In this post I explore the case of Bangladesh: the state of secularism there and the tensions and polemics that accompany the pursuit of an ideal secular state and society. I do this by reflecting on reactions surrounding women’s turn to greater religious engagement fostered through their participation in Quranic discussion circles in Dhaka. In outlining some of the tensions underlying the reactions, I wish to draw attention to the stakes of remaining confined to a binary view of religion and secularism, especially as new religious forces and faces come into the public space with the intent of developing and transforming it.Read the rest of Secularism and the freedom to transform lives.
Samia Huq is an anthropologist and assistant professor in the Department of Economics and Social Science at BRAC University, Dhaka. She obtained her Ph.D. from Brandeis University. Her areas of interest include religious revival, religious identity, and religion, politics, social movements, and secularism. As part of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment RPC research team, Dr. Huq is currently involved in a book project tracing the cultural history of the Bengali Muslim woman as she lived in and created the world of Bengali performance arts in the context of partition and the emergence of Bangladesh. Her other concurrent research is on Islamist women and their contribution to public debates and public policy issues.