Bangladeshi party wants non-Muslim members to take special oath

Updated on Jul 23, 2009 12:55 PM IST

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamist party, expects its non-Muslim members to take an oath to "defend national sovereignty", but this is not required of its Muslim members, a media report said on Thursday.

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IANS | By, Dhaka

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamist party, expects its non-Muslim members to take an oath to "defend national sovereignty", but this is not required of its Muslim members, a media report said on Thursday.

The party, that claims to have 25,000 non-Muslim members, submitted its 'reformed' constitution to the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday.

"I shall actively play a role in defending the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh," reads a section of the oath scheduled for non-Muslim members.

Both Muslim and non-Muslim members, however, must swear to abide by the rules and decisions of the party, giving the highest priority to implementing the decisions, The Daily Star newspaper said quoting the party's statute.

In addition, a non-Muslim Jamaat member must work for establishing the "rule of Islam" in the country, in order to continue being a member of the party. The provision was included in Jamaat's constitution for 'removing religious and gender discriminations' in a bid to qualify for registration.

The Jamaat was banned in the early years after Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971.

It had opposed the freedom movement and its members, including its current top leadership, stand accused of "war crimes" -- killing unarmed civilians at the behest of the Pakistani authorities of the day.

Its cadres had targeted religious minorities and those sympathetic to the freedom struggle. Bangladesh says three million people died during the 1971 freedom movement.

The Jamaat shared power with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) during 2001-06 and had three ministers in the Khaleda Zia government.

Both parties lost badly in the election last December and are in the opposition.

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