Leaders of four major religions have vowed to unite and promote religious harmony as part of efforts to combat a sharp rise in religious extremism and militancy in Bangladesh. The pledge came at an interfaith conference organized by Bangladesh police in Dhaka on April 28. The gathering brought together about 1,500 people, mostly leaders from Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist communities.
Since 2013, a number of secularist writers, bloggers and publishers in Bangladesh have been killed or seriously injured in attacks perpetrated by Islamist extremists. The attacks have taken place at a time of growing tension between Bangladeshi secularists, who want the country to maintain its secularist tradition of separation of religion and state, and Islamists, who want an Islamic state. The US Commission has written to the Secretary of State seeking Humanitarian Parole for Bangladeshi Writers.
Pakistan civil society activists light candles outside the French consulate in Karachi on Nov. 15, as they condemned the deadly attacks in Paris. (Photo by AFP)
While the detention of eight suspected members of the group that calls itself the Islamic State in Malaysia on Jan. 22, following the deadly bomb attacks in Jakarta earlier this month, confirmed the arrival of the terrorist group in Southeast Asia, it had already been murderously active in the South Asian countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Islam dominates in Bangladesh, with Muslims comprising about 90 percent of the country’s 160 million people. Hindus represent about 8 percent, while Christians and Buddhists represent only a small percentage of the population.