There were five times more incidences of violent abuse against religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh in 2016 than in 2015, according to a report from the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist & Christian Unity Council – the country’s largest minority rights forum.
“Our prime minister and political leaders say that they are concerned about the security of minorities, but it seems hollow as minorities continue to face violence and are denied justice. Bangladesh is turning into a dangerous place for minorities,” Rana Dasgupta, secretary of the forum, told UCAN.
Meanwhile, recent changes to school textbooks to accommodate conservative Muslim groups have led to fears the country is moving away from its secular origins.
Seventeen poems deemed “atheistic” by conservative Islamic scholars were removed, as were conversations between boys and girls, and illustrations of girls with bare heads. The word “period” was also taken out of a section on girls’ physical development. Hindu, Christian or “foreign-sounding” names were replaced with Muslim names. (Even the Hindu name of the chairman of the textbook board was removed.)
Similar changes have been seen in Pakistan textbooks – now said to include “religious hate material” and to be “shaming of Christians” – and, more recently, in the Maldives, which removed the image of a church from schoolbooks.