Bangladeshi judges and lawyers attend unique conference on Baha'i law

December 18, 2011
Some of the speakers who addressed the conference on Baha'i law held at Bangladesh's Supreme Court on 3 December. Pictured, from left to right, are: Dr. Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission; Mr. S.N. Goswami, advocate; Mr. Justice Delwar Hossain; and Dr. Jena Shahidi, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Bangladesh.

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Almost 180 legal professionals from around the country gathered here for a conference on the Baha'i Faith and the personal and family laws that apply to its members.

Held in the auditorium of the country's Supreme Court, the unprecedented event aimed to prepare advocates and judges who might be required to assist Baha'is with legal matters, such as marriage and inheritance.

In Bangladesh, there is a division between "public" and "private" – or "personal" – laws, with family affairs dealt with under religious practice. Some 90 percent of the country is Muslim, and Islamic personal and family laws are well understood.

"It is significant because if there is any problem among Baha'is, and they go to regular courts, the judges have to rule according to Baha'i personal law," said Jabbar Eidelkhani, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors who spoke at the conference.

"So the advocates and judges that attended this conference, as well as training sessions previously, will now know more about how such laws apply to Baha'is," he said.

The day-long conference, held on 3 December, was opened by Mizanur Rahman, chairman of Bangladesh's Human Rights Commission.

"If religion is for ensuring human dignity then the Baha'i personal law is something which addresses that theme. In this respect it is not different than any other religion," said Dr. Rahman.

Also addressing the conference was Justice Delwar Hossain, who presented a keynote paper on the origin and background of Baha'i personal laws, and advocate Samarendra Nath Goswami, the event's main organizer, who discussed the significance of Baha'i laws to legal professionals. Mr. Goswami has previously conducted small training sessions on the subject.

There have been Baha'is in Bangladesh since the 1920s. The first local Spiritual Assembly was formed in Dhaka in 1952. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Bangladesh was established in 1972, shortly after the country declared its independence. There are an estimated 13,000 Baha'is currently living in the country.