When Bangladesh was formed, political parties with a religious affiliation were banned. But they were legalized in a 1979 constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court has now reinstated the ban on Islamic parties.
The Bangladesh Supreme Court recently scrapped the 1979 Fifth Amendment
In a 184-page verdict released earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh scrapped the bulk of the 1979 Fifth Amendment, which has allowed religion-based politics to flourish in Bangladesh ever since.
If the verdict is upheld, dozens of Bangladeshi political parties will have to drop Islam from their name and refrain from the use of religion in their campaigning.
Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, a member of the advisory council of the ruling Awami League, explained that the "restrictions in using religion for political purposes" had been introduced because religious parties had become "quite strident in their action and they have exaggerated the problem" instead of being "moderate in their use of religion in election campaigns."
Four Islamist organizations were banned after a series of bombings in 2005
Last year in October, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government outlawed a controversial Islamic party, accusing it of destabilizing the country. While in 2005, four Islamist organizations were banned after carrying out a series of bombings across the country in which 28 people were killed.
Books of Abul Ala Maudadi banned
This month, the government also ordered that the books of the Pakistani Abul Ala Maududi be banned. He founded the Pakistan-based Jamaat-e-Islami, which has a large number of followers across South Asia.
The government's justification for the ban is that his books are supposedly anti-Islamic and could foster militancy in the country.
Abdur Razzaq, a member of Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh, which is independent from the Pakistani organization, is against the recent decision and says there are other problems which need to be addressed.
"Islamic political parties have been functioning in this country for half a century. They have brought some Islamic values, which have helped foster democracy," he argued. "Corruption and intolerance are very rampant in the politics of this country. The Islamic political parties have brought in a high degree of tolerance in politics. Politics has become much more civilized because of Islamic values".
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Final decision to be made by government and EC
Although the Supreme Court has already given its verdict, the final decision lies in the hands of the Election Commission and the government. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is allied with two Islamic parties, has said it will appeal against the verdict.
"We will go to the high court and then to the Supreme Court and challenge the government section," Abdur Razzaq said. "What Jamaat will do we can't say at this stage. It will wait for the government and the Election Commission to take action".
Author: Jaisu Bhullar
Editor: Anne Thomas