Both the assault of a female student wearing Western clothes at a railway station and the protests at four universities reveal a mindset which is shifting towards increasing Islamic conservatism in Bangladesh.
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According to an article in the Daily Star published on 30 August 2022, protests at four universities in Bangladesh reveal a mindset which is shifting towards increasing Islamic conservatism.
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller gives some background: “A 22 year old female student wearing Western clothes was assaulted by a group of youths at a railway station. This incident, caught on CCTV, went viral on social media and caused much debate throughout Bangladesh. Students from four universities mounted protests against women having the right to choose their own clothing, some going so far as to claim: ‘Women who destroy national culture by adapting a western lifestyle are cultural terrorists’. During the court hearing for one of the perpetrators of the assault at the Narsingdi railway station, the High Court seems to have sided with a restrictive approach to this right of choosing one’s own clothing by saying: ‘Do people not have the right to preserve their heritage, culture and tradition? Is clothing not a part of culture?’ This argument is all the more dangerous if it is used to justify violence, or play down its seriousness.”
Thomas Muller continues: “Although large-scale attacks in Bangladesh appear to have ceased for the moment, ‘Islamist extremism’ remains a challenge according to a report published by the US Institute of Peace on 23 June 2022. Radical Islamic groups and their ideology are deepening their roots in Bangladeshi society; it is therefore no surprise that discrimination and violent attacks against religious minorities occur on a frequent basis. Even though attacks by such groups are mainly targeted against the Hindu and Buddhist minority, Christians feel the growing conservatism as well.” Thomas Muller adds: “In an unrelated development, members of the ethnic minorities and indigenous people groups claim that there has been significant undercounting of their numbers in the most recent census. As reported by UCA News on 11 August 2022, the national census was carried out on 15-21 June 2022 and the preliminary results were published on 27 July: ‘Besides the majority Bengali people, census data showed Bangladesh has 1,650,159 people belonging to 50 ethnic minority groups.’ Indigenous groups in various parts of the country complained that the enumerators ‘didn’t bother to visit their homes to include them’.”
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