BANGLADESH: Bangladesh to Lift Ban on Fatwas

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Al Arabiya News
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Hundreds of Bangladeshi women have been subjected to public flogging since the year 2000. (File photo)

Hundreds of Bangladeshi women have been subjected to public flogging since the year 2000. (File photo)

Bangladesh's Supreme Court Thursday lifted a ban on issuing Muslim religious edicts (fatwas) but said extrajudicial punishments carried out in the name of religion were illegal, according to Agence-France Presse.

The country's High Court had banned fatwas in 2001 after a string of cases saw women being abused but religious parties appealed the verdict, saying that the fatwa was an integral part of Islam.

The lawyer representing the scholars, Imran Siddiqui, said the verdict did not specify who is considered “properly educated” about fatwas, adding he hoped that the court would clarify later.

Rights group in Bangladesh had pushed for the ban on fatwas saying they were usually used against women for “crimes” like adultery or having an illegitimate child or even being raped.

Bangladesh, whose population is 158.6 million, is 90 percent Muslim and has a secular legal system but village councils issue fatwas to resolve disputes in rural areas. Bangladesh's Muslim population is the fourth largest in the world after Indonesia, India and Pakistan.

The Supreme Court upheld a 2005 ruling that banned religion from politics, a verdict that was considered historic for a country grappling with an Islamic resurgence and committed to restoring the original Constitution of 1972, which was secular in its entirety.

There is a large presence of Bangladeshi workers in the Middle East, many of them unskilled who toil hard in the construction sector. There are 1.2 million Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia alone.

A report by a workers rights body showed that labor export from Bangladesh dropped by 21 percent in 2010 from the previous year. The government in Bangladesh has consistently expressed its concerns about its citizens' poor working conditions and wages in Gulf nations.