Clashing Nationalisms and Corrupting Co-Existence: An Analysis of the Shahbag/Hefajot Frenzy in Bangladesh | Asif Iqbal

Clashing Nationalisms and Corrupting Co-Existence: An Analysis of the Shahbag/Hefajot Frenzy in Bangladesh | Asif Iqbal

Clashing Nationalisms and Corrupting Co-Existence: An Analysis of the Shahbag/Hefajot Frenzy in Bangladesh
Asif Iqbal

Abstract: The Shahbag Protest and its aftermath, the rise of Hefajote Islam, signify the existence of competing ideological interests in the public sphere in Bangladesh. Rooted in the early 20th century Bengali-Hindu nationalist movement as well as in the identity politics that resulted in the Partition of the Subcontinent in 1947, the political polarization that gripped Bangladesh in 2013 has since divided the society. The Shahbag Protest, largely middle-class and urban in nature, was peaceful though it was demanding capital punishment against the war criminals. The proponents of the Shahbag Protest tried to evoke patriotic sentiment by emphasizing Bengaliness, a trait associated with the Bengali people, an “imagined community” created to legitimize the existence of Bangladesh. The violent Islamist rhetoric of the Hefajote Islam carried the insignia of the “Islamization” project. The discourse of global Islamism targets Muslimmajority countries in South Asia and SouthEast Asia as “these countries are not Islamic because their legal structures, norms, the predominant educational systems, popular cultures, etc., are manifestly un-Islamic” (Ahmad 3). In short, the cultural battle that emerged out of a legal demand for maximum punishment of the war criminals, who during the Liberation War of 1971, committed atrocities against their own people, is suggestive of the unresolved problem of nationalism in Bangladesh.

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Published in 2015

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