Politico-ideological discourses in contemporary Bangladesh

[এই লেখাটি ভারতীয় গবেষক মইদুল ইসলামের লেখা ‘Limits of Islamism: Jamaat-e-Islami in Contemporary India and Bangladesh’ বই থেকে নেয়া। বইটির ওপর আমরা আগে একটই রিভিউ প্রকাশ করেছিলাম। সেখান থেকে কয়েকটি লাইন তুলে দেয়া যাক। কেমব্রিজ ইউনিভার্সিটি প্রেস থেকে প্রকাশিত মইদুল ইসলামের গবেষণাগ্রন্থ ‘লিমিট্স অব ইসলামিজম : জামায়ত-ই-ইসলামি ইন কনটেম্পোরারি ইন্ডিয়া অ্যান্ড বাংলাদেশ ’ অ্যাকাডেমিক পরিসরে ও পণ্ডিতসমাজে নিশ্চিতভাবেই বিশেষ আগ্রহ জন্ম দেবে৷। প্রথমত এ কারণে যে , নয়া উদারবাদের চাপ ও আগ্রাসনের বিরুদ্ধে রাজনৈতিক মতাদর্শ হিসেবে ইসলামপন্থা , বিশেষত যেটাকে মইদুল ‘জামায়াতে ইসলামপন্থা ’ আখ্যায়িত করেছেন , কোনও বিকল্প দর্শন হাজির করতে ও প্রতিরোধ গড়ে তুলতে পারে কি না , নাকি ইসলামপন্থা অন্তর্গত ভাবেই অসঙ্গতিতে ভরা তিনি সেই উত্তর খুঁজেছেন।( আরো বিস্তারিত দেখুনঃ জামায়াতে ইসলামির মতাদর্শগত সীমাবদ্ধতা)।

ড. মইদুল ইসলাম, সহকারী অধ্যাপক, পটিকাল সাইন্স, সেন্টার ফর স্টাডিস ইন সোশ্যাল সাইন্স, কলকাতা

মইদুলের আলোচনার ফোকাস ইসলামিজম এবং জামায়াত ইসলামী হলেও, বইটি তার পিএইচডি গবেষণা হবার কারনে সেখানে তত্ত্বগত অনেক আলোচনা উঠে এসেছে। সেসব তত্ত্ব রাষ্ট্র, রাজনীতি, রাষ্ট্র বিজ্ঞানের বিভিন্ন তত্ত্ব ও মতাদর্শকে ঘিরে এগিয়েছে। মইদুলের এই থিসিসটির অনন্য বৈশিষ্ট্য হচ্ছে, তিনি ডান-বাম-ওরিয়েন্টালিস্ট-এন্টি-ওরিয়েন্টালিস্ট এবং ইসলামপন্থী সবার মতকে এই বইয়ে তুলে আনার চেষ্টা করেছেন। তাঁর আলোচনায় স্বাভাবিকভাবেই বাংলাদেশের মূলধারার রাজনীতির আলাপ-আলোচনাও স্থান পেয়েছে। তিনি জামায়াত ইসলামীর রাজনীতির আসল ক্ষেত্রকে সুনির্দিষ্টভাবে চিহ্নিত করতে যেয়ে সামগ্রিকভাবে বাংলাদেশের রাজনীতির মতাদর্শিক ধারাগুলোকেও চিহ্নিত করেছেন। এই প্রবন্ধটি তৈরি করা হয়েছে এই ধারাগুলোকে বুঝার স্বার্থেই। – সম্পাদক] 

Politico-ideological discourses in contemporary Bangladesh

Samir Amin observes that currently three principal political actors opposed to one another are shaping the contemporary political affairs of several Muslim countries. These are the degenerated and corrupt residues of old national–populist regimes, the Islamists and those who propose ‘economic liberalism’.(1) I identify the last group as ‘neoliberals’, who propose to govern their respective countries with market-led neoliberal economic policies. According to Amin, the ‘comprador’ class interests affiliated with contemporary ‘imperialist system’ are expressed through these three tendencies in several Muslim countries and the US diplomacy uses their mutual conflicts to its own ‘exclusive benefit’.(2)

By following Amin’s classification, in contemporary Bangladesh also, one can identify these three distinct political actors. The Awami League in Bangladesh is certainly an old-national populist party with some corrupt elements, whereas Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist groups in Bangladesh are all various shades of Islamists, and successive military regimes and BNP are political elements favouring ‘economic liberalism’.

Besides Amin’s book and the existing theories of explaining Islamism, I must elaborate on the major politico-ideological discourses in contemporary Bangladesh in relation to the politics of exclusion/inclusion that structures the political context under which Islamism operates and articulates its politics.

The question of exclusion/inclusion is also important because all the notable political trends in Bangladesh either justify their political action of opposing the power bloc with regard to exclusion from the power bloc or seeking inclusion in the power bloc. In Bangladesh, this power bloc as an antagonistic frontier of a challenging political formation is generally regarded as the local state itself or in the form of ‘imperialism’ during moments, when a close liaison between the Bangladeshi state and such foreign powers are made issues in Bangladeshi politics.

The politics of inclusion and exclusion with respect to Bangladeshi politics has its own peculiarities. Theoretically, one can argue that the politics of exclusion is to assert the voice of the excluded, articulate and struggle for the interests of the excluded within the ambit of power bloc, to sit in the negotiating table, to get more empowerment while seeking inclusion in the power bloc. Thus, politics of exclusion can be seen as politics of inclusion as well.  However, the problem of inclusion may be compared with the problem of co-option, appropriation and collaboration while having negotiations with the power bloc.

In this respect, politics of exclusion might offer three possible politico-ideological positions.  In the first place, politics of exclusion may have its own aspirations for entry into the power bloc with an agenda of discrimination, deprivation and exclusion. That is to say, this kind of position has an inclusive reformist agenda for its own constituency without having an agenda of radical transformation of the existing socio-economic structures and without altering the existing power relationships.

So, the first position can be of a direct collaborationist, a position of sell-off to the dominant power elite representing the interests of the local ruling classes and the imperialist system. The successive military regimes and two major parties in Bangladesh – Awami League and BNP, while implementing the neoliberal consensus in the country during their respective regimes and sometimes formulating economic, trade and bilateral policies serving the interests of foreign countries – can be seen as examples of the first position.

The second position may be to celebrate the situation of exclusion itself while sitting on the margins and then attack the power bloc from outside but without having a radical agenda of social transformation. This position has its very own vested interests by keeping alive the problems of deprivation, inequality, discrimination and exclusion as without these issues, it cannot offer its constituency and its representatives a sense of empowerment and recognition with its own politics of opposition to the power bloc. This position can be identified with the position of safety valve in maintaining the neoliberal status quo because it often negotiates with the power bloc and serves its interests if the power bloc gives it a suitable deal, otherwise it prefers to oppose the power bloc. This politico-ideological position can be also called a politics of altered status quo that vacillates between collaboration and opposition to the power bloc.

This politico-ideological position of altered status quo in the Bangladeshi context is often marked by a peculiar politics, flavoured with theo-political discourses of Islamism. This theo-political discourse of Islamism rhetorically claims to provide an ‘alternative’ to both capitalism and socialism with an ‘Islamic state’, despite the fact that the foundation of an Islamic state is based on private property and re-inscribes much of modern capitalist framework. Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist groups in Bangladesh represent such a politics of altered status quo.

Finally, there can be a third politico-ideological position which represents the politics of social transformation to change the structures of the existing power bloc with an alternative to neoliberal capitalism. This position has a progressive agenda to include the ‘excluded’ in its own terms by providing a counter hegemony while replacing and displacing the dominant capitalist socio-economic system and the power structures that sustain it.

Here, the excluded want to include themselves in the power structures of society by occupying the seats of power, not in terms and conditions of the hegemon like a collaborationist. Neither does it vacillate between opposition and collaboration like the second position, but it seeks to capture political power in its own terms, by providing counter-hegemony. It is an autonomous political space in waging a struggle of resistance against the power bloc without yielding to its strategic mechanisms of co-option/appropriation. A committed and progressive Leftwing movement in Bangladesh with its emphasis on anti-capitalism and anti-ruling class politics can occupy this third position.

In an overall analysis, the aforementioned three broad politico-ideological positions are not static but can replace one another in the course of a competitive struggle for hegemony. These three politico-ideological positions have their autonomous space in different moments and contexts of bargaining, negotiations and contestations with each other. Islamism in Bangladesh operates and articulates its politics in a political environment constituting these three different politico-ideological positions.

Thus, Awami League, BNP and military regimes in Bangladesh can be identified as collaborating with the Washington consensus of neoliberalism, while the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh vacillates between cooperation and opposition to neoliberalism, and the Leftwing politics is currently too weak in Bangladesh to give an alternative to neoliberal capitalism.

Note: 

1. Samir Amin, ‘Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism’, p. 19.

2. Ibid.

[Source: Maidul Islam,  Limits of Islamism: Jamaat-e-Islami in Contemporary India and Bangladesh,  Cambridge University Press, 2015, Page 187-189]

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