Muslim Identity, Bengali Nationalism: An Analysis on Nationalism in Bangladesh

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies MCSER Publishing, Rome-Italy


When East Pakistan1 broke away from Pakistan to become the independent and sovereign nation of Bangladesh in 1971after nine month long war of independent against west Pakistan, many observers believed that South Asia was irrevocably on its route to a secular nationalism beyond religious 'tribalism'2 and 'two nation theory'3 (G.Allana (ed),1967, Pakistan Movement: Historic Documents,p-77 ) which purported the 1947 partition of British India and establishment of Pakistan on the basis of religious separate identity. As later events proved, they were sadly mistaken. The primacy of Islamic traditions and sentiments cast aside by the Bengalis in East Pakistan in 1971 to fight the Pakistani crackdown and later deliberately excised by the new Bangladesh government, subsequently returned as a resilient and widespread political phenomenon. This was loosely characterized as Muslim identity, different from the Bang alee nationalism which was focused on secularism, language and literature.4 The international community was familiar with 'militant' Islam but Muslim consciousness in Bangladesh was not identical to the global Islamic fundamentalism. The growing Muslim consciousness in Bangladesh was still evolving its goals, strategies and tactics. In its broadest connotation, Muslim nationalism in Bangladesh was the sentiment and spirit of 'Muslim heritage and rule in Bengal. It was also the passion of belonging which girded, the Muslims through a common monotheistic faith and a nexus of culture, values, customs, experiences, traditions, personal laws, ways of life and rituals. These were perceived as their distinctive heritage which might, in fact, be the product of coevolving forces over a history. Its basic appeal was the sense of pride, recognition, a yearning for harmony and a mystique which made them 'feel good' and secure against internal constraints and external threats. However, the real arena of dispute between Islamic identity and Bang alee nationalism was its domestic politics. After the breakup of Pakistan, it was an uphill slog for the Islamists to regroup and reassert themselves as a viable political force. The primary objective of this paper is to examine the cultural and political dynamics of Islam and Muslim consciousness in Bangladesh and their confrontation with the secularists and the Bang alee nationalists and try to give an analysis on the nationalism trends of Bangladesh.


Vol 3 No 1


Muslim identity, Bengali Nationalism, Bangladesh