This is a guest post by NAEEM MOHAIEMEN
There is a particular way of lensing mass movements, when we are observing from within immediate tactics. In a fast moving situation, with opponents and allies squared off, the first thing to shrink is the space for internal critique. Professor Azfar Hussain uses the term “critical solidarity” for his approach to Shahbagh. A critique that seeks to help the movement, but also a critique some are not ready to hear yet.
For the last sixteen days, Bangladesh has been in an intense new political phase. The ground has shifted and been recast by the scale of the Shahbagh movement. The flash point was the sentencing of the “Butcher of Mirpur” (a war criminal who collaborated with the Pakistan army in 1971). But, by now, the demands have expanded to a call for a ban on the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, or even Islamist politics altogether. Older leftist thinkers like Badruddin Umar are daring to ask questions of the hallowed place of “state religion” in the constitution. Younger bloggers are urging all to make it clear that the movement is about war criminals, not religion. But of course, with war criminals conflated with the Jamaat-e-Islami, and that party eager to present themselves as standing for “Islam,” category errors will happen. Continue reading Shahbagh: The Forest of Symbols: Naeem Mohaiemen