Muslim-majority Bangladesh’s ruling party Awami League is in favour of dropping Islam as the state religion at a politically appropriate time.

“Islam has been kept as the state religion for strategic reasons,” Awami League’s Presidium member and former minister Abdur Razzaq told a roundtable in Dhaka on Saturday.

“I have said it abroad and now I am saying it again that Islam will be dropped from Bangladesh’s Constitution when the time comes,” the former food minister said. The roundtable titled ‘Strong Unity of Masses of Bangladesh and India to Prevent Terrorism’ was organized by SAARC Cultural Society at the national Press Club.

Bangladesh has seen a spate of violent attacks against minority Hindus and Christians as well as against secular bloggers in recent times. Also, the courts have sent to the gallows several men involved in violence against minorities in recent times and against nationalists during the country’s liberation war.

Secularism was included in the Constitution of Bangladesh as one of the four basic principles when it was written in 1972 after its independence from Pakistan. The four basic principles were nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism.

However, after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975 and Ziaur Rahman captured power, the word ‘secularism’ was replaced with ‘Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah’.

Another military dictator, H.M. Ershad, later included Islam as the state religion in the Constitution. Several political observers have said that that move of Ershad, whose lifestyle never reflected Islam, was aimed at achieving his political interest in Bangladesh. Over 90 per cent of the population in Bangladesh is Muslim.

After Ershad’s ouster, the demand to drop Islam as state religion from the Constitution was raised several times, but even Awami League did not make the change. In 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina brought back secularism as a pillar of the Constitution, but retained Islam as the state religion.