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Islam, Politics and Secularism in Bangladesh: Contesting the Dominant Narratives

Department of Political Studies, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet-3114, Bangladesh
Division of Sociology, Nanyang Technological University, 14 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637332, Singapore
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(3), 37;
Received: 9 December 2017 / Revised: 12 February 2018 / Accepted: 27 February 2018 / Published: 3 March 2018
PDF [248 KB, uploaded 14 March 2018]


Since late 2000s, the political landscape in Bangladesh moved from democracy to an authoritarian kleptocracy, and experienced a new set of political and social narratives. This paper aims to contest some of these dominant/official narratives which have been discursively constructed and promoted by the secularist parties (including the ruling regime) and groups in Bangladesh over recent years. Examining the sociopolitical and historical facts and figures of the country, we have identified five major contested narratives related to (a) Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan, (b) foundational ideology of Bangladesh’s war of liberation, (c) state-sponsored Islamization in Bangladesh, (d) pro-liberation and anti-liberation dichotomy, and (e) war crimes trial. Drawing on a robust content analysis of the credible secondary sources substantiated by qualitative interviews, we have examined these dominant narratives and found that they are not supported by historical evidence and popular mandate, yet have been constructed largely to support and legitimize the current authoritarian regime. The paper offers both counter-narratives and some pragmatic policy recommendations to elude increasing polarization and sociopolitical instability and foster a peaceful democratic society in Bangladesh. View Full-Text
Keywords: Islam; secularism; Bangladesh; Bengali nationalism; political narratives Islam; secularism; Bangladesh; Bengali nationalism; political narratives
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Islam, M.N.; Islam, M.S. Islam, Politics and Secularism in Bangladesh: Contesting the Dominant Narratives. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 37.

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