Religion identity and politics essays on bangladesh

But recent events, including attacks now linked to ISIS , illustrate the urgent and growing crisis in the country. My personal connection to Bangladesh traces back to , when Avijit Roy emailed me requesting my organization lend our organizational weight — CFI is a formal lobby group with representation in Washington, D. Non-governmental organizations NGOs , including but not limited to mine, have responded to the current crisis in Bangladesh in similar ways. For instance, many NGOs have directly engaged with governmental representatives in Bangladesh, as well as countries which might be in a position to apply diplomatic pressure to Bangladesh government leaders.

For our own part, CFI has lobbied the U. State Department, both formally and through public channels , to engage with the Bangladesh government, and urged the United Nations to focus on the situation in the country. Many NGOs have joined in similar efforts, including in the U.

House of Representatives.


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Civil society members can join in these efforts by calling and writing their elected officials in Congress and the Administration and relay their concerns. NGOs have also provided assistance to threatened writers, journalists, and publishers seeking to relocate both within and outside of Bangladesh.

Most of this work necessarily has to happen in quiet, in order to protect the identity and safety of threatened individuals as well as the organization providing assistance. But, suffice to say NGOs have been deeply involved in helping threatened individuals move within or outside of Bangladesh, or else help threatened individuals living outside the country to secure means to remain out of the country while Bangladesh is in turmoil.

Religion Identity Politics By Rafiuddin Ahmed. Found

Such assistance also includes financial aid. As with visas and asylum efforts, this is sensitive work.

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My own organization has a public-facing fund , which people can contribute to online. However, several NGOs have their own private funds; readers can email me to learn more.


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It should be noted that many of these NGOs depend on individual human rights activists and the few NGOs which exist in the Bangladesh for reliable information regarding the situation there, which allows outside NGOs to coordinate proper responses. Yet we also support these human rights defenders and NGOs because, as representatives or citizens of Bangladesh, their efforts will be those that achieve true change in the country.

But the role of non-governmental organizations is limited in human rights crises , and to solely focus or depend on these groups would be to ignore the breadth of the crisis on the ground. The problems facing Bangladesh demand action by civil society, yes, but they also require government action. Most immediately, the government should protect writers and publishers. Three young men attacked last weekend remain hospitalized, and some of their family members have been kicked out of their homes over concerns of follow-up attacks, or else do not know whom to turn to for help.

Dozens more live in fear of new attacks. Their pleas for protection have been met with recommendations to go underground or leave the country. This shirks one of the basic responsibilities of any government: to protect its people. Since independence, Bangladesh has experienced creeping Islamism that continues to enjoy popular support. More worrisome yet, Bangladesh is increasingly the site of Islamist violence.


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Between January and December , some people have died in Islamist terrorist attacks, including alleged terrorists; of those attacks, 91 percent have taken place since Despite these troubling signs, security professionals and analysts have neglected Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an important provider of global security, and is consistently one of the largest contributors to United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. Despite these fairly impressive figures, Bangladesh has remained ignored in scholarly and policy analytic circles.

The Pakistan that emerged had two wings, East and West, separated by the expanse of India. East Pakistan was ethnically homogenous, dominated by a Bengali ethnic majority, and nearly a quarter of the population were Hindu.

Religious politics and the survival of secularism in Bangladesh

In contrast, West Pakistan was ethnically diverse but had less religious diversity. West Pakistan deployed political Islam to suppress ethnic aspirations in both wings of the nascent state. After enduring decades of economically extractive and discriminatory policies, Bengalis in the east launched a civil war to wrest an independent state. West Pakistan used Islamist militias under the control of the Jamaat-e-Islami JeI as well as the armed forces to brutally suppress Bengali agitators.

Approximately three million people died in the conflict, and millions more were displaced.

Many of the perpetrators of extreme violence were associated with the JeI, which aided the Pakistani army to commit atrocities against civilians in East Pakistan. Finally, in December , with Indian assistance, the Bengali freedom fighters mukti bahini secured an independent Bangladesh. Her government has carried out several death sentences accordingly. While secularism allowed citizens to separate their identities as Bangladeshis distinct from Bengalis in India on the one hand and as Muslims on the other, it did not eliminate the importance of personal faith, and openly criticizing Islam was politically unpopular.

The role of Islam deepened as Mujib sought to secure the support of other Muslim countries to rebuild the war-torn country and burnish his legitimacy; however, most Muslim states saw Bengali independence as a means to destroy Pakistan and divide the Muslim world. In , Mujib mustered considerable efforts during a meeting of the Non-Alignment Movement in Algiers to obtain formal recognition and eventual support of several Arab countries. Wary of losing newfound aid from the Islamic bloc, Mujib abjured criticizing Islam aggressively and became more permissive of Islamist movements.

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Despite the efforts of some Bangladeshi politicians to firmly embed secularism in Bangladeshi society and systems of education, Bangladeshis increasingly equated secularism with dishonoring Islam and tantamount to dependence upon India. Religious schools, the media, and the ubiquity of Islam in family and social life subsequently contributed to a growing consensus in support of Islam and away from secularism.

Khandakar Moshtaque Ahmen became president for less than three months before a counter-coup brought Major General Ziaur Rahman usually called Ziaur to power in late He remained in power until To establish more productive ties with Muslim states and to woo Saudi Arabia, Ziaur made crucial constitutional changes. Between and , Ziaur also legalized religious political parties and allowed the Islamists who had worked with the Pakistani Army during the liberation war to participate in government again.

BJeI was able to publicly rejoin Bangladeshi politics in Ershad even appointed two BJeI war criminals to cabinet positions. By , they had established a sultanate as far south as Madurai, toward the tip of the peninsula, and there were other sultanates all the way from Gujarat, in the west, to Bengal, in the east. Instead, the newcomers are identified by linguistic and ethnic affiliation, most typically as Turushka—Turks—which suggests that they were not seen primarily in terms of their religious identity.

Similarly, although the conquests themselves were marked by carnage and by the destruction of Hindu and Buddhist sites, India soon embraced and transformed the new arrivals. Within a few centuries, a hybrid Indo-Islamic civilization emerged, along with hybrid languages—notably Deccani and Urdu—which mixed the Sanskrit-derived vernaculars of India with Turkish, Persian, and Arabic words. The Sufi mystics associated with the spread of Islam often regarded the Hindu scriptures as divinely inspired.

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Some even took on the yogic practices of Hindu sadhus, rubbing their bodies with ashes, or hanging upside down while praying. In village folk traditions, the practice of the two faiths came close to blending into one. Hindus would visit the graves of Sufi masters and Muslims would leave offerings at Hindu shrines. Sufis were especially numerous in Punjab and Bengal—the same regions that, centuries later, saw the worst of the violence—and there were mass conversions among the peasants there.

The cultural mixing took place throughout the subcontinent. In medieval Hindu texts from South India, the Sultan of Delhi is sometimes talked about as the incarnation of the god Vishnu. Not all Mughal rulers were so open-minded. In the nineteenth century, India was still a place where traditions, languages, and cultures cut across religious groupings, and where people did not define themselves primarily through their religious faith. A Sunni Muslim weaver from Bengal would have had far more in common in his language, his outlook, and his fondness for fish with one of his Hindu colleagues than he would with a Karachi Shia or a Pashtun Sufi from the North-West Frontier.

Many writers persuasively blame the British for the gradual erosion of these shared traditions. Other assessments, however, emphasize that Partition, far from emerging inevitably out of a policy of divide-and-rule, was largely a contingent development.

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As late as , it might still have been avoided. All three men were Anglicized lawyers who had received at least part of their education in England. Jinnah and Gandhi were both Gujarati. Potentially, they could have been close allies.

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But by the early nineteen-forties their relationship had grown so poisonous that they could barely be persuaded to sit in the same room. At the center of the debates lies the personality of Jinnah, the man most responsible for the creation of Pakistan. In Indian-nationalist accounts, he appears as the villain of the story; for Pakistanis, he is the Father of the Nation.

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