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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Bangladesh

Ethnicity

Nearly the entire population of Bangladesh is Bangladeshi (98%). Bangladeshi, as an ethnicity, is fairly distinct as the ethnicity's closest relatives are a few small ethnic groups in the greater region. The Bangladeshis, and these other related groups, are all distantly related to the Indo-Aryan people, who make up the majority of India's population.

Language

Bengali (or Bangla) is the only official language in Bangladesh and nearly everyone speaks this language natively. Bengali is distantly related to many of the languages of India, including Hindi, and is written in the Bengali alphabet.

With few ethnic minorities, there are few other languages spoken in Bangladesh natively, but nearly everyone grows up learning English as a second language. English is also the primary means of communication with neighboring countries, but is somewhat avoided for official business as it is a reminder of their past under British rule. None-the-less, most people with a university-level education learn English and are quite competent in the language.

Religion

Nearly 90% of Bangladesh's population is Muslim, one of the supports the country had in breaking away from India when it did so with Pakistan. Among the last 10% of the population, most of the people are Hindi.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Bangladesh is fairly liberal in how they practice Islam.

This page was last updated: May, 2014