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200px-IbnWarraqwhyIAmNotMuslim There’s an old joke that people in Alabama can be rest assured that when scholars tote up social statistics there’s always Mississippi to make sure that their state isn’t the last one listed. Sometimes I feel that way when thinking about comparing Bangladesh to Pakistan. Right now it is big news that an atheist blogger has been killed in Bangladesh, presumably by Islamic militants or sympathizers thereof. Naturally people are bringing this to my attention because 1) I was born in Bangladesh 2) I’m an atheist 3) I’m a blogger. But there are some important differences. From what I am to gather this blogger was focused on issues relating to atheism and secularism, and, his core audience was Bangladeshi. I write to a mostly American audience, and religion as a political issue is not a primary focus of mine (as opposed to a scholarly interest). Honestly I am more frightened of dying of a disease than being hacked to death by Islamist radicals if I were to visit Bangladesh, because I’m not that prominent.* Though this is certainly another argument for why I might want to avoid that country. In How The Scots Invented the Modern World the author points out that the last person killed on account of their atheism in the British Isles lived around 1700. Though the killing of Avijit Roy is not quite analogous, because it was a vigilante action, it illustrates the social sentiment broadly in society that blasphemy may be a capital crime in some parts of the world, hundreds of years after this sort of fanaticism abated in the West.

gsi2-chp1-9 Of more interest to me is that there is an atheist movement in public in Bangladesh at all. This is after all a very underdeveloped nation (Pakistan is still more economically developed) which is highly religious. It is also a nation where religious minorities occupy a somewhat precarious position. Nevertheless, against the standard and trajectory of Pakistan Bangladesh is relatively liberal and advanced when it comes to religious liberty from a Western perspective. The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh is a Hindu. Unlike Pakistan the Ahmadis receive some official protection. One of the two major political parties, and the one currently in power, has maintained a stronger commitment to secularism in the face of pressure from the religious elements than its socialist analog in Pakistan (though it too has caved to aspects of Islamicization of society since the 1970s).**

The reasons for this difference are multifaceted. It could be as simple as the historical contingency that the United States buttressed the Islamic autocracy of Zia ul-Huq in the 1980s. Though today Pakistan is a byword for Islamic extremism, I tend to be of the opinion that its origins can be understood more as an instance of ‘religious nationalism,’ akin to Revisionist Zionism. The founder of Pakistan had a religious background which would be unacceptable to many Pakistanis today, and his personal piety was minimal. Pakistan initially served as a redoubt in the Indian subcontinent against Hindu numerical dominance, not the catspaw in Sunni radical millenarianism. It was a place where the traditional Muslim elites could take their rightful role as the political leaders, rather than being marginalized as would have been the case in a democratic India. Over time this national identity, of which religion was a part, though never a totality, has become more and more tied in with currents in international Sunni Islamic radicalism (to the obvious detriment of the non-Sunni minorities, including Shia such as the founder of the nation himself).

But this isn’t just a matter of sentiments on high. Rather, the reserves of secularism and tolerance for heterodoxy run deeper in modern Bangladesh than they do in Pakistan. Though >80 percent of both Pakistani and Bangaldeshi Muslims agree that Sharia should be the law of the land, less than half of Bangaldeshis who agree with this proposition believe that those who leave Islam should be subject to the death penalty according to Pew. It is notable that there are people willing to speak the record on video defending the right to Roy expressing his atheism. An English language newspaper in Bangladesh reflects this sentiment. Looking around the web about Pakistani atheism, it seems quite closeted, and columnists who write about it seem to parse their words carefully so as to avoid vigilante attention.

Writing about the modest protests The Guardian notes:

The attacks starkly underline an increasing gulf between secular bloggers and conservative Islamic groups, often covertly connected with Islamist parties. Secularists have urged authorities to ban religion-based politics, while Islamists have pressed for blasphemy laws to prevent criticism of their faith.

It is important to note that despite the groundswell of anger from the usual suspects among Muslims, there is still a strong enough secular liberal intelligentsia in Bangladesh which can speak in favor of someone as religiously marginal as an atheist from a Hindu background. The murder is a tragedy, but the reaction is to some extent heartening, and I hope heralds a future where social conflict can give way to the driving of religion into the private sphere (I think banning religious parties is usually counterproductive, for the record. I’d also oppose banning them on principle even if it was productive).

* Though I checked, and it is interesting that I have more Twitter followers from Bangladesh than Germany, probably on account of my name.

** The Awami League and the People’s Party respectively.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Bangladesh, Religion 
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  1. Razib – Mukto Mona was not “atheist” in the sense that you are atheist. It was a hardcharging anti-religious website, at the cutting edge of cultural Marxism. And the fact that it’s founder was Hindu, in a country like Bangladesh, was bound to irritate the usual suspects.

    I’m as atheist as they come, but I see that religion has its utility (as do you, I’m sure). Now, religion by definition has to have an irrational core, so no religion can take sustained critique from rationalists and still retain the core elements that make it a religion (like offering meaning, supporting traditionalism, opposing nihilism, and so on)

    In a purely intellectual sense – what do you think religious people should do when socially liberal rationalists and fellowtravelers use reason to critique and mock their faith?

    We know some possible options – either cave in completely, and be (or pretend to be) more socially liberal than the liberals themselves, like with US Protestantism, and Indian Hinduism. Or huddle together and back away from the public square, as with Hasidic Jews or the Amish. Or use violence to silence rationalists – as with Charlie Hebdo and now this bangladesh thing. Or grin and bear it, like the Mormons.

    Of these, it seems painfully obvious that only in option #3 has religion retained the upper hand.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Now, religion by definition has to have an irrational core, so no religion can take sustained critique from rationalists and still retain the core elements that make it a religion (like offering meaning, supporting traditionalism, opposing nihilism, and so on)

    my ideas about religion can't be reduced to this. i think you confuse elite perceptions of the instrumentality of religion by elites with the causal root of it as a phenomenon (i.e., it derives from modal human intuitions, it does not serve an existential function necessarily).

    what do you think religious people should do when socially liberal rationalists and fellowtravelers use reason to critique and mock their faith?

    well, don't kill them or jail them. frankly if they were ignored they'd lose a lot of their motivation.

    Of these, it seems painfully obvious that only in option #3 has religion retained the upper hand.


    the age of institutional religion as culturally supreme arrived in the 600s BC and finished in the 600s AD. it may yet go. religion more broadly is probably primal, and it will remain.
    , @SFG
    The Mormons are actually doing pretty well--they've been gaining lots of new converts. Probably the best thing, at least here in the USA, is to work hard and gain a good reputation for your religious community.

    Heck, we've got gentiles crashing Jdate... ;)
    , @Dain
    FWIW, Roy sought Richard Dawkins' backing in his advocacy of atheism:

    https://www.facebook.com/RichardDawkinsFoundation/posts/532576740131934

    Not sure if you've noticed, but for the modern left including the Marxist left, Dawkins is considered a reactionary fuddy duddy doing the bidding of American imperialists. Just Google "Marxist Dawkins." Now maybe it's different for the atheist community NOT based in N. America or Western Europe, but the "cutting edge" leftists you speak of have at this point almost completely ceded the "New Atheists" to the libertarian (and secular conservative) right. There's a reason Ayaan Hirsi Ali was picked up by the American Enterprise Institute, e.g.
  2. a few points:

    1. Why do the Islamic groups care about HINDU atheists? are they not going to hell whether they are atheist or not? Is being Hindu not sufficient? do we get to go to hell twice over?

    2. I am much older than you and visited the Dinajpur Rangpur region in the mid 70s (in those days you could travel across the border); I have seen Muslims praying to streetside Hindu gods and Hindus in front of mosques. Of course I was making Hindu-muslim differences based on what was on the forehead, but I think Islam in Bangladesh was not very Islamically “advanced” (or retarded), whichever way you take it. I kid you not when I say I gave Kali temple prasadh to more muslims than Hindus.

    3. Salman Khan name has been a great asset to the Khan bloggers of the world. I swear that a Bangladeshi family man in Jackson heights think that you are from the same family, and into education.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    2. I am much older than you and visited the Dinajpur Rangpur region in the mid 70s (in those days you could travel across the border); I have seen Muslims praying to streetside Hindu gods and Hindus in front of mosques. Of course I was making Hindu-muslim differences based on what was on the forehead, but I think Islam in Bangladesh was not very Islamically “advanced” (or retarded), whichever way you take it. I kid you not when I say I gave Kali temple prasadh to more muslims than Hindus.


    true for the peasantry. and also for certain elites like kazi islam. but for the literate classes of muslims, who were originally mostly non-bengali in language and identity, but later became so, this sort of syncretism probably wasn't that notable. i come form a like of ulems and such who frowned upon this sort of behavior. though i have to say that in many ways my mother's generation has reverted to a 'less islamic' set of norms (e.g., my father's line did not have bengali nicknames, but it seems that the current generation has picked up the practice).
  3. Why did you put a picture of Quran in a pig’s mouth? There is no reference to this picture in your article. Is it a symbolic act of defiance? Or a gratuitous insult?

    • Replies: @Robert Ford
    i am offended that you viewed that pic as an insult. now it is removed and i feel like my voice has been minimized in what is normally a safe space for me. #[email protected]
  4. Fanaticism just isn’t compatible with 21st century society. It is a mind virus, that creates a type of insanity, just as lethal as infection with a biological pathogen, except we have not yet found a vaccine.

  5. @Snake Charmer
    Why did you put a picture of Quran in a pig's mouth? There is no reference to this picture in your article. Is it a symbolic act of defiance? Or a gratuitous insult?

    i am offended that you viewed that pic as an insult. now it is removed and i feel like my voice has been minimized in what is normally a safe space for me. #[email protected]

    • Replies: @Snake Charmer
    I was not issuing my opinion, but simply asking a question, . This blogger mentioned that he shares 3 primary attributes with the murdered blogger (Both are/were Bangladeshi Americans, atheists and bloggers). And then, right in the middle of the article there is this picture without any context. Just a pig with Quran's in its mouth. So what are we supposed to make out of it? Open defiance to fanatics?A statement about insisting on one's freedom of speech? This is all I asked.
  6. @thinkingabout it
    Razib - Mukto Mona was not "atheist" in the sense that you are atheist. It was a hardcharging anti-religious website, at the cutting edge of cultural Marxism. And the fact that it's founder was Hindu, in a country like Bangladesh, was bound to irritate the usual suspects.

    I'm as atheist as they come, but I see that religion has its utility (as do you, I'm sure). Now, religion by definition has to have an irrational core, so no religion can take sustained critique from rationalists and still retain the core elements that make it a religion (like offering meaning, supporting traditionalism, opposing nihilism, and so on)

    In a purely intellectual sense - what do you think religious people should do when socially liberal rationalists and fellowtravelers use reason to critique and mock their faith?

    We know some possible options - either cave in completely, and be (or pretend to be) more socially liberal than the liberals themselves, like with US Protestantism, and Indian Hinduism. Or huddle together and back away from the public square, as with Hasidic Jews or the Amish. Or use violence to silence rationalists - as with Charlie Hebdo and now this bangladesh thing. Or grin and bear it, like the Mormons.

    Of these, it seems painfully obvious that only in option #3 has religion retained the upper hand.

    Now, religion by definition has to have an irrational core, so no religion can take sustained critique from rationalists and still retain the core elements that make it a religion (like offering meaning, supporting traditionalism, opposing nihilism, and so on)

    my ideas about religion can’t be reduced to this. i think you confuse elite perceptions of the instrumentality of religion by elites with the causal root of it as a phenomenon (i.e., it derives from modal human intuitions, it does not serve an existential function necessarily).

    what do you think religious people should do when socially liberal rationalists and fellowtravelers use reason to critique and mock their faith?

    well, don’t kill them or jail them. frankly if they were ignored they’d lose a lot of their motivation.

    Of these, it seems painfully obvious that only in option #3 has religion retained the upper hand.

    the age of institutional religion as culturally supreme arrived in the 600s BC and finished in the 600s AD. it may yet go. religion more broadly is probably primal, and it will remain.

  7. @Vijay
    a few points:

    1. Why do the Islamic groups care about HINDU atheists? are they not going to hell whether they are atheist or not? Is being Hindu not sufficient? do we get to go to hell twice over?

    2. I am much older than you and visited the Dinajpur Rangpur region in the mid 70s (in those days you could travel across the border); I have seen Muslims praying to streetside Hindu gods and Hindus in front of mosques. Of course I was making Hindu-muslim differences based on what was on the forehead, but I think Islam in Bangladesh was not very Islamically "advanced" (or retarded), whichever way you take it. I kid you not when I say I gave Kali temple prasadh to more muslims than Hindus.

    3. Salman Khan name has been a great asset to the Khan bloggers of the world. I swear that a Bangladeshi family man in Jackson heights think that you are from the same family, and into education.

    2. I am much older than you and visited the Dinajpur Rangpur region in the mid 70s (in those days you could travel across the border); I have seen Muslims praying to streetside Hindu gods and Hindus in front of mosques. Of course I was making Hindu-muslim differences based on what was on the forehead, but I think Islam in Bangladesh was not very Islamically “advanced” (or retarded), whichever way you take it. I kid you not when I say I gave Kali temple prasadh to more muslims than Hindus.

    true for the peasantry. and also for certain elites like kazi islam. but for the literate classes of muslims, who were originally mostly non-bengali in language and identity, but later became so, this sort of syncretism probably wasn’t that notable. i come form a like of ulems and such who frowned upon this sort of behavior. though i have to say that in many ways my mother’s generation has reverted to a ‘less islamic’ set of norms (e.g., my father’s line did not have bengali nicknames, but it seems that the current generation has picked up the practice).

    • Replies: @Epicaric
    A blurring of religious lines is not - or, rather, was not - unusual in many traditional societies. This could be seen in the congruent mysticism and Catholicism of Calabria; the appeals to heavenly intervention made by Muslims to Christian and Jewish saints in the Nile delta and the common synthesis of animism and other traditional belief systems with monotheism in Africa and Latin America.
    In the Egyptian experience, 60 years of Egyptian laborers returning from the more orthodox Gulf States has dramatically changed the more fluid rural Islam of the Egyptian countryside in ways that Al Azhar could never have accomplished.
  8. Years ago Razib posted a description of the traumatic experience he had as a boy when his parents placed him in a madrassa, a muslim school in Bangladesh, for I think it was two weeks. I was moved by it because it sounded so horrible. I encourage you to repost it. A lot of parents want to imbue their children with their religious traditions even if they aren’t very religious, but that experience sounded a lot closer to a jail sentence than my personal experience of wasted Sunday mornings in a Sunday school.

  9. Razib I recently finished In Gods We Trust, and Atran seems to not be optimistic about the chances for Atheism or Secularism in the long-run, seeing religion as a much more powerful force that can bind people to social rules and communities in a stronger way than any secular ideology can.

    It’s interesting then to read you being hopeful that Bangladesh could move in a more secular direction, what forces do you see that could lead to that, pure top-down elite influence?

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    re: atran. he's talking about a majority atheist/materialist/rationalist population. i'm skeptical of that too. but there's a big gap between that generic vision, and the way in which religion has become central in many societies over the past few thousand years. IOW, scott atran is talking about religion as a cognitive phenomenon. in this post was talking about its social-historical-cultural valence.
  10. I wasn’t raised in a religious household, and none of my grandparents were religious either. However, my experience has been that intelligent, science-savy friends of mine who were religious simply inherited the religion from their parents. They adopted the church that they were raised in. In other respects, they were educated in the sciences, had good reasoning capabilities, etc. The one caveat I would suggest is that they were not well-versed in philosophy. They had not read the enlightenment thinkers on religion.
    I didn’t see any evidence of gaps in their reasoning in other areas of life. They are successful professionals. I don’t think there is a neuropsychological difference between them and other non-religious, well-educated professionals.
    They grew up in religious households, and the pull of their family belief systems kept those belief systems going in their adult lives.
    In my case, my family never considered religion seriously at any stage. We never were members of any religious group, and religion was never considered to have any merit. My grandparents on both sides of the family didn’t see religion as having any merit either. None of my collateral relatives, i.e. cousins, aunts, uncles, etc were religious either. There was no religious atmosphere. I did self-educate myself later on the belief systems of the religions, but never joined a religious group myself. I think it is more challenging from a psychological perspective for people to walk away from a religion that they associate with their family, partially because of their emotional ties to their family’s views. If you never had that emotional tie, there is much less pull in that direction, particularly if you were exposed to the Enlightenment objections to religion from day 1.

  11. @Hipster
    Razib I recently finished In Gods We Trust, and Atran seems to not be optimistic about the chances for Atheism or Secularism in the long-run, seeing religion as a much more powerful force that can bind people to social rules and communities in a stronger way than any secular ideology can.

    It's interesting then to read you being hopeful that Bangladesh could move in a more secular direction, what forces do you see that could lead to that, pure top-down elite influence?

    re: atran. he’s talking about a majority atheist/materialist/rationalist population. i’m skeptical of that too. but there’s a big gap between that generic vision, and the way in which religion has become central in many societies over the past few thousand years. IOW, scott atran is talking about religion as a cognitive phenomenon. in this post was talking about its social-historical-cultural valence.

  12. http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/the-geography-of-divergent-immigrant-fortunes

    In Britain, Bangladeshis fare better than Pakistanis. The intensity of inbreeding homophily explains the difference.

  13. @thinkingabout it
    Razib - Mukto Mona was not "atheist" in the sense that you are atheist. It was a hardcharging anti-religious website, at the cutting edge of cultural Marxism. And the fact that it's founder was Hindu, in a country like Bangladesh, was bound to irritate the usual suspects.

    I'm as atheist as they come, but I see that religion has its utility (as do you, I'm sure). Now, religion by definition has to have an irrational core, so no religion can take sustained critique from rationalists and still retain the core elements that make it a religion (like offering meaning, supporting traditionalism, opposing nihilism, and so on)

    In a purely intellectual sense - what do you think religious people should do when socially liberal rationalists and fellowtravelers use reason to critique and mock their faith?

    We know some possible options - either cave in completely, and be (or pretend to be) more socially liberal than the liberals themselves, like with US Protestantism, and Indian Hinduism. Or huddle together and back away from the public square, as with Hasidic Jews or the Amish. Or use violence to silence rationalists - as with Charlie Hebdo and now this bangladesh thing. Or grin and bear it, like the Mormons.

    Of these, it seems painfully obvious that only in option #3 has religion retained the upper hand.

    The Mormons are actually doing pretty well–they’ve been gaining lots of new converts. Probably the best thing, at least here in the USA, is to work hard and gain a good reputation for your religious community.

    Heck, we’ve got gentiles crashing Jdate… 😉

  14. Dain says: • Website
    @thinkingabout it
    Razib - Mukto Mona was not "atheist" in the sense that you are atheist. It was a hardcharging anti-religious website, at the cutting edge of cultural Marxism. And the fact that it's founder was Hindu, in a country like Bangladesh, was bound to irritate the usual suspects.

    I'm as atheist as they come, but I see that religion has its utility (as do you, I'm sure). Now, religion by definition has to have an irrational core, so no religion can take sustained critique from rationalists and still retain the core elements that make it a religion (like offering meaning, supporting traditionalism, opposing nihilism, and so on)

    In a purely intellectual sense - what do you think religious people should do when socially liberal rationalists and fellowtravelers use reason to critique and mock their faith?

    We know some possible options - either cave in completely, and be (or pretend to be) more socially liberal than the liberals themselves, like with US Protestantism, and Indian Hinduism. Or huddle together and back away from the public square, as with Hasidic Jews or the Amish. Or use violence to silence rationalists - as with Charlie Hebdo and now this bangladesh thing. Or grin and bear it, like the Mormons.

    Of these, it seems painfully obvious that only in option #3 has religion retained the upper hand.

    FWIW, Roy sought Richard Dawkins’ backing in his advocacy of atheism:

    Hey Richard, do you know Asif Mohiuddin's writeup was published in your site just before he got arrested? I would like to request you to go thru my article …

    Posted by Avijit Roy on Sunday, April 28, 2013

    Not sure if you’ve noticed, but for the modern left including the Marxist left, Dawkins is considered a reactionary fuddy duddy doing the bidding of American imperialists. Just Google “Marxist Dawkins.” Now maybe it’s different for the atheist community NOT based in N. America or Western Europe, but the “cutting edge” leftists you speak of have at this point almost completely ceded the “New Atheists” to the libertarian (and secular conservative) right. There’s a reason Ayaan Hirsi Ali was picked up by the American Enterprise Institute, e.g.

  15. @Robert Ford
    i am offended that you viewed that pic as an insult. now it is removed and i feel like my voice has been minimized in what is normally a safe space for me. #[email protected]

    I was not issuing my opinion, but simply asking a question, . This blogger mentioned that he shares 3 primary attributes with the murdered blogger (Both are/were Bangladeshi Americans, atheists and bloggers). And then, right in the middle of the article there is this picture without any context. Just a pig with Quran’s in its mouth. So what are we supposed to make out of it? Open defiance to fanatics?A statement about insisting on one’s freedom of speech? This is all I asked.

  16. The fact that Roy was a Hindu married to a muslim woman is reason enough for his murder – has happened to lots of mixed couples in India –

  17. Razib, there was a recent article in The Economist, comparing Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants in Britain that makes some similar points than you do.

    http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21644155-britain-bangladeshis-have-overtaken-pakistanis-credit-poor-job-market-when-they-arrived

    Have you read it, any thoughts?

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    1) 'bangladeshi' in england means sylheti. so that's one confounding issue (when i visited london i couldn't really understand the bangladeshi people, in contrast to new york city, where people from sylhet are not dominant, so they speak standard bengali, not sylheti).

    2) seems like they are putting too much emphasis on one variable, while caveating it. but it is important to consider the differences between bengal and the punjabi/kashmir region. cousin marriage is more common in the latter as well. though from what i can tell british bangaldeshis have a stronger islamic identity than bangladeshis themselves. though sylhet is a moderately more religious area than most parts of bangladeshi (exception being noakhali).

  18. @Snake Charmer
    I was not issuing my opinion, but simply asking a question, . This blogger mentioned that he shares 3 primary attributes with the murdered blogger (Both are/were Bangladeshi Americans, atheists and bloggers). And then, right in the middle of the article there is this picture without any context. Just a pig with Quran's in its mouth. So what are we supposed to make out of it? Open defiance to fanatics?A statement about insisting on one's freedom of speech? This is all I asked.
    • Replies: @Snake Charmer
    Ok. A google image search reveals that it is quite a popular picture. Google show ~425 results for this image. Most of the results are, unsurprisingly, from Islam baiting websites.

    However, the blogger may have unintentionally advertised the views of Islamic fundamentalists instead of defying them. A zoom up of the image reveals that the book in question is a translation of Quran by an Ahmadi Muslim religious leader. It is not clear what are the origins of this picture, but a very likely scenario is that the picture in fact may have been taken and publicized by Muslim fundamentalists to insult Ahmadis. The picture shows a severed head of pig with the book written by an Ahmadi in its mouth. It is common for fundamentalists Muslims to label Ahmadi leaders, especially the movement's founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a pig. So the implication is that the book in picture came out the mouth of a pig, and the person writing such books deserves to be slaughtered. Certainly not the message the blogger wanted to convey. :)

  19. @andy
    Razib, there was a recent article in The Economist, comparing Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants in Britain that makes some similar points than you do.

    http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21644155-britain-bangladeshis-have-overtaken-pakistanis-credit-poor-job-market-when-they-arrived

    Have you read it, any thoughts?

    1) ‘bangladeshi’ in england means sylheti. so that’s one confounding issue (when i visited london i couldn’t really understand the bangladeshi people, in contrast to new york city, where people from sylhet are not dominant, so they speak standard bengali, not sylheti).

    2) seems like they are putting too much emphasis on one variable, while caveating it. but it is important to consider the differences between bengal and the punjabi/kashmir region. cousin marriage is more common in the latter as well. though from what i can tell british bangaldeshis have a stronger islamic identity than bangladeshis themselves. though sylhet is a moderately more religious area than most parts of bangladeshi (exception being noakhali).

    • Replies: @Vijay
    1. The distance from Sylheti to Bengali is greater than Assamese to Bengali; Bangladeshi Sylhetis have picked up Bengali accents to modify the Sylheti pronounciations; but true Syleti is still spoken in Karimganj and kachar districts of India, and has its own script. Even native Bengalis will have hard time identifying the Bengali influences.
    2. I think Andres's point is the Sylhetis are even more rural than the Mirpuris. However, Sylhetis in Bangladesh include those who relocated from the Surma valley (cachar, Karimabad, Hailakandi and other parts of Assam) during the partition. Even for Bangladesh, the relocating Sylhetis were and are well educated in Bengali and old Assamese. We should not assume that all immigrants are less educated. The Bangladeshi feelings of superiority to Sylhetis are based on the fact that their Bengali was mediocre/accented, not because the Sylhetis are less educated. To be perfectly honest, Sylhetis think poorly of the "Bengalis" also. The success of Sylhetis is not surprising; they are a more complex group of people than what we take them to be.
  20. @Razib Khan
    1) 'bangladeshi' in england means sylheti. so that's one confounding issue (when i visited london i couldn't really understand the bangladeshi people, in contrast to new york city, where people from sylhet are not dominant, so they speak standard bengali, not sylheti).

    2) seems like they are putting too much emphasis on one variable, while caveating it. but it is important to consider the differences between bengal and the punjabi/kashmir region. cousin marriage is more common in the latter as well. though from what i can tell british bangaldeshis have a stronger islamic identity than bangladeshis themselves. though sylhet is a moderately more religious area than most parts of bangladeshi (exception being noakhali).

    1. The distance from Sylheti to Bengali is greater than Assamese to Bengali; Bangladeshi Sylhetis have picked up Bengali accents to modify the Sylheti pronounciations; but true Syleti is still spoken in Karimganj and kachar districts of India, and has its own script. Even native Bengalis will have hard time identifying the Bengali influences.
    2. I think Andres’s point is the Sylhetis are even more rural than the Mirpuris. However, Sylhetis in Bangladesh include those who relocated from the Surma valley (cachar, Karimabad, Hailakandi and other parts of Assam) during the partition. Even for Bangladesh, the relocating Sylhetis were and are well educated in Bengali and old Assamese. We should not assume that all immigrants are less educated. The Bangladeshi feelings of superiority to Sylhetis are based on the fact that their Bengali was mediocre/accented, not because the Sylhetis are less educated. To be perfectly honest, Sylhetis think poorly of the “Bengalis” also. The success of Sylhetis is not surprising; they are a more complex group of people than what we take them to be.

  21. @MEH 0910

    Ok. A google image search reveals that it is quite a popular picture. Google show ~425 results for this image. Most of the results are, unsurprisingly, from Islam baiting websites.

    However, the blogger may have unintentionally advertised the views of Islamic fundamentalists instead of defying them. A zoom up of the image reveals that the book in question is a translation of Quran by an Ahmadi Muslim religious leader. It is not clear what are the origins of this picture, but a very likely scenario is that the picture in fact may have been taken and publicized by Muslim fundamentalists to insult Ahmadis. The picture shows a severed head of pig with the book written by an Ahmadi in its mouth. It is common for fundamentalists Muslims to label Ahmadi leaders, especially the movement’s founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a pig. So the implication is that the book in picture came out the mouth of a pig, and the person writing such books deserves to be slaughtered. Certainly not the message the blogger wanted to convey. 🙂

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i knew it was ahmadi. pointed out to me in the initial post years ago. but the intent of the original posters isn't that important, since most people don't note those peculiar details. i think i might have a koran somewhere but i don't have easy access to pigs' heads (and anyway, people in my private life are not happy with the display of dead animals in that picture).
  22. @Snake Charmer
    Ok. A google image search reveals that it is quite a popular picture. Google show ~425 results for this image. Most of the results are, unsurprisingly, from Islam baiting websites.

    However, the blogger may have unintentionally advertised the views of Islamic fundamentalists instead of defying them. A zoom up of the image reveals that the book in question is a translation of Quran by an Ahmadi Muslim religious leader. It is not clear what are the origins of this picture, but a very likely scenario is that the picture in fact may have been taken and publicized by Muslim fundamentalists to insult Ahmadis. The picture shows a severed head of pig with the book written by an Ahmadi in its mouth. It is common for fundamentalists Muslims to label Ahmadi leaders, especially the movement's founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad a pig. So the implication is that the book in picture came out the mouth of a pig, and the person writing such books deserves to be slaughtered. Certainly not the message the blogger wanted to convey. :)

    i knew it was ahmadi. pointed out to me in the initial post years ago. but the intent of the original posters isn’t that important, since most people don’t note those peculiar details. i think i might have a koran somewhere but i don’t have easy access to pigs’ heads (and anyway, people in my private life are not happy with the display of dead animals in that picture).

    • Replies: @Snake Charmer
    "..i think i might have a koran somewhere but i don’t have easy access to pigs’ heads.."

    I think I got the point. Spare the pigs please.
  23. @Razib Khan
    i knew it was ahmadi. pointed out to me in the initial post years ago. but the intent of the original posters isn't that important, since most people don't note those peculiar details. i think i might have a koran somewhere but i don't have easy access to pigs' heads (and anyway, people in my private life are not happy with the display of dead animals in that picture).

    “..i think i might have a koran somewhere but i don’t have easy access to pigs’ heads..”

    I think I got the point. Spare the pigs please.

  24. @Razib Khan
    2. I am much older than you and visited the Dinajpur Rangpur region in the mid 70s (in those days you could travel across the border); I have seen Muslims praying to streetside Hindu gods and Hindus in front of mosques. Of course I was making Hindu-muslim differences based on what was on the forehead, but I think Islam in Bangladesh was not very Islamically “advanced” (or retarded), whichever way you take it. I kid you not when I say I gave Kali temple prasadh to more muslims than Hindus.


    true for the peasantry. and also for certain elites like kazi islam. but for the literate classes of muslims, who were originally mostly non-bengali in language and identity, but later became so, this sort of syncretism probably wasn't that notable. i come form a like of ulems and such who frowned upon this sort of behavior. though i have to say that in many ways my mother's generation has reverted to a 'less islamic' set of norms (e.g., my father's line did not have bengali nicknames, but it seems that the current generation has picked up the practice).

    A blurring of religious lines is not – or, rather, was not – unusual in many traditional societies. This could be seen in the congruent mysticism and Catholicism of Calabria; the appeals to heavenly intervention made by Muslims to Christian and Jewish saints in the Nile delta and the common synthesis of animism and other traditional belief systems with monotheism in Africa and Latin America.
    In the Egyptian experience, 60 years of Egyptian laborers returning from the more orthodox Gulf States has dramatically changed the more fluid rural Islam of the Egyptian countryside in ways that Al Azhar could never have accomplished.

    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i know. see: abangan & santri with the latter correlated with urbanization and development.
  25. @Epicaric
    A blurring of religious lines is not - or, rather, was not - unusual in many traditional societies. This could be seen in the congruent mysticism and Catholicism of Calabria; the appeals to heavenly intervention made by Muslims to Christian and Jewish saints in the Nile delta and the common synthesis of animism and other traditional belief systems with monotheism in Africa and Latin America.
    In the Egyptian experience, 60 years of Egyptian laborers returning from the more orthodox Gulf States has dramatically changed the more fluid rural Islam of the Egyptian countryside in ways that Al Azhar could never have accomplished.

    i know. see: abangan & santri with the latter correlated with urbanization and development.

  26. Pakistan had a Christian chief justice in the 1960s (A.R. Cornelius) and a Hindu chief justice in the 1990s (RamBhagwandas). If this is an important metric for liberalism for you, PK outpaces Bdesh. (In my view, it says something about elite society in Pk, but our concerns about the land of the pure don’t have much to do with the liberal elite).

    Lile Epicaric, I cannot overemphasize the role the gulf has played in promoting religious intolerance in Pakistan. Millions of migrant laborers have worked in the wealthy, developed gulf emirates and Saudi. They serve as a mistaken example of how to create a rich, non corrupt country. In contrast, only a few of the elite have been to the liberal west.

    • Replies: @KA
    Could we say that a genie was freed in the open in 1980 ? Evil God chose Pakistan Afghanistan border to preempt the advances of " Evil Empire" by Brezinsky resulting in the " stirred up" Muslim springing up all over the map.
    What could have happened if instead of using religion , West used the ideas of freedom,autonomy,languages of post colonization discourse, sanctity of the freedom to choose ,free market ,historical Afghanistani sense of freedom and threat to the 3 rd world from the Soviet?
    Political Islam was made in the west . Who would have gravitated from far flung countries to this border to fight ? None. American support ( so did China ,Arab,and Pakistan ) created a force that didn't exist in late 30 th century.
    With money and propaganda this can be achieved in any country and any religion can serve as the foundation of this kind of political movement .
  27. This was a kafir Hindu man, married to a muslimah woman. In Pakistan, he would have been lynched a long time ago

    • Replies: @KA
    In India this type of marriage is being denounced as " jihad love " .The spouses have been subjected to physical attacks .BJP leaders are spearheading this movement to marginalize and ostracize any possibility of Hindu Muslim contacts at social level. Worse is the recent invectives leveled against Indian Muslim Vice President and open disrespect showed to him by the elected BJP lawmakers in government ceremonies.
    There is no " sharia law" in Hinduism but similar constraints on minorities are being promoted by the BJP RSS socio political plank . Hinduvatta isn't any way different from Sharia or from 15 th century political Christianity.
  28. KA says:
    @rec1man
    This was a kafir Hindu man, married to a muslimah woman. In Pakistan, he would have been lynched a long time ago

    In India this type of marriage is being denounced as ” jihad love ” .The spouses have been subjected to physical attacks .BJP leaders are spearheading this movement to marginalize and ostracize any possibility of Hindu Muslim contacts at social level. Worse is the recent invectives leveled against Indian Muslim Vice President and open disrespect showed to him by the elected BJP lawmakers in government ceremonies.
    There is no ” sharia law” in Hinduism but similar constraints on minorities are being promoted by the BJP RSS socio political plank . Hinduvatta isn’t any way different from Sharia or from 15 th century political Christianity.

    • Replies: @rec1man
    In India, plenty of Hindu and Christian men have been killed for marrying muslim women -
    and the other way too -

    http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/hindu-man-muslim-wife-hacked-to-death-in-broad-daylight-in-hapur-706152

    here, a dalit Hindu man killed by his muslim in-laws for marrying a muslim woman, in Uttar Pradesh

    http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/228074859

    Sonu, a Hindu, and Danishta, a Muslim, had married in a court two months ago.
    Talb, the brother of the girl, was enraged after the local panchayat did not pass any adverse judgement Friday against the marriage of the boy (Hindu) and girl (Muslim) in a court two months back.
    Late Friday evening he along with three or four of his family members barged into the house where Sonu and Danishta were living. He attacked Sonu with an axe and killed him.
    When Danishta rushed out to raise an alarm and seek help of the neighbours, he killed her,too.

  29. KA says:
    @ikram
    Pakistan had a Christian chief justice in the 1960s (A.R. Cornelius) and a Hindu chief justice in the 1990s (RamBhagwandas). If this is an important metric for liberalism for you, PK outpaces Bdesh. (In my view, it says something about elite society in Pk, but our concerns about the land of the pure don't have much to do with the liberal elite).

    Lile Epicaric, I cannot overemphasize the role the gulf has played in promoting religious intolerance in Pakistan. Millions of migrant laborers have worked in the wealthy, developed gulf emirates and Saudi. They serve as a mistaken example of how to create a rich, non corrupt country. In contrast, only a few of the elite have been to the liberal west.

    Could we say that a genie was freed in the open in 1980 ? Evil God chose Pakistan Afghanistan border to preempt the advances of ” Evil Empire” by Brezinsky resulting in the ” stirred up” Muslim springing up all over the map.
    What could have happened if instead of using religion , West used the ideas of freedom,autonomy,languages of post colonization discourse, sanctity of the freedom to choose ,free market ,historical Afghanistani sense of freedom and threat to the 3 rd world from the Soviet?
    Political Islam was made in the west . Who would have gravitated from far flung countries to this border to fight ? None. American support ( so did China ,Arab,and Pakistan ) created a force that didn’t exist in late 30 th century.
    With money and propaganda this can be achieved in any country and any religion can serve as the foundation of this kind of political movement .

  30. KA says:

    Shooting death of the rationalist-Dr Narendra Dohlkar in 2013
    and selective targeting of communist leader Govinda Pansare who was eventually assassinated at age 81 this year are also prime examples of religious furies against the critics.
    Govinda Parsare wasn’t picked for communism but for his views against Brahminism and Hinduvatta.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/world/asia/india-gunman-shoots-veteran-communist-leader.html?_r=0

  31. @KA
    In India this type of marriage is being denounced as " jihad love " .The spouses have been subjected to physical attacks .BJP leaders are spearheading this movement to marginalize and ostracize any possibility of Hindu Muslim contacts at social level. Worse is the recent invectives leveled against Indian Muslim Vice President and open disrespect showed to him by the elected BJP lawmakers in government ceremonies.
    There is no " sharia law" in Hinduism but similar constraints on minorities are being promoted by the BJP RSS socio political plank . Hinduvatta isn't any way different from Sharia or from 15 th century political Christianity.

    In India, plenty of Hindu and Christian men have been killed for marrying muslim women –
    and the other way too –

    http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/hindu-man-muslim-wife-hacked-to-death-in-broad-daylight-in-hapur-706152

    here, a dalit Hindu man killed by his muslim in-laws for marrying a muslim woman, in Uttar Pradesh

    http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/228074859

    Sonu, a Hindu, and Danishta, a Muslim, had married in a court two months ago.
    Talb, the brother of the girl, was enraged after the local panchayat did not pass any adverse judgement Friday against the marriage of the boy (Hindu) and girl (Muslim) in a court two months back.
    Late Friday evening he along with three or four of his family members barged into the house where Sonu and Danishta were living. He attacked Sonu with an axe and killed him.
    When Danishta rushed out to raise an alarm and seek help of the neighbours, he killed her,too.

    • Replies: @KA
    You are correct. But the difference is that it is one of the plank of Hinfuvatta - the fight against Jihad Love- new word but old fight and for political benefit of a Hindu nationalistic party.
  32. @rec1man
    In India, plenty of Hindu and Christian men have been killed for marrying muslim women -
    and the other way too -

    http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/hindu-man-muslim-wife-hacked-to-death-in-broad-daylight-in-hapur-706152

    here, a dalit Hindu man killed by his muslim in-laws for marrying a muslim woman, in Uttar Pradesh

    http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/228074859

    Sonu, a Hindu, and Danishta, a Muslim, had married in a court two months ago.
    Talb, the brother of the girl, was enraged after the local panchayat did not pass any adverse judgement Friday against the marriage of the boy (Hindu) and girl (Muslim) in a court two months back.
    Late Friday evening he along with three or four of his family members barged into the house where Sonu and Danishta were living. He attacked Sonu with an axe and killed him.
    When Danishta rushed out to raise an alarm and seek help of the neighbours, he killed her,too.

    You are correct. But the difference is that it is one of the plank of Hinfuvatta – the fight against Jihad Love- new word but old fight and for political benefit of a Hindu nationalistic party.

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