In a number of online forums including this blog and UV, I’ve chided Bangladeshi progressives for lumping all Islamic movements — harakat, to use the Arabic term preferred by many participants of such movements — as one monolithic and homogenous enemy, and demonising them as war criminals / collaborators / militants (if not chhagu or something worse). For some ultranationalists, anyone with facial hair and skull cap – dari-tupi — or hijab is enough to warrant such derogatory tagging. Childish such behaviour may be, but in a country where 90% of the people are Muslim, that behaviour will have dangerous blow back.
This post, however, is not about making that argument. Rather, this is really my attempt at classifying several streams of harakat as I see them in (hopefully soon to be post war crimes trial) Bangladesh. The analysis behind the classification is based on my own personal experience, observation and conversation, as well as a reading of the relevant literature (authors I would recommend include Gilles Kepel, Olivier Roy, Timur Kuran and Wali Nasr).
As always, the views are ever evolving and tentative. I may well change my mind in future. In fact, I will very likely do so. But this is how I see the movements in near future Bangladesh.
This is a positive post, not a normative one. That is, I am not going to comment on where I stand on the movements or their objectives. Rather, the idea is to classify the movements.
Mr Muhith brought down his fourth budget last week. For his first three budgets, I published a number of articles with my erstwhile Drishtipat colleagues (note to self: set up an archive of published analysis). These days, I prefer to focus on the blog. So instead of writing op eds for the Daily Star or BDnews24, I’ll do a number of posts over the next few weeks. Dear reader, this means I am writing exclusively for you.
The typical analysis of the Budget one sees in the media does not look at the past performance. And yet, analysis of how the government’s previous Budget forecasts turned out is a good way to judge the current forecasts. Using a set of charts, this post focusses on the government’s successive forecasts of GDP growth.
This is part five of a series by Dhaka Shohor, who visited Desh recently. Please direct comments appropriately. — JR
These posts will contain inappropriate language, rampant racism/sexism/age-ism, random references to things good Bangladeshi boys and girls are not to know about until one day they get married and magically become experts. — DS
Back in December 2011, with Ayub Bacchu on stage on Cox’s Bazar beach, I reach into my pocket and fish out a chapstick. The weather is warm enough, but dry. I had bought the chapstick the day before from a roadside shop. It was a strawberry flavoured one from Meril. A bit strong on the strawberry, but I’m not a chapstick connoisseur.
Would the people I know back in Dhaka judge me for using a Meril chapstick instead of Chapstick?
What shallow shits Dhakaites really are! Even the “middle class”, which in reality is just part of the 1% or acts like it is.
Even though both counsel the BNP chief politically, Mahmudur Rahman and Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury are two very different people.
Mahmudur Rahman belonged to right-wing politics in his student life. A BUET engineer with an MBA from the IBA, he was a successful businessman before entering government as the head of Board of Investment and then Energy Advisor during the third BNP administration. After 1/11, he emerged as the key election strategist for BNP in December 2008, and exerted a hardline, rejectionist influence that led to the party’s disastrous result. However, he continued to play an influential role in BNP politics as the editor of Daily Amar Desh, the dominant pro-BNP newspaper until it was banned a month ago.
Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, on the other hand, was a decorated freedom fighter who was tortured by the Pakistan army in 1971. He left Bangladesh army in January 1975 to join the civil service, and was a professional diplomat until retirement a few years ago. He served as foreign secretary and headed our mission in the United States. He joined BNP after 1/11, and is reputed to sound a conciliatory tone in internal party deliberations that seek to restore BNP as a party that is firmly in the centre of Bangladeshi politics.
The two men have very different ideas about Bangladesh’s place in the world, and what BNP should do to shape it. Whereas Mahmud is an ultra-nationalist who sees Indian and western conspiracy in most things, Mobin is a pragmatic nationalist who wants Bangladesh to be firmly anchored in regional and global comity of nations.
For all their differences, the two men have another thing in common: both face the wrath of the current government.
And, I suspect, their recent arrest and incarceration will have serious consequences for the Awami League government, consequences it couldn’t have intended when the two men were arrested.
The IMF publishes forecasts for the world economy twice a year. After its April release, I wrote a piece for Daily Star Forum asking ‘How will the global economic slowdown affect Bangladesh?’ — here is the piece. The October forecasts have recently been published, and this post revisits the question. Outlooks for the world economy has been revised downward sharply in the past 6 months. These are detailed first.
Then we turn to the outlook for Bangladesh. While the IMF has revised its 2008 forecast upward, 2009 is now expected to be weaker than thought earlier. Unfortunately, they don’t actually discuss their numbers, but the ADB does. The ADB’s latest forecasts for Bangladesh are actually quite optimistic for the financial year 2008-09. After summarising the ADB’s analysis, I finish with some comments – inflation is expected to remain stubbornly high – and note potential risks to the outlook. It seems to me that the IMF numbers are more likely to come true.
A butterfly flaps its wing somewhere in Borneo, setting off a perturbation in the weather system that eventually leads to a depression in the Bay of Bengal, and millions in the coastal Bangladesh fear the worst. This is a popular characterisation of chaos theory – a branch of mathematics that says that small changes in the initial condition has big impacts in the final outcome. I don’t know whether Arifur Rahman read about chaos theory or not, but when one of his cartoons was published by the Daily Prothom Alo last Sep, what happened was pretty close to chaos.
This was a time of fraying nerves. Tazreena Sajjad describes the zeitgeist of the time here. It was within weeks of the Dhaka University riots. For a while, there were rumours of Prothom Alo being shut down. In the event, things calmed down after Prothom Alo editor, a one-time communist, apologised to the Imam of the national mosque in the presence of the information minister of the military-backed regime.
After a year, we can think about the controversy with a calmer mind. That’s what this post attempts. First it notes the role played by a new generation of activists – online and in the ‘real’ world – during the crisis. Then it notes that this wasn’t the first incidence of its kind. Finally, it discusses where and how we might draw the line between freedoms of speech and faith.
(More at UV)
Arifur Rahman, a 23-year old cartoonist, was jailed by the de facto military regime in Bangladesh. His crime? Offending religious sensitivites. Rumi gives the background. Dhaka gives more details. Here is a history of the Islamist assault on freedom of thought in Bangladesh.
Originally posted at A-A-A.