Women, Islam and nation in Bengal
The new scholarship on Islam and Muslim societies is manifested in a plethora of books and writings, and driven by a need and wish to examine the structures that determine academic understanding of social and religious factors. The urgency of this project has of course accelerated after the events of September 2001, and the decade-long War on Terror.
In South Asia, this has meant reexamining, at one level, the 1947 partition, and the ways that the movement of peoples affected the nation-making efforts in India and Pakistan. In this context, Bangladesh has often taken a back seat, as a country that defines itself as a nation that came into being not as part of that post-colonial moment, but a quarter of a century later, in 1971. Bangladesh’s coming-into-being is traced to its struggles against the Pakistani state, which is typically seen as part of an assertion of a Bengali identity, in contradistinction to a Muslim one, which pertains to being Pakistani. The denial of the primacy of a Muslim identity is celebrated in Bangladesh history as part of an assertion of Bengali modernity – Pakistan being seen as Islamic and hence atavistic, and the emerging Bengali as secular and modern.
Firdous Azim is a Professor of English and Chairperson of the Department of English and Humanities at BRAC University in Bangladesh. She is a member of Naripokkho, a woman’s activist organization based in Bangladesh. She is a member of the editorial collective of IACS.