Although the Indian media’s claim that Bangladesh is well on the way to becoming a ‘failed state’ is not consistent with the latter’s economic, social and political record since 1971, it makes sense when such propaganda is interpreted as part of an Indian strategy to undermine Bangladesh’s existence as a sovereign nation. Starting from this assumption, the present paper argues that the re-emergence of a prominent Islamic theme within the matrix of Bangladesh’s culture and politics should be seen as much more than a knee-jerk response to India’s hegemonic design toward Bangladesh. Muslim identity in Bangladesh should be viewed as a ‘natural phenomenon’ that has been in the making at least since the eighteenth century. In order to establish this proposition, the paper traces the evolution of Islam in east Bengal as part of an ‘agricultural civilisation’ in which an egalitarian ideology of Muslim-ness was propagated and patronised by West and Central Asian Muslim traders, scholars and rulers in the context of a hierarchical ritualistic Hindu society that looked to keep the Muslim community downtrodden for both economic and political reasons.
South Asia-Journal of South Asian Studies Vol. 31, Issue 2, p. 364-382