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Bangladeshis Protest Against Ending Islam as State Religion

  • Associated Press

Bangladeshi activists of various Islamic political groups and other Muslims stage a rally after Friday prayers in Dhaka, March 25, 2016, to denounce a court petition seeking to remove Islam as state religion.

Bangladeshi activists of various Islamic political groups and other Muslims stage a rally after Friday prayers in Dhaka, March 25, 2016, to denounce a court petition seeking to remove Islam as state religion.

Thousands of Muslims rallied in Bangladesh's capital on Friday to denounce a court petition seeking to remove Islam as the country's official state religion.

About 3,000 Muslims protested outside the national mosque in Dhaka against the petition, filed by a group of prominent citizens, which is to be taken up by the High Court on Sunday.

"We are here to give a message to authorities that we will not tolerate any move to cancel Islam as state religion," said Abdur Rahim, a participant. "We will resist such moves at any cost."

More than 90 percent of Bangladesh's 160 million people are Muslim. Hindus and Buddhists are the main religious minorities.

The protest, which began after weekly Friday prayers, was organized by the citizens' group Touhidi Janata and the Islamist group Hefajat-e-Islam. No large political parties were involved.

Military dictator H.M. Ershad declared Islam the state religion in 1988 to win support during a campaign by major political parties to oust him from power. He resigned amid large protests in 1990.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina brought back secularism as a pillar of the constitution in 2011, but retained Islam as the state religion.

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