Friday, April 01, 2005

BANGLADESH : Islamists and secularists must come to terms

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Contrary to the across-the-board assumptions that Islamist activists prefer to dispatch suicide bombers against their domestic and international foes, the Bangladeshi Islamist protagonists appear to be more preoccupied with their domestic challengers. The most prominent of them participated in national politics for recognition as a legitimate force. The Jamaat and other Islamist groups insist that Muslim identity is of course relevant to the strategic survival of Bangladesh because of the covert but long-standing conflict with a powerful neighbour. Besides that apprehension, the Muslims in South Asia, and possibly elsewhere, generally suffer from a history-driven apprehension that whenever they lost their political power in the past, they were victims of colonialism, hegemony, deprivation, discrimination, injustice and violence. Denigration the Muslim sensibilities and fears is a liberal blind spot in Bangladesh; it has virtually divided the nation over identity and also over what happened in the past. The Jamaat and other Islamist parties seem to be attracted to the BNP's not-yet-fully-delineated blend of Bengali identity with Muslim distinctiveness, but their ideological pillars still stand apart.........