As information on their community is relatively scarce, the exact number of Bangladesh’s Bahá’í community is unknown, though some estimates range from a little over 10,000 to in excess of 60,000, even as many as 100,000 or 300,000.
While the earliest community members are believed to have settled around the 1920s, the first local governing body was established in 1952 in the wake of Partition, with others subsequently established in Chittagong and Mymensingha. Following independence, a National Spiritual Assembly was established in 1972.
Now relatively dispersed, Bahá’í nevertheless remain active in social work and are able to freely congregate, practise their faith and establish administrative centres within Bangladesh. For example, in December 2011 a conference brought together a large number of judges and lawyers to discuss the application of Bahá’í personal law in the country.
Despite this relatively tolerant climate, however, like other religious minorities Bahá’í have been targeted by extremists, with the attempted shooting of a community member in November 2015 later claimed by ISIS, along with similar attacks the same month on a Sufi Muslim and an Italian doctor working as a missionary – though authorities insisted that they were the result of ‘internal disputes’.
Updated July 2018
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