Bangladesh roiled by evolution textbook controversy

Map of Bangladesh.

Map courtesy of GISGeography.

Opposition politicians in Bangladesh are criticizing new textbooks for including evolution in new textbooks — and for supposedly claiming that humans evolved from monkeys — in the name of Islam, the majority religion in the country.

Speaking in Parliament, Golam Kipria Tipu, a member of parliament from the Jatiya Party, complained, "As Muslims we are children of Adam. There is no chance of being monkeys. It is an insult to Islam," according to the Dhaka Tribune (January 23, 2023), which later reported (January 24, 2023) that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party's standing committee demanded the withdrawal of the textbooks on account of their anti-religious content.

The Dhaka Tribune (January 27, 2023) quoted the education minister Dipu Moni, a leader of the governing Bangladesh Awami League, as saying, "The book says that the idea that humans evolved from monkeys is wrong. But the opposite is being reported. Everyone is requested to read the textbook." The newspaper also quoted from a new sixth-grade textbook that repeatedly emphasizes "humans did not originate from monkeys."

Nevertheless, the National Curriculum and Textbook Board subsequently decided to remove the section on evolution from the textbooks in order to avoid the social-media-fomented controversy, according to the Dhaka Tribune (February 11, 2023), which confusingly added, "The books [sic: section on evolution?] will be included in the textbooks of grades IX and IX with some revisions and omissions."

In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that 54 percent of Muslim Bangladeshis believed that humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 37 percent believed that they have always existed in their present form.

[Updated on February 11, 2023, by the addition of the fourth paragraph.]

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.