam.
    • AHMED, K. ANIS (3 February 2017). "Bangladesh's Creeping Islamism". New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2017. [1]
  • The enthusiastic soldiers, who, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, spread the faith of Islam among the timid race of Bengal, made forcible conversions by the sword, and, penetrating the dense forests of the Eastern frontier, planted the crescent in the villages of Sylhet. Tradition still preserves the names of Adam Shahid, Shah Halal Mujarrad, and Karmfarma Sahib, as three of the most successful of these enthusiasts.
    • Barbosa, Duarte, The Book of Duarte Barbosa, Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they.
  • In early 1964, there were bloody riots once more in East Pakistan between the majority and the minorities. The past six, seven years, the Muslims had been pestering the Adibasis .... a stream of refugees had ensued ... a mad anti-Hindu propaganda egged on the Muslims in East Pakistan, also against the Christians. It was the first time that Christians were systematically chase out from there.
    • Robert Houthaeve, in his biography of Father Herman Rasschaert: Recht, al Barstte de Wereld, p. 276, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 373-4
  • After 1971, East Bengal made a fresh start as a secular state, and many refugees returned in the hope of a decent life. But soon Islamization policies returned to the country, along with discriminations and pogroms against the minorities. Consequently, Hindus as well as Christians and Buddhists from Bangladesh have gradually moved to India. This picture is muddied a bit by the seemingly parallel but actually quite distinct phenomenon of mass Muslim emigration from Bangladesh to India for purely economic reasons. Estimates approved by the Indian government put the number of Bangladeshi Muslims illegally staying in India at over 20 million. Most border regions of West Bengal and the North-Eastern states, originally allotted to India rather than to East Pakistan precisely because they had Hindu majorities, now have large Muslim majorities. Hindus are under pressure to leave there, too. [...] But meanwhile, the stark fact is that the continuous trickle of Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh is not reciprocated by a symmetrical phenomenon of Muslim flight from India. On the contrary, even in BJP-ruled India, even in Mumbai a.k.a. Shiv Sena City, there is a continuous influx of Bangladeshi Muslim fortune-seekers. They vote with their feet to refute Mira Kamdar's alarmist stories.
    • Elst, Koenraad The Problem with Secularism (2007)
  • The atrocities perpetrated by the police and the military on the innocent Hindus, especially the Scheduled Castes of Habibgarh in the District of Sylhet deserve description. Innocent men and women were brutally tortured, some women ravished, their houses raided and properties looted by the police and the local Muslims. Military pickets were posted in the area. The military not only oppressed these people and took away stuff forcibly from Hindu houses, but also forced Hindus to send their women-folk at night to the camp to satisfy the carnal desires of the military. This fact also I brought to your notice. You assured me of a report on the matter, but unfortunately no report was forthcoming. ... An instance of callous and cold-blooded brutality is furnished by the incident that took place on December 20, 1949 in Kalshira under P.S. Mollarhat in the District of Khulna. ... The police constable entered into the house and assaulted the wife of Joydev Brahma whose cry attracted her husband and a few companions who escaped from the house. They became desperate, re-entered the house, found 4 constables with one gun only. That perhaps might have encouraged the young men who struck a blow on an armed constable who died on the spot. ... the assailants fled and the intelligent neighbours also fled away. But the bulk of the villagers remained in their houses as they were absolutely innocent and failed to realise the consequence of the happening. Subsequently, the S.P., the military and armed police began to beat mercilessly the innocents of the entire village, encouraged the neighbouring Muslims to take away their properties. A number of persons were killed and men and women were forcibly converted. House-hold deities were broken and places of worship desecrated and destroyed. Several women were raped by the police, military and local Muslims. Thus a veritable hell was let loose not only in the village of Kalshira which is 1-1/2 miles in length with a large population, but also in a number of neighbouring Namahsudra villages.
    • Excerpted from the resignation letter of J. N. Mandal, Minister for Law and Labour, Government of Pakistan, October 8, 1950. [2] [3]
  • During my nine days' stay at Dacca, I visited most of the riot-affected areas of the city and suburbs. ... The news of the killing of hundreds of innocent Hindus in trains, on railway lines between Dacca and Narayanganj, and Dacca and Chittagong gave me the rudest shock. ... I reached Barisal town and was astounded to know of the happenings in Barisal. In the District town, a number of Hindu houses were burnt and a large number of Hindus killed. I visited almost all riot-affected areas in the District. ... At the Madhabpasha Zamindar's house, about 200 people were killed and 40 injured. A place, called Muladi, witnessed a dreadful hell. At Muladi Bandar alone, the number killed would total more than three hundred, as was reported to me by the local Muslims including some officers. I visited Muladi village also, where I found skeletons of dead bodies at some places. I found dogs and vultures eating corpses on he river-side. I got the information there that after the whole-scale killing of all adult males, all the young girls were distributed among the ringleaders of the miscreants. At a place called Kaibartakhali under P.S. Rajapur, 63 persons were killed. Hindu houses within a stone's throw distance from the said thana office were looted, burnt and inmates killed. All Hindu shops of Babuganj Bazar were looted and then burnt and a large number of Hindus were killed. From detailed information received, the conservative estimate of casualties was placed at 2,500 killed in the District of Barisal alone. Total casualties of Dacca and East Bengal riot were estimated to be in the neighbourhood of 10,000 killed. The lamentation of women and children who had lost their all including near and dear ones melted my heart. I only asked myself "What was coming to Pakistan in the name of Islam."
    • Excerpted from the resignation letter of J. N. Mandal, Minister for Law and Labour, Government of Pakistan, October 8, 1950. [4] [5]
  • A 1992 report prepared by B.B. Dutta for the North-Eastern Congr­ess Coordination Com­mittee meeting in Guwahati looked into both types of im­migration and notes: "Between 1971 and 1981, Bangladesh census records show a reduc­tion of 39 lakhs in the minority population. "Between 1981-89, 36 lakh religious minorities were missing from that coun­try.
    • Elst, K. The demographic Siege, 1998.
  • After independence, the Islamic persecution of Hindus has continued in different degrees of intensity, in Pakistan, Bangla Desh and Kashmir (as well as heavy discrimination in Malaysia). This is not the place for detailing these facts, which the international media have been ignoring completely. What may cut short all denials of this continued pestering of Hindus in Muslim states, are the resulting migration figures: in 1948, Hindus formed 23% of the population of Bangla Desh (then East Pakistan), in 1971 the figure was down to 15%, and today it stands at about 8%. No journalist or human rights body goes in to ask the minority Hindus for their opinion about the treatment they get from the Muslim authorities and populations; but they vote with their feet.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Negationism in India: concealing the record of Islam.
  • “As far as East Pakistan is concerned, its decision seems to indicate that all non-Muslims will be driven out from there. It is an Islamic state….non-Muslims cannot live there…”
    • Lal Bahadur Shastri Shastri as having told Parliament in 1964, during a discussion on refugees from Pakistan,
    • In speeches to Parliament, PM Modi quotes Nehru, Ambedkar, Shastri on welcoming Hindu refugees. February 7, 2020 [6]
  • Over the past 45 years… Bangladeshi Hindus, together with other religious and ethnic minority communities, are undergoing rapid decline. Since 1947, after the partition of India, Bangladeshi minority communities have suffered a systematic ethnic cleansing cycle that has dropped their population from 23 percent (in 1951) to 9 percent (in 2017). The current Hindu population of about 13 million is far short of the number one should expect based on population growth rates. The rate of minority population decrease has accelerated in recent years, and several districts of Bangladesh are now witnessing the decrease of their Hindu population in absolute numbers.... Looting and burning of households, destruction of temples and religious idols, murder, rape, forced religious conversion, illegal occupation of property, extortion, threats to family structures and other soft and hard intimidations are reducing well-to-do households to paupers and forcing this population across the border to India. With the recent rise of political and militant Islam and its appeasement by the government, the possibility of Bangladesh turning into a monolithic Islamic country looms on the horizon. After 1971, at no time has the existential threat to the Hindu community been as great as it is now.
    • Report, UN Office of the High Commissioner, Human Rights (OHCHR), on the treatment and demographic depletion of Bangladesh’s minorities in 2017. [7] as quoted in [8]
  • Similar circumstances cause the decline of Hindu population in Bangladesh. After the 2001 general election in Bangladesh, the winning pro-Islam Bangladesh Nationalist Party, allied with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Party, unleashed a wave of persecution—including humiliation, torture, rape and even murder—of Hindus for supporting the defeated somewhat-secular Awamy League Party. One investigative report in the leading Daily Star newspaper in Dhaka documented nearly 1,000 rapes of Hindu women in the district of Bhola alone. The victims ‘included eight-year-old Rita Rani and seventy-year-old Paru Bala.’dcxlviii This pogrom forced an estimated 500,000 Hindus to flee Bangladesh and take refuge in India in the aftermath of the 2001 election.
    • M.A. Khan , Islamic Jihad: A legacy of forced conversion, imperialism and slavery (2011), quoting Harrowing tales of depravity, Daily Star (Dhaka), 10 November 2001, Lundström J (2006) Rape as Genocide under International Criminal Law, The Case of Bangladesh, Global Human Rights Defense, Lund University, p. 29-30
  • Haig writes that “it is evident, from the numerical superiority in Eastern Bengal of the Muslims… that at some period an immense wave of proselytization must have swept over the country and it is most probable that the period was the period of Jalaluddin Muhammad (converted son of Hindu Raja Ganesh) during whose reign of seventeen years (1414-1431)… hosts of Hindus are said to have been forcibly converted to Islam”.81 With regard to these conversions, Dr. Wise writes that “the only condition he offered were the Koran or death… many Hindus fled to Kamrup and the jungles of Assam, but it is nevertheless probable that more Muhammadans were added to Islam during these seventeen years (1414-31) than in the next three hundred years”.
    • About the history of religion in Eastern Bengal. Wolseley Haig, C.H.I., III, p. 267. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6, also in K.S. Lal , Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973) 175 ff.
  • But Bengal, especially eastern Bengal, calls for a special study, for Bengal did not lie on the route of the Muslim invaders, Nor did it form a base of operations for further conquests into India as were Punjab and Sind. But Bengal was another region where the rise of Muslim population was rapid, and probably in the medieval period itself eastern Bengal especially began to have a majority of Muslim Population. An explanation for this phenomenon has posed a Problem before scholars and demographers.
    • K.S. Lal , Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973) 174


Lajja by Taslima Nasrin
  • In the Daoudkandhi subdistrict of Comilla district, village Sabahaw, on 8 February 1979, at least four hundred people from neighbouring villages attacked a group of Hindu sages who were living there. They had yelled as they swept down on the sages, ‘The government has declared Islam as the national religion. So, if you wish to stay in an Islamic State you must become Muslims, and if you don’t then it will be best for you to leave this country.’ The holy men had looked on helplessly as their homes were looted and their temples were destroyed. Many of them were captured and taken away and some hadn't returned to this day. The women were brutally raped and tortured, and some of the people who were attacked had never recovered completely.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • In the same year on 27 May, in Baulakandha village of Kaukhali subdistrict in Pirozepur district, about ten or twelve armed people attacked the home of the Haldars. They demolished the house, destroyed the templeand chanted that all Hindus should be killed and all temples should be broken up and converted into mosques. They left with the warning that all Hindus should leave the country immediately.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • On 16 June in Atghar village of Swarupkathi, Pirozepur district, about ten or twelve policemen, captured Gouranga Mondol, Nagendra Mondol, Amulya Mondol, Subodh Mondol, Sudhir Mondol, Hirendranath Mondol, Jahar Deuri—a total of sixteen Hindus. Later they were all dragged into Gouranga Mondol’s home where they were beaten up in the courtyard. When Gouranga Mondol’s wife, Benu, had tried to stop them the policemen took her into the house and took turns raping her. The other women in the house who tried to come to her aid were all harassed and insulted. Sanatan Mondol’s daughter, Rina, was also forcefully raped, and later abducted. Rina had still not been found.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • Hindu homes in Gopalgunj, Kotalipara, Maksadpur and other parts of the Gopalgunj district were victims of theft, dacoity, looting, forcible occupation, illegal lawsuits, forgery, rape, and general all round mayhem. Temples in the area were destroyed and the police forces actively helped in the persecution of the Hindus.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • The chairman of the Kotalipara subdistrict, set his henchmen loose on Hindu women in Mandra Lakhinpar village of Kushala Lakhinpar in broad daylight. These thugs extorted money and valuables from the Hindu residents of Motherbari, Lakhirpar, Ghagharbazaar, Khejurbari and forced their terrorized victims to sign documents that made over all their goods to their assailants. Hindus began leaving these areas and the trickle became a flood after Mrs Bhoumick of Kotalipara’s Sonali Bank was assaulted and Mamata and Madhu of Kandigraam were raped.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • On the same night, the policemen looted the house of the village schoolmaster, Amulya-babu. On the 4th, the police attacked the house of Kshitish Mondol of Surigati. None of the men of the house were around so they raped Mondol's wife and daughter. In the same village, policemen raided the house of Shyamal Biswas on the 5th. Unable to find Shyamal-babu at his home, they raped his daughter and then made off with all the valuables.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • The Chief of the Education Department of Gopalgunj was notorious for enticing Hindu women with the promise of jobs,and when they took the bait, raping them. Two women of the Biswas household in Demakoyir village were raped in this manner. The same person, by threatening to transfer Hindu schoolmagers and teachers, managed to amass a fair amount of money from them in the form of bribes.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • In the same year, on 12 August, in many more Hindu homes, similar atrocities were perpetrated by the police and young Muslim hooligans. Some temples were also destroyed in the process. Ashutosh Roy, Sukumar Roy, Monoranjan Roy, Anjali Roy, Suniti Roy, Bela Biswas were tortured. The marauders said before they left that no temple would be left standing in this country.
    • 43-50 Day Two
  • Manju Rani Seal, a student in the ninth standard and the daughter of Premanand Seal of Dakshin Chandpur village (in Laksam subdistrict in the Comilla district), was abducted at 8 p.m, on the evening of 4 December 1988, by Abdur Rahim and his goons. A case was registered the next day at the Laksam police station by her distraught family. There is still no trace of Manju Rani. Her abductors threatened Premanand Seal and his family but the police took no action when informed. Hindu families in the area are now terrified of sending their daughters to school.
    • 46-48, Chapter "Day Two"
  • Hindus from Siddhirpasha village of Abhoynagar subdistrict (in Jessore district) were selling land worth twenty thousand takas per bigha at eight thousand takas and fleeing to India. This was after the passing of the National Religion Bili; there was a rumourin the village that Hindus would not be able to sell their land and property. Madhab Nandi told his fellow Hindu villagers to ignore the rumour. A few days later, around adozen armed people raided his house in the middle of the night and raped his young daughter and daughter-in-law who was seven months pregnant.
    • 48, Chapter "Day Two"
  • On 12and 16 August 1988, some policemen accompanied by a gang of armed thugs raided the village of Garibpur in Chitalmari subdistrict (of Bagerhaat). They disfigured the idols of the local temple and raped the girls of the village. When they left they took around twenty-five of the village youth captive. The young men were thrashed mercilessly and released only after a ransom was paid. Narayan Bairagi, Sushanto Dhali, Anukul Baroyee, Ranjan Dhali, and Jagdish Bairagi were kept in custody for a long time.
    • 48, Chapter "Day Two"
  • In Parkumira village of Tala subdistrict in Satkhira, Rabindranath Ghosh’s young daughter, Chhanda, a third standard student, was raped by her schoolteacher on 16 May 1979. On that night, Chanda was asleep in the veranda of her house along with the rest of the family. In the middle of the night, her schoolteacher abducted her with the help of some young hooligans. They took the terrified little girl to a garden nearby and raped her. The next morning, Chhanda was found unconscious in a pool of blood and was rushed to the Satkhira Hospital. Although a case was filed against the perpetrators in the Tala police station, no one was arrested.
    • 48-49, Chapter "Day Two"
  • It was no secret that the victimization of the Hindus had begun long before the riots in 1990 and the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Suranjan remembered that in 1979, on the morning of 21 April, the idol of the Goddess Kali in the historic temple at Saheb Bazaar in Rajshahi district was smashed to pieces by a person called Ayub Ali. After breaking down the temple, the shops of Hindu owners were also destroyed. There were other instances of mayhem visited on the Hindus:
  • On16 April 1979, in the Ramgopal area of Shailakupa subdistrict (of the Jhinaidaha district) the famous statue of Ramgopal in the Ramgopal temple was stolen. The mutilated idol was later found beside the Shailakupa graveyard; its gold and silver ornaments were missing.
  • The Jaigopalhaat Kali temple of Purna Lalangar village in Sitakunda was razed to the ground.
  • In Uttar Chandgaon, the image in the Kuraisha Chandgaon Durgabari was destroyed.
  • Two months after the National Religion Bill was passed, an image made of touchstone and the ornaments that adorned it were stolen from Dakshindihi village of Phultala in Khulna district. When the temple committee's secretary went to the Phultala police station to make a statement on the losses, the police detained and tortured him. A warrant for the arrest of all the committee members was issued. When the district Assistant Superintendent of Police went to further investigate the case, he accused the Hindu residents of the area of stealing the idol.
    • 56, "Day Three"
  • On the night of 8 December, in the Dwimukha village of Kalihati subdistrict in Tangail, a raid was made on an ancient temple. A marble Shiv lingam, the images of Annapurna and Radha-gobinda and a Shaligram (ammonite stone worshipped as Narayan) were all stolen. When the police arrived, they were told that Noor Muhammad Talukdar was responsible for the thefts, but the police made no efforts to recover the stolen goods.
  • On 11 March, in the Lalmohon subdistrict of Bhola, at the Sri Sri Madan Mohon gymnasium, devotional songs were being sung in praise of God, when hundreds of people attacked the place. They stormed into the temple, smashed the image of the goddess, and beat up the devotees who were present. After this all the temples in Duttapara were raided; the images of the goddesses were destroyed and the by now familiar pattern of looting and arson followed.
  • In Bortia village of Ghior in Manikgunj, it was decided that the grave of Advocate Jillur Ahmed as well as a mosque, would be constructed next to the Sri Sri Kali temple which was more than ahundred years old, a plan that, if implemented, was bound to disturb the prayers of the Hindus.
  • Also, in the Muhammadpur union of the Chotkhali subdistrict of Noakhali, the Muslims were planning to convert an ancient Kali temple into a commercial complex.
  • In the Ghazipur Municipal Corporation's Phaukal village, on the night of 26 May, the Lakshmi temple was raided and the image of the goddess destroyed.
    • 56-58, "Day Three"
  • ‘Kajal-da, what else has been happening in the country?” Suranjan asked, in order to get away from Maya as a topic.
    Kajal Debnath looked up at the ceiling, blew outsome cigarette smoke and said, ‘28,000 houses, 2,700 commercial establishments, and 3,600 temples have been damaged or destroyed and twelve people have died. There has been damage worth two billion takas! Village after village has been destroyed. Forty-three districts have been affected. Two thousand six hundred women have been molested. Among those temples that have been damaged beyond repair is the Gouranga Mahaprabhu temple, more than five hundred years old, in the southern part of Sylhet. An ancient Kalibari, many hundred of years old, was destroyed in Baniachong. Also damaged were Kaibolyadhaam and Tulsidhaam in Chittagong, the Madanmohon gym at Bhola and the Ramakrishna Missions at Sunamgunj and Faridpur respectively.’
    Suranjan asked, ‘Hasn't the government offered any help?’
    ‘No. Not only has the government not helped, they have not allowed other organizations to help either. However, there are a few private organizations that have offered help. Thousands and thousands of people have been rendered homeless, and are out in the open without food or hardly any clothes. The girls who were raped have either become so traumatized that they cannot even speak or there is no trace of them, Businessmen have lost everything. Despite that they are being squeezed for whatever little they have left. In Barisal, 750 million takas worth of property was destroyed; in Chittagong 200 million, a 100 million in Dhaka, while in Khulna and Rajshahi the damages were worth ten million each. Altogether there has been 1,070 billion takas worth of losses. If commercial establishments are included, a further 220 million takas have gone down the drain. The destruction of mandirs alone has cost us 570 million takas. ’
    ‘Oh I can’t bear it anymore, I just can’t.’
    • Day Nine, 188-89

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