Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation

Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation

Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation

Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation

Synopsis

Highlighting the dynamic, pluralistic nature of Islamic civilization, Sufia Uddin examines the complex history of Islamic state formation in Bangladesh, formerly the eastern part of the Indian province of Bengal. Uddin focuses on significant moments in the region's history from medieval to modern times, examining the interplay of language, popular and scholarly religious literature, and the colonial experience as they contributed to the creation of a unique Bengali-Islamic identity.

During the precolonial era, Bengali, the dominant regional language, infused the richly diverse traditions of the region, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and, eventually, the Islamic religion and literature brought by Urdu-speaking Muslim conquerors from North India. Islam was not simply imported into the region by the ruling elite, Uddin explains, but was incorporated into local tradition over hundreds of years of interactions between Bengalis and non-Bengali Muslims. Constantly contested and negotiated, the Bengali vision of Islamic orthodoxy and community was reflected in both language and politics, which ultimately produced a specifically Bengali-Muslim culture. Uddin argues that this process in Bangladesh is representative of what happens elsewhere in the Muslim world and is therefore an instructive example of the complex and fluid relations between local heritage and the greater Islamic global community, or umma.

Excerpt

Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation is the fifth volume to be published in our series, Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks.

Why make Islamic civilization and Muslim networks the theme of a new series? The study of Islam and Muslim societies is of en marred by an overly fractured approach that frames Islam as the polar opposite of what “Westerners” are supposed to represent and advocate. Islam has been objectif ed as the obverse of the EuroAmerican societies that self-identify as “the West.” Political and economic trends have reinforced a habit of localizing Islam in the “volatile” Middle Eastern region. Marked as dangerous foreigners, Muslims are also demonized as regressive outsiders who reject modernity. The negative accent in media headlines about Islam creates a common tendency to refer to Islam and Muslims as being somewhere “over there,” in another space and another mind-set from the so-called rational, progressive, democratic West.

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