Defining self and other: Bangladesh’s secular aspirations and its writing of islam
CitationHuq, S. (2013). Defining self and other: Bangladesh’s secular aspirations and its writing of islam, xlviII(50), 51–61.
Bangladesh’s experience with secularism has been a checkered one. Beginning with a strong constitutional mandate and political rhetoric, the word secularism has been changed, removed and restored, while Islam remains the state religion. While aspirations to the principles of secularism, i.e., tolerance, peaceful co-existence and equal treatment of all religions by the state, have been battled at the level of constitutional amendments and political affiliations, these aspirations also undergird a certain epistemic ground, framed by hermeneutic approaches, which produces particular ways of understanding the self as Muslim and its non-Muslim others. This article takes a look at that epistemic ground- tracing the changes in constructions of self and other brought by the manner in which the Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh has approached the Quran, methods for reading it and the manner in which it has advocated attachment to the Islamic tradition. The article not only traces a shift over time, but highlights how an increasingly muted understanding of power has led, amidst calls for the restoration of secularism in an ever-growing democracy, to an ever expansive gap between Muslims and the non-Muslim others they share the nation state of Bangladesh with.