ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Was Shahbag Up Against?

Radical Islam in Bangladesh

The rise of political Islam worldwide, having come through organisations believing in the ideas birthed and shaped by Mawlana Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb, is noteworthy. The world has witnessed armed and political confl icts fought on the frontlines of religious ideologies, some calling it the "war on terror", others, the "Jihad". It is in this context that the recent phenomenon of the Shahbag movement should be seen. It seems to be standing in opposition to the brand of political Islam of Mawdudi's Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders are complicit in the war crimes perpetrated in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and which is a part of that convergence of ideas propagating a new world order, arguably an Islamic Caliphate.

April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.

–T S Eliot, The Waste Land

There is something portentous about spring that the world has been witnessing lately from Tahrir to Shahbag. But, the springs in Tahrir and Shahbag have been as different as they can get. Indeed, Bangladesh’s spring came in 1990-91 when authoritarian rule was replaced by democracy. The spring of 2013, though, was about justice, about freeing the nation from war criminals and the toxic environment where the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has been criticised for being set up in non-transparent ways.

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