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The Debate Extended


Manjur Ali

LIMITS OF ISLAMISM: JAMAAT-E-ISLAMI IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA AND BANGLADESH
By Maidul Islam
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 340, Rs. 708.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 10 October 2015

While I was in the midst of reading this book, repetition of a gruesome incident in neighbouring country, Bangladesh, shook me up. The death of Niloy Neel, an atheist and defender of secularism and minority rights, in Bangladesh certainly forced me to look for an answer. It was the fourth killing of a blogger in less than six and half months. In February, this year, Avijit Roy got killed by so called ‘Islamists’ after receiving a life threat. Then, Washiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das were killed in March and May respectively. Why have the critical voices in favour of secularism and minority (read LGBT) rights suddenly been put to death in a secular country dominated by Muslim population? What makes Islamists go for a kill? Similarly, within a year of Hindutva forming the government at the Union, India has seen hundreds of anti-minority/Muslim communal riots. Minorities in both the countries are facing life threats and physical annihilation. What will be the fate of secularism in India and Bangladesh? Where will democracy go from here in both countries? What role are different actors or institutions playing or expected to play? This book has focused on two such organizations with similar goals in each country—the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh and India. How have they evolved and created public space for themselves? What are the differences and similarities between the ‘organizations’ of the two countries? What are the different socio-political milieus in which they are operating? This book has reflected upon answers to many such questions. The book sets a broad scope and aim to achieve and strengthen ‘a liberal space/voice within the Muslim State and within the community’. ‘Islamism’ itself. The author uses ‘Islamism’ as a form of a totalistic ideology that wishes to organize society, polity and economy around the centrality of Islamic religion against the word ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ (p. 5). There are, in existence, different variants of Islamist organizations across the globe: a) Parliamentary Islamists b) Militant Islamists and c) Extremist Islamists. The Parliamentary Islamists generally use and choose parliamentary democratic methods such as participation in elections and mass mobilizations (p. 6). But the central theme of this book, as reflected in the sub-title of the book, is about the response of Islamism to the contemporary questions in the two countries. It is important here to look at what ‘contemporary’ stands for. The author has not defined what he ...


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