Bangladesh high court has ruled against scrapping Islam as the state religion in the country with a 90-percent Muslim population.
On Monday, the court turned down a petition filed by a group of secular activists that challenged Islam as the state religion.
According to an AFP reporter, a three-judge special bench rejected the petition immediately after the opening of the case and without hearing any testimony.
The petition had ignited protests across the country. Thousands of protesters demonstrated outside the national mosque in the capital, Dhaka, on March 25 against the legal action.
The demonstration was organized by Touhidi Janata group as well as a local group identified as Hefazat-e-Islam.
Subrata Chowdhury, the representative of the secular activists in the case, expressed his sadness over the ruling.
He also slammed the court for not allowing the petitioners to state their case, saying, “The judges simply said the rule is discharged.”
However, the court decision was hailed as a “victory of 160 million people” by the outlawed Jamaat-e-Islami party, which also annulled a call for a nationwide strike in return.
Also reacting to the ruling, Azizul Hoque Islamabadi, the organizing secretary of Hefazat-e-Islam, thanked the high court “for rescuing the country from a massive disaster.”
The measure to remove Islam as the country’s official religion comes as over 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Muslim. Buddhists and Hindus are the two major religious minorities in the impoverished country.
While former military ruler, H. M. Ershad, reportedly declared Islam as the official faith in Bangladesh in 1988, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promoted secularism as a pillar of the constitution in 2011, but kept Islam as the state religion.