Religion and society in Bangladesh

Unpacking the multilayered relationships

Authored by: Ali Riaz

Routledge Handbook of South Asian Religions

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367150778
eBook ISBN: 9780429054853
Adobe ISBN:


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The relationship between religion and society in Bangladesh is complex and multilayered. The complexity is due to historical antecedents and contemporaneous events, particularly the salience of religion in the public sphere. This chapter examines various dimensions of the relationship, for example, the roles of state, law, and constitution on the one hand and social institutions such as religious seminaries and religious social institutions on the other. The chapter argues that, as in any society, religion has not only made its mark through formal institutions in Bangladesh but also through informal social practices. Social forces of various contours influence how religion is viewed and practised. This chapter attempts to unpack this complex relationship through examination of the actors and institutions, contextualization of their roles within historical developments, and locating them within ongoing social and political changes. Considering that Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, this chapter focuses more on the interplay of Islam and Bangladeshi society while shedding some light on other religions.

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