The government ‘continued to discriminate’ against religious minority groups in property disputes and ‘did not adequately protect’ them from attacks, says a US report quoting minority groups in Bangladesh.
‘The government did not adjudicate any of the more than one million pending restitution cases involving land seized from Hindus declared to be enemies of the state before the country’s independence,’ says the report.
There were a significant number of ‘attacks’ against religious minorities, particularly Hindus in 2016, it claimed.
The US Department of State released the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday, a copy of which the news agency obtained from Washington early Wednesday.
In October, hundreds of villagers in the eastern part of the country vandalised more than 50 Hindu families’ homes and 15 Hindu temples, following a Facebook post believed by some to be offensive to Islam, the US report claimed.
High levels of election-related violence in June resulted in the death of 126 individuals and injuries to 9,000 others, it noted.
In one attack in a suburb of Dhaka, the report quoting media reports said, hundreds of attackers used sticks and bamboo poles to beat a group of Catholics and vandalise their homes and shops, injuring around 60 people.
The US report mentioned that terrorist organisations claimed responsibility for a significant number of attacks, many of them fatal, against multiple religious minorities.
There were at least 24 individuals killed in these attacks including members of the country’s Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and other minority communities, it said.
‘Terrorist groups also targeted religious converts, Shia, and individuals who engaged in activities deemed atheistic. On July 1, five militants attacked a restaurant in Dhaka, targeting mostly non-Muslims; 24 were killed, including two police officers,’ reads the executive summary of the report’s Bangladesh section.
Individuals and groups, it claimed, continued to threaten bloggers and other individuals for offending Islam; attackers claiming affiliation with al-Qaida killed one blogger on April 6.
In meetings with government officials and in public statements, the US Ambassador and other embassy representatives spoke out against acts of violence in the name of religion and encouraged the government to uphold the rights of minority religious groups and to foster a climate of diversity and tolerance, the report reads.
The US embassy ‘publicly condemned the attacks’ against members of religious minorities and called on the government to bring those responsible to justice.
During his visit to the country in December, the US ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom also raised these concerns with government interlocutors.
The ambassador and embassy staff met with local government officials, civil society members, nongovernmental organizations, and religious leaders to underscore the importance of religious tolerance and to explore the link between religion and violent extremism, said the report.
The embassy coordinated with other foreign missions to promote religious tolerance, identifying support mechanisms for threatened secular bloggers, and providing humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Muslim fleeing Burma.
The constitution, in Bangladesh, designates Islam as the state religion but upholds the principle of secularism. It prohibits religious discrimination and provides for equality for all religions.
Parliament enacted a new law further regulating groups receiving foreign funding, including religious organisations.
The government provided guidance to imams throughout the country on some aspects of the content of their sermons in an effort to prevent support of militancy and said it would monitor mosques for provocative messaging.
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