The western world knows little of Bangladesh aside from its high rates of poverty, cheap textile labor, and catastrophic flooding. Perhaps few are aware that it’s currently the site of great bloodshed incited by Islamic terrorists. “Bangladesh: The Dawn of Islamism” examines the reality of everyday life in the country and questions what the future might hold.
In this majority Muslim country, Hindus, atheists and other religious outsiders are forced to exist in anonymity. Their fears result from an uptick in violent executions at the hands of intolerant radicals. The victims are often those who are openly critical of this extremist violence and of the Muslim leadership they claim promotes it.
Constitutionally, the country proclaims a devotion to secularism, but the reality on the ground tells a different story. A father expresses his frustrations over the refusal of authorities to seek justice in his child’s murder. The assistant to the Prime Minister places blame on the secularist bloggers who instigate their own demise by freely sharing their views. An instructor at a mosque bemoans the fact that Muslims are hastily accused of such violence when figures of different religious affiliations remain blameless for committing similar acts of intolerance.
The film’s point of view is that the country’s self-proclaimed secularist values are a sham, and that the government ultimately condones violent extremism through their inaction. Their reluctance is likely motivated by economics; any acknowledgement of these tensions could imperil their growth in investments and their foothold in the textile and garment industries.
One thing is clear. Bangladesh is undergoing a crisis of identity. The bloodshed is likely to continue until these issues are addressed and corrected in a firm and official capacity. Some argue that the country should be grounded in Islamic law to represent the majority. Others defend their right to practice any belief they chose, and worry that such a proclamation would place their freedoms and their lives at greater risk.
“Bangladesh: The Dawn of Islamism” outlines the troubled history of the country, and the long-standing disputes between the Islamist and secularist populations. This antagonistic relationship is quickly approaching its breaking point.
Directed by: Sandra Petersmann, Hans Christian Ostermann