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By Dr. Vijaya Samaraweera

Religious belief is readily acknowledged to be a purely personal matter. Yet, the social nature of religion transforms religious beliefs into distinguishing social markers, and when religions enter the political space and acquire influence and power, there are serious consequences for the individuals and groups that are left behind politically. History is replete with records of the discrimination, oppression and violence unleashed by dominant religions at adherents of politically weak religions. The latest publication of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), Religion – A Tool for Discrimination in South Asia? Colombo, 2010 (241 pp.), documents this reality in contemporary Bangladesh (authored by Amena Mohsin), India (Satya Sivaraman), Pakistan (Saba Naveed Shaikh) and Sri Lanka  (Chulani Kodikara).  The detail and breadth of the coverage in the four essays makes this volume a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on human rights in South Asia.

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