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The relationship of body and soul

April 3, 2017

Nasir Khan,  April 3, 2017

The question of the body and the soul relationship has a long history in the evolution of human thought in such matters. In most religious traditions and old speculative thought, the intricate relationship between the two is resolved by holding the body mortal while the soul being eternal and indestructible. As a result, the death of a person is seen only as the death of a body, but not of the soul that had temporarily lived in that body as long that body was alive.

In many religious and cultural traditions the soul is said to travel to, or is transported to, an eternal abode hereafter, while some believe that the soul of the dead returns in another living being, ranging from a human form to some animal form. Here the central idea continues to be the immortality of the soul.

Praying for the souls of the dead is common in many cultures and civilisations. Many believe this helps the souls of the deceased people to have peace and some better conditions around in the unknown world.

In the following article, Dr Dr Stephen Cave, a philosopher, offers his views that run counter to the mainstream ideas on the question of the soul.

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/13-03-20/#feature

What Science Really Says About the Soul

by Stephen Cave

Nathalie was hemorrhaging badly. She felt weak, cold, and the pain in her abdomen was excruciating. A nurse ran out to fetch the doctor, but by the time they arrived she knew she was slipping away. The doctor was shouting instructions when quite suddenly the pain stopped. She felt free—and found herself floating above the drama, looking down at the bustle of activity around her now still body.

“We’ve lost her,” she heard the doctor say, but Nathalie was already moving on and upwards, into a tunnel of light. She first felt a pang of anxiety at leaving her husband and children, but it was soon overwhelmed by a feeling of profound peace; a feeling that it would all be okay. At the end of the tunnel, a figure of pure radiance was waiting with arms wide open.

Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization (book cover)

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This, or something like it, is how millions imagine what it will be like to die. In 2009, over 70 percent of Americans said they believe that they, like Nathalie, have a soul that will survive the end of their body.1 That figure may well now be higher after the phenomenal success of two recent books describing vivid near death experiences: one from an innocent—the four year old Todd Burpo—the other from the opposite: a Harvard scientist and former skeptic, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander.2 Both argue that when their brains stopped working, their souls floated off to experience a better place.

This is an attractive view and a great consolation to those who have lost loved ones or who are contemplating their own mortality. Many also believe this view to be beyond the realm of science, to concern a different dimension into which no microscope can peer. Dr. Alexander, for example, said in an interview with the New York Times, “Our spirit is not dependent on the brain or body; it is eternal, and no one has one sentence worth of hard evidence that it isn’t.”3

But he is wrong. The evidence of science, when brought together with an ancient argument, provides a very powerful case against the existence of a soul that can carry forward your essence once your body fails. The case runs like this: with modern brain-imaging technology, we can now see how specific, localized brain injuries damage or even destroy aspects of a person’s mental life. These are the sorts of dysfunctions that Oliver Sacks brought to the world in his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.4 The man of the title story was a lucid, intelligent music teacher, who had lost the ability to recognize faces and other familiar objects due to damage to his visual cortex.

Since then, countless examples of such dysfunction have been documented—to the point that every part of the mind can now be seen to fail when some part of the brain fails. The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has studied many such cases.5 He records a stroke victim, for example, who had lost any capacity for emotion; patients who lost all creativity following brain surgery; and others who lost the ability to make decisions. One man with a brain tumor lost what we might call his moral character, becoming irresponsible and disregarding of social norms. I saw something similar in my own father, who also had a brain tumor: it caused profound changes in his personality and capacities before it eventually killed him.

The crux of the challenge then is this: those who believe they have a soul that survives bodily death typically believe that this soul will enable them, like Nathalie in the story above, to see, think, feel, love, reason and do many other things fitting for a happy afterlife. But if we each have a soul that enables us to see, think and feel after the total destruction of the body, why, in the cases of dysfunction documented by neuroscientists, do these souls not enable us to see, think and feel when only a small portion of the brain is destroyed?

To make the argument clear, we can take the example of sight. If either your eyes or the optic nerves in your brain are sufficiently badly damaged, you will go blind. This tells us very clearly that the faculty of sight is dependent upon functioning eyes and optic nerves.

Yet curiously, when many people imagine their soul leaving their body, they imagine being able to see—like Nathalie, looking down on her own corpse surrounded by frantic doctors.6 They believe, therefore, that their soul can see. But if the soul can see when the entire brain and body have stopped working, why, in the case of people with damaged optic nerves, can’t it see when only part of the brain and body have stopped working? In other words, if blind people have a soul that can see, why are they blind?

So eminent a theologian as Saint Thomas Aquinas, writing 750 years ago, believed this question had no satisfactory answer.7 Without its body—without eyes, ears and nose—he thought the soul would be deprived of all senses, waiting blindly for the resurrection of the flesh to make it whole again. Aquinas concluded that the body-less soul would have only those powers that (in his view) were not dependent upon bodily organs: faculties such as reason and understanding.

But now we can see that these faculties are just as dependent upon a bodily organ—the brain—as sight is upon the eyes. Unlike in Aquinas’s day, we can now keep many people with brain damage alive and use neuroimaging to observe the correlations between that damage and their behavior. And what we observe is that the destruction of certain parts of the brain can destroy those cognitive faculties once thought to belong to the soul. So if he had had the evidence of neuroscience in front of him, we can only imagine that Aquinas himself would have concluded that these faculties also stop when the brain stops.

In fact, evidence now shows that everything the soul is supposed to be able to do—think, remember, love—fails when some relevant part of the brain fails. Even consciousness itself—otherwise there would be no general anesthetics. A syringe full of chemicals is sufficient to extinguish all awareness. For anyone who believes something like the Nathalie story—that consciousness can survive bodily death—this is an embarrassing fact. If the soul can sustain our consciousness after death, when the brain has shut down permanently, why can it not do so when the brain has shut down temporarily?

Some defenders of the soul have, of course, attempted to answer this question. They argue, for example, that the soul needs a functioning body in this world, but not in the next. One view is that the soul is like a broadcaster and the body like a receiver—something akin to a television station and a TV set. (Though as our body is also the source of our sensory input, we have to imagine the TV set also has a camera on top feeding images to the distant station.)

We know that if we damage our TV set, we get a distorted picture. And if we break the set, we get no picture at all. The naive observer would believe the program was therefore gone. But we know that it is really still being transmitted; that the real broadcaster is actually elsewhere. Similarly, the soul could still be sending its signal even though the body is no longer able to receive it.

This response sounds seductive, but helps little. First, it does not really address the main argument at all: Most believers expect their soul to be able to carry forward their mental life with or without the body; this is like saying that the TV signal sometimes needs a TV set to transform it into the picture, but once the set is kaput, can make the picture all by itself. But if it can make the picture all by itself, why does it sometimes act through an unreliable set?

Second, changes to our bodies impact on our minds in ways not at all analogous to how damage to a TV set changes its output, even if we take into account damage to the camera too. The TV analogy claims there is something that remains untouched by such damage, some independent broadcaster preserving the real program even if it is distorted by bad reception. But this is precisely what the evidence of neuroscience undermines. Whereas damage to the TV set or camera might make the signal distorted or fuzzy, damage to our brains much more profoundly alters our minds. As we noted above, such damage can even change our moral views, emotional attachments, and the way we reason.

Which suggests we are nothing like a television; but much more like, for example, a music box: the music is not coming from elsewhere, but from the workings within the box itself. When the box is damaged, the music is impaired; and if the box is entirely destroyed, then the music stops for good.

There is much about consciousness that we still do not understand. We are only beginning to decipher its mysteries, and may never fully succeed. But all the evidence we have suggests that the wonders of the mind—even near-death and out of body experiences—are the effect of neurons firing. Contrary to the beliefs of the vast majority of people on Earth, from Hindus to New Age spiritualists, consciousness depends upon the brain and shares its fate to the end. END

References
  1. What People Do and Do Not Believe In, The Harris Poll, December 15, 2009
  2. Burpo, T and Vincent, L. 2010. Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. Thomas Nelson Publishers; Alexander, Eben. 2012. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. Simon & Schuster.
  3. Kaufman, L. 2012. “Readers Join Doctor’s Journey to the Afterworld’s Gates.” The New York Times, November 25, page C1.
  4. Sacks, Oliver. 1985. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  5. Damasio, Antonio. 1994. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam Publishing.
  6. Descriptions of heaven also involve being able to see, from Dante to Heaven is For Real, cited above.
  7. Aquinas’s views on the soul can be found in his Summa Theologica and elsewhere. Particularly relevant to the question of the soul’s limited faculties are Part 1, question 77, article 8 (“Whether all the powers remain in the soul when separated from the body?”) and supplement to the Third Part, question 70, article 1 (“Whether the sensitive powers remain in the separated soul?”), in which he writes: “Now it is evident that certain operations, whereof the soul’s powers are the principles, do not belong to the soul properly speaking but to the soul as united to the body, because they are not performed except through the medium of the body—such as to see, to hear, and so forth. Hence it follows that such like powers belong to the united soul and body as their subject, but to the soul as their quickening principle, just as the form is the principle of the properties of a composite being. Some operations, however, are performed by the soul without a bodily organ—for instance to understand, to consider, to will: wherefore, since these actions are proper to the soul, the powers that are the principles thereof belong to the soul not only as their principle but also as their subject. Therefore, since so long as the proper subject remains its proper passions must also remain, and when it is corrupted they also must be corrupted, it follows that these powers which use no bodily organ for their actions must needs remain in the separated body, while those which use a bodily organ must needs be corrupted when the body is corrupted: and such are all the powers belonging to the sensitive and the vegetative soul.”

One step forward in Pakistan, but more is needed

February 18, 2017
Nasir Khan, February 18, 2017
The passing of the Hindu marriage bill was an important step in Pakistan, which is a mutti-religious country.
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If common sense prevails in the ruling strata of Pakistan, they should take the next bold step and make Pakistan a Secular Democratic country, where there is no state religion, but all offices of the state are open to all irrespective of the religious identities of the citizens of Pakistan. It means a believer of any faith – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Parsi, Bahai, Ahmadi, etc. — can become the president and prime minister of Pakistan.
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To start with, I would love to see a Hindu, a Sikh or a Christian being elected to the highest offices of the country. That can only happen when Pakistan becomes a secular democratic country where religion of its citizens is a private matter for the people and has nothing to do with the running of the democratic system of governement.
 .
At the same time, I am deeply conscious of the poltical reality that the vicious effects of Islamist anti-humanism, morbid fanaticism and anti-social garbage preached through toxic clerics make the prospects of the rise of secular democracy in Pakistan a distant dream. But we have to speak up and say what is in the interest of all.
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Pakistan Senate passes landmark Hindu marriage bill

The much-awaited landmark bill to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in Pakistan is set to become a law with the Senate unanimously passing it.

The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017, which is the first elaborate Hindu community’s personal law, was adopted by the Senate on Friday.

The bill had already been approved by the lower house or the National Assembly on September 26, 2015, and it now just needs signature of the President, a mere formality, to become a law.

Dawn News reported that the bill is widely acceptable to Hindus living in Pakistan because it relates to marriage, registration of marriage, separation and remarriage, with the minimum age of marriage set at 18 years for both boys and girls.

The bill will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage.

It will be the first personal law for Pakistani Hindus, applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Sindh province has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Law.

The bill presented in the Senate by Law Minister Zahid Hamid faced no opposition or objection. It was mainly due to the sympathetic views expressed by the lawmakers of all political parties in the relevant standing committees.

The bill was approved by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on January 2 with an overwhelming majority.

However, Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had opposed the bill, claiming that the Constitution was vast enough to cater to such needs.

While approving the bill, committee chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had announced, “This was unfair —— not only against the principles of Islam but also a human rights violation —— that we have not been able to formulate a personal family law for the Hindus of Pakistan.”

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a leading Hindu lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz, had been working relentlessly for three years to have a Hindu marriage law in the country.

“Such laws will help discourage forced conversions and streamline the Hindu community after the marriage of individuals,” he said, expressing gratitude to the parliamentarians.

Mr. Vankwani also said it was difficult for married Hindu women to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion.

Frederick Engels about his role in Marxist theory

February 9, 2017

Nasir Khan, February 9, 2017

The names of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels are inseparably linked for laying the foundations of Scientific Socialism in contrast to the previous versions known as utopian socialism. As long they lived, their intellectual partnership was in the service of a common cause but deeply rooted in rigorous scientific work in social sciences including history, economics and the socialist movement.

After the death of Marx in 1883, Engels had the ardous task of sorting out the unfinished notes and scripts that eventually he published as the rest of the volumes of Das Kapital. He wrote a number of books on history and philosophy which hold a pre-eminent position within Marxism.

But how did he see his contribution to the new theories the two friends had developed? Any normal human being who works all his life and produces so much worthwhile scientific works will take pride in his/her accomplishments and will not allow anyone or anything to take away the credit he/she deserves. It is just being human to think so.

But the co-founder of Marxism was a great human being in another respect also. He refused to take any credit for his contributions and instead accredited Marx with developing the fundamental theories that are called Marxism. In fact, I can’t find another example of a dedicated thinker and writer anywhere in world history who showed so much modesty as Engels did about his role.

While reading once again Engels’s Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (first published in German in 1886), the following marginal note he wrote profoundly stirred me. Such was the friend of Karl Marx!

“Lately repeated reference has been made to my share in this theory, and so I can hardly avoid saying a few words here to settle this point. I cannot deny that both before and during my forty years’ collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundations of the theory, and more particularly in its elaboration. But the greater part of its leading basic principles, especially in the realm of economics and history, and, above all, their final trenchant formulation, belong to Marx. What I contributed—at any rate with the exception of my work in a few special fields—Marx could very well have done without me. What Marx accomplished I would not have achieved. Marx stood higher, saw further, and took a wider and quicker view than all the rest of us. Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It therefore rightly bears his name. (Note by Engels, in Chapter IV)

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Palestinians, Zionists, Jews and Israel

January 24, 2017

Nasir Khan, January 24, 2017

My new facebook friend Phil Clarke said to me in one of his comments, “You seem to think that all Jews and all Israelis are Zionists – that is not an accurate picture.” I will take only this point and add the following few lines:

I do not think that all Jews and Israelis are Zionists. In fact, no person can think so who has any knowledge of the historical background to Israel’s establishment in 1948 and the consequences of this event for the people of Palestine. However, under the incessant barrage of the Zionist propaganda many Jews in Israel become Zionists and believers in their supranational status as the exclusive children of their god, and who have an exclusive right to the whole of Palestine. The captive population of Palestine has no significance in their calculations. Under an apartheid, racist system that exists in Israel as a matter of state policies, they will gradually disappear from the political scene.

The number of Israeli Jews who are still not Zionists or upholders of Zionist outlook is fast shrinking and more and more extreme right-wing militants and fanatic, terrorist settlers are spreading throughout Israel and in the occupied territories.

But there are also Jews who have rejected Zionist plans for an exclusive Jewish state, which in practical terms will be a Zionist state based on the Jewish religious law, more of a prehistoric theocratic state, not a democratic one. The extreme right-wing Zionist rulers of Israel have their sights on such a project.

Among the Jews we reject an anachronistic Zionist state are a few prominent academics and historians, lan pappe, Avi shlaim, Miko Peled, for instance. Besides these, there are some orthodox Jews both in and out of Israel who do not see this Israel the same that was mentioned in the Old Testament.

There are many Zionists in the West and they come from mostly Christian denominations of various types. Such non-Jewish Zionists also come from other religions and rightist forces. In America, they wield much leverage and political clout and influence the US policies in the Middle East, mostly to bolster Israel and ostracise and marginalise the Palestinians. The Zionist organisations operate systematically to advance the Zionist projections through Europe and the rest of the world.

If we take into account all the objective conditions that prevail at present, there can never be any peace in the Middle East as long as Israel has the power over the United States and is able to control its foreign policies with regard to the Middle East.

In fact, with the new US administration in place under President Trump, Israel will use its power to persuade America to attack Iran, which will inevitably lead to Israel as the only regional superpower in the Middle East. The prospects for any solution to the Palestine issue, according to the U.N. resolutions becomes no more than a pious wish of some noble souls if Israel continues on its dangerous path.

What sort of productive system Marx and Engels saw in Britain

January 8, 2017

Nasir Khan, January 8, 2017

The following photo is from Victorian England, which in those days had the largest empire in the world. It gives a small glimpse into the living conditions of young children.

Where did the wealth by trade and commercial activity with the colonies and the rest of the world go? Certainly, it didn’t go to the working class people, the poor, the paupers, and their children but only in the coffers of the ruling elite and the bourgeoisie.

Many writers and social historians wrote about the wretched conditions under which the poor and underprivileged people lived. Among them were two friends of German origin, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who witnessed the condition of the working class and poor people in Britain.

In their prognosis, the expanding capitalist system was based on greed and profit-making, where the social, economic welfare of the working class had no meaning for the owners of means of production and the control they exercised over the process of production.

Such an unjust and inhumane system needed to be replaced by a system where the means of productions were not to be left in the hands of a tiny minority but were held jointly by the majority to create a humane and caring society. Marx and Engels formulated their ideas in their books and papers that form the basis of Scientific Socialism.

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Happy New Year

December 31, 2016

Nasir Khan, Dec. 31, 2016

Happy New Year to all our readers and friends!

Come, fill the cup, and in the fire of spring
Your winter garment of repentance fling.
The bird of time has but a little way
To flutter – and the bird is on the wing.

— Omar Khayyam

A comment on US Secretary Kerry’s speech

December 28, 2016
  Nasir Khan, Dec. 28, 2016

No doubt, Secretary Kerry’s speech was crafted quite cleverly. One can’t but be amused by the linguistic chicanery he displayed by putting Israeli Zionists and occupied Palestinians in the same category!

However, the task of defending the undefendable policies of US imperialism in relation to the occupied people of Palestine and the Zionist rulers is not easy. Nevertheless, the question is: Why did he make this speech now when the Obama administration would be gone in about three weeks’ time, and not before? He had some four years to speak candidly in public, even for facilitating the continuing expansion of the Zionist state!

As I see it, Kerry’s speech will be exploited to the full by Zionists, both in Israel and America, to play the victim card and blame the Palestinians for having stood in the way of peace! Period.
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John Kerry has delivered perhaps his most impassioned speech on the Israel-Palestinian crisis – insisting that a two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace…
independent.co.uk

On the unity of workers for a socialist world order

December 27, 2016

Nasir Khan, December 27, 2016

When the workers of all countries unite for the common cause of a creating a society where the capitalists and owners of the means of production do not control the lives and destinies of the 99% of human beings in the world, any such unity in Marxist thought is known as proletarian internationalism.

The goal of the struggle of the working masses including peasants and landless serfs is primarily to defend themselves against the power and domination of the owners of means of production that they mostly use for augmenting their own wealth and upholding their privileges. The ideas about the unity of working classes to create a humane world has been the focus of theoretical and practical activities of generations of socialists since the founders of Scientific Socialism formulated their economic and political theories in the 19th century.

The first major step in creating a socialist society took place in Czarist Russia where the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin overthrew the old dynastic rule and introduced the Soviet system.

The success of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was a catalyst for revolutionary activities of the working masses in many countries and also a clarion call to the colonised people to overthrow their colonial masters. As a result, anti-colonial struggles became a powerful force in many Afro-Asian countries. Many countries, big and small, succeeded in throwing off the yoke of European masters.

But in many instances the local ruling classes that emerged had their roots in privileged classes or groups. The struggle for political and economic exploitation became their sole interest. While such leaders plundered their own people and used the political system as a camouflage for furthering their interests, the plight of the poor people remained a non-issue for them. In any case, it is little consolation to the working class, poor or starving people that their “glorious” saviours and leaders have hundreds of millions of dollars stacked in secret banks accounts in Switzerland, France, Britain and America!

However, such exploitation and downright plunder is not incidental. It is endemic, and closely related to how the capitalist political and economic system works. As long as capitalism lives, such exploitation will have its sway. In the third world countries, the problem of institutionalied brainwashing coupled with the exploitation of religion and cheap deceptive slogans at the hands of the ruling elites will continue to play havoc with the people of many Afro-Asian countries.

No doubt, capitalism is wonderful for a few but a disaster for many. To address such issues, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels advocated socialist democracy and a socialist system in place of capitalism. To achieve that goal, political education of working classe people is the first step and that education is part of the political activity that is expressed by the unity of the workers.

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Eternal Glory to El Commandante Fidel Castro!

November 26, 2016

Nasir Khan, November 26, 2016

The death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro is a sad occasion for all those comrades and friends who for decades have shown solidarity with the people of Cuba and the Cuban revolution.

Since the victory of the Cuban revolution, the U.S. rulers did their utmost to stifle the revolution and kill its leader. To this end, they hatched some 638 schemes to assassinate him and also made actual attempts to this end. However, the criminal syndicate of US rulers to carry out subversive acts in the world, the CIA, did not succeed. As we all know, Fidel Castro died a natural death in his mature age.

The American rulers could not face the fact that the Cuban revolutionaries who overthrew the US-ally, dictator Batista, were to choose the path of Socialism. In the eyes of Washington this was an unforgivable offence. To keep their hegemonic control of the Caribbean they organised the invasion of Cuba in 1961. But the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion failed.

In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world closer to a nuclear war but luckily the American military hawks did not send us into the nuclear inferno! In fact, it was the Soviet leadership that showed restraint by pulling the recently-placed missiles in Cuba that were placed there in the first place to defend Cuba against American military aggression. In this way, a major crisis was averted that had the potential to ignite a global war.

Despite all the hostile American policies and sabotage, the Cuban revolution stood its ground. Fidel Castro rose to every challenge and heroically mobilised his people to confront the American imperialism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union drastically changed the world political scene with far-reaching repercussions for the Socialist movement. Now Cuba was alone and many thought the end of Socialism in Cuba was just a questions of time. But the resilience of the Cuban people under the inspiring leadership of Fidel Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba did not slacken. Notwithstanding many economic hardships, the rallying cry of Castro was ‘Socialism or death’. That meant no compromise with the neighbour, the only superpower and bully that wanted its hegemony accepted without question.

Another disconcerting factor for the Cuban revolutionary government was to see China and Vietnam taking the path of ‘raw capitalism’ while they still retained the name of socialism for their one-party bureaucratic system. Yet, this did not dampen the spirit of Fidel Castro. The revolutionary remained firm in his resolve to lead the fight for Socialism and an independent Cuba. His example inspired Latin American revolutionaries like Hugo Chavez and others.

His name and legacy will endure and continue to inspire new generations of revolutionary workers and activists for a socialist future.
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https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1636810276344714&set=a.121677137858043.18545.100000472735323&type=3&theater

Religions are for People, not for any State

November 16, 2016
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Nasir Khan, November 16, 2016
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In 1971, the people of East Pakistan achieved their political separation from West Pakistan at a very high cost. The country since then called Bangladesh like many Asian countries has been a traditional country where religions in the lives of its people have played an important part as a cohesive force. There are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and others living in this country.
It is good to see a state adhering to the principle of non-partisanship in matters of religion and treating the followers of all faiths as equal citizens where the followers of minority religions have no fears of discrimination and recriminations. Obviously, the role of state in modern times is much different from what it was in the middle ages.
In democracies, religion and state are separated. No person of sound mind any longer stands for a coercive state that imposes its own version of religion on its citizens. Only the misguided and indoctrinated people oppose the separation of state and religion. However, a democratic state remains neutral in matters of religion; it does not favour or patronise one section of the population over the others merely because of religion. This is the path of secularism in which state respects all religions without letting any religion dictate its political and social policies in any way. Under such a system, people can practise their religions and follow their religious traditions without any intervention from the state.
If Bangladesh follows the democratic model and allows the people to follow whatever religions they want to follow without patronising one religion as state religion then the country has taken a major step in the right direction. No doubt, conservative and retrogressive forces within the country will oppose any such democratic and humane path.
                                     . . . . .

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bangladesh-islam-state-religion-government-considers-dropping-a7418366.html

Government officials in Bangladesh are considering dropping Islam as the country’s national religion after a senior politician claimed Bangladeshi people have embraced “a force of secularism”.

Dr Abdur Razzak, a leading member of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party, proposed the religion be withdrawn from the country’s constitution during a discussion at the National Press Club in the capital Dhaka.

“Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony. Here we live with people from all religions and Islam should not be accommodated as the state religion in the Bangladeshi constitution,” Dr Razzak said in his report.

 “I have said it abroad and now I am saying it again that Islam will be dropped from Bangladesh’s constitution when the time comes.

“The force of secularism is within the people of Bangladesh. There is no such thing as a ‘minority’ in our country.”

Dr Razzak added he believed Islam had been maintained as the state religion for “strategic reasons”, but declined to elaborate on this during the discussion.

Islam is the largest religion in Bangladesh, with a practicing Muslim population of approximately 150 million – making it the fourth largest Muslim population in the world after India, Pakistan and Indonesia.

According to a national survey from 2003, religion was the primary way Bangladeshi citizens identified themselves, and atheism was found to be rare.

During a recent speech, Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the importance of “taking care” of those who follow minority religions.

“Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony which should be maintained at any cost for development and brighten the country’s image.”

The prime minister also condemned the recent actions of the militant group Isis, who have carried out various violent attacks against religious minority communities this year.

“You have to remain careful so that no such incidents, which are taking place sporadically in different parts of the country, take place anywhere in the country,” she added