Secularism and Anti-Secularism 1
This chapter aims to explore Bangladeshi politics since independence on the basis of the relentless disagreement between the pro-secular liberals and leftists on one side, and the Islam-using anti-seculars, consisting of conservative, orthodox and extremist groups, on the other. The state-level anti-secular initiatives by the military dictators and anti-secular civil regimes had the support of the anti-secular political, intellectual and social forces from the very beginning. The regime claimed that the Pakistani ruling elite’s practices of using religion as a shield to protect themselves and justify their misdeeds had encouraged it to adopt secularism as a state principle. The anti-secular initiatives of the military rulers were predictable. Official acceptance of and compromise on the ideals of secularism go almost hand in hand in Bangladesh. The anti-seculars branded the amendment as a blatant attack on Islam, whereas the pro-secular social and political forces considered the step as a glaring example of compromise on the ideals of secularism.