OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The constitution designates Islam as the state religion but upholds the principle of secularism. It prohibits religious discrimination and provides for equality for all religions. Family law, enforced in secular courts, contains separate provisions for different religious groups. On the one-year anniversary of October 2021 anti-Hindu communal violence, the government took extra security measures to ensure peaceful celebrations during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. Minority religious groups claimed the government failed to adequately punish perpetrators of the October 2021 violence. When in July a Muslim crowd attacked a predominantly Hindu community in Narail over a Facebook post supposedly insulting Islam, minority religious groups said that security forces failed to protect Hindu victims. Courts convicted and sentenced to prison two members of the banned Islamist organization Jamaat-ul Mujahideen for attacks on the Shia community in 2015.
In February, the High Court asked the government to explain how Hindu family inheritance law, which differentiates between men and women in inheritance, was not illegal under the constitution. In June, a High Court judge said women have the constitutional right to wear a burqa or hijab. In its stated effort to prevent militancy and to monitor mosques for “provocative” messaging, the government continued to provide guidance to imams on the content of their sermons. Minority rights organizations criticized the arbitrary detention of minority community members, often without bail, on what they said were false charges of blasphemy under the Digital Security Act. Members of religious minorities, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, who were sometimes also members of ethnic minorities, continued to say the government was ineffective in preventing communal violence against minority religious communities, and did not protect minorities from forced evictions and land seizures stemming from land disputes.
Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist organizations and local human rights groups said communal violence against religious minority communities continued throughout the year. In March, a mob of hundreds of people damaged the wall of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple in a property dispute over adjacent land. On January 31, unknown attackers killed a Buddhist monk in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). In March, women in Dhaka protested against discrimination they experienced for wearing head and face coverings. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Freedom House and local religious leaders said social media had contributed to an increase in attacks on religious minorities in recent years, as, they said, misinformation frequently went viral and inflamed community tensions against religious minorities. Human rights activists expressed concerns regarding the wellbeing of Hindu and Christian groups in the Muslim-majority refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. In November, the High Court granted a man bail on the condition that he refrain from spreading any more inflammatory material. The man was previously arrested in 2021 for accusing the Muslim advocacy group Hefazat-e-Islam’s joint general secretary Mamunul Haque of damaging communal harmony.
In meetings with government officials, civil society members, religious leaders, and in public statements, the Ambassador, other U.S. embassy representatives, and the Ambassador- at-Large, spoke out against acts of violence in the name of religion and urged the government to uphold the rights of minority religious groups and foster a climate of tolerance. During the year, the Ambassador visited Muslim and Hindu places of worship to reinforce the U.S. commitment to religious diversity and interfaith tolerance. In April, the Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom visited Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar to convey U.S. support for the protection of religious minority communities and to call for better living conditions for Rohingya refugees. In fiscal year 2022, the United States provided over $265 million in humanitarian assistance funding for programs in the country to assist Rohingya refugees (who are overwhelmingly Muslim) from Burma and to assist local host communities. The embassy’s public outreach programs encouraging interfaith tolerance among religious groups continued during the year including. Embassy social media posts in support of religious tolerance.
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