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Published on Jun 9, 2016
Bangladesh is a secular South Asian democracy and it is a political model that I strongly support. Its championing of religious tolerance, freedom of expression, women’s rights and education, are values that we would recognise and celebrate here in Europe. Such values are, however, threatened in Bangladesh right now – but not by the government, as some in this Chamber will seek to argue this evening, but by Islamist extremists. In 1971 Jamaat-e-Islami was rightly banned in Bangladesh, not only for the atrocities committed during the civil war, but also for its continued ideological campaign and terrorist activities against the secular state. Since the lifting of this ban in 1979, Jamaat continues along this path, with reported links to extremist jihadist groups.
I urge tonight the opposition party, the BMP, to end and denounce its links with them so that it can fulfil its proper secular democratic role in opposition. Only today was the body of a Hindu priest found near to his temple, the killing clearly motivated by his religion. He joins the many others that have been murdered in similar attacks: academics, gay rights activists, secular bloggers and journalists, as well as other individuals from religious minorities such as Christian, Buddhist or Ahmadi. Bangladesh, as one of the poorest countries in the world, does not enjoy the luxuries of established and properly trained and sophisticated security services as we do here in the West. As we in the European Union battle against our own extremist insurgencies, we must offer more support and sympathy to Bangladesh’s Government and less words of criticism and condemnation.