The existing scholarly approach about Islam, democracy and politics in IR and political science fosters a debate about compatibility: can Muslim politics fit within the liberal democratic narrative? In this lecture Mubashar Hasan argues that non-Western Islamic concept ummah or the global brotherhood of Muslims is more useful approach to explain Muslim politics. By using Bangladesh, a Muslim majority state in South Asia hosting more Muslim populations than Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt combined, Hasan argues that there the meaning of secularism and democracy have religious underpinnings since Muslim politicians of the major political parties, masses and the state consider Bangladesh as part of a broader Islamic society-ummah. Contrary to conventional wisdom where ummah denotes a monolithic global community of believers, Hasan argues that in Bangladesh, ummah offers a broad canvas for political imagination embedded in religion. In Bangladesh, while ummah promotes theoretical unity, it encourages political divisions, contest and conflict by setting an illiberal limit to the key values of liberal democracy. Bangladesh’s illiberal political outcome, however, Hasan argues, is deeply connected with geopolitics, globalization of the market and free flow of ideas.
Co-sponsored by Scholars at Risk program with an Introduction by Prof. Jane O. Newman