Article Review: “The New Islamist Public Sphere in Bangladesh”

Article Title: The New Islamist Public Sphere in Bangladesh

Author: Professor Ali Riaz

Journal: Global Change, Peace & Security: formerly Pacifica Review: Peace, Security & Global Change, 25:3, 299-312

Link to Article:

Reviewed by: Mohammad Rubaiyat Rahman

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A salient feature of Bangladeshi public sphere is that it is consisted of multiplicity of publics which reiterates secular rationality as well as religious neutrality. However, within the society, initiative is going on to make an Islamist public sphere. Various ways and efforts are contributing as impetus behind the initiative. Production of Islamic Fictions (in the genres of romance novel and thriller) and forming female discussion groups are the two pertinent efforts that author, Prof. Ali Riaz,  concentrates into analysis. Author opines that the ‘new public sphere’ emerging in Bangladesh is generated from conscious and autonomous efforts. Although the brewing public sphere is not generated from any single source initiative, author points out that such ‘not from the same source of ’ initiatives are trying to churn out similar objectives.

The article is structured in well manner. Before delving into the main discussion, author clarifies the theory ‘public sphere’ and ‘counterpublic’  since these concepts are stepping stones to lead the analysis. Irrespective of culture and time, the nexus between culture and power remains central in the formulation of ‘public sphere’ (p.300). However, ‘counterpublic’ exhibits as site of debate, resistance for activism in broader public sphere.

Here, Islamic fictions are expressions of creative imagination without having any specific difference from any secular counterparts. The only dragging line between the two is the absence of obscene and non-Islamic contents in the former. However, such Islamist fiction works conceive political move to persuade readers to presume various aspects of life and surroundings from Islamic perspective. Another conspicuous feature of Islamist fiction is that women’s participation role in public sphere which reiterates deficit of gender equality. (p. 305)

The female discussion groups are explained as informal group meetings like Taleem, Halaqa.  Author’s evaluations are based upon the analysis stemmed from discussions with such groups and also studies conducted by Islamic feminist scholars. The dissection of those female discussions group leads to nexus with political organizations. The analysis highlights that such group discussions have encompassed women of Bangladesh to  single authority of interpretation as to females’ responsibilities in the realm of society.

A feature of the emerging Islamist sphere is that, unlike Bangladeshi public sphere, it lacks multiplicity and rationale diversity. Although the new Islamist public sphere is recent to the diversified public sphere of Bangladesh; author deems its appearance as induction to the already  homogeneous and secular Bangladeshi public sphere. Author in the concluding part of the article remarks that since a public sphere’s existence is relied upon its attachment to society, the Islamist public sphere has to conform the essential requisite of delving itself into Bangladeshi society.




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