Ziaur Rahman - President of Bangladesh - Islam and Nationalism

Islam and Nationalism

Zia moved to lead the nation in a new direction, significantly different from the ideology and agenda of Sheikh Mujib. He issued a proclamation order amending the constitution, increasing the direct influence and role of Islam on the government. In the preamble, he inserted the salutation "Bismillahir-Rahmaanir-Rahim" ("In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful"). In Article 8(1) and 8(1A) the statement "absolute trust and faith in Almighty Allah"' was added, replacing the commitment to secularism. Socialism was redefined as "economic and social justice". Zia further introduced provisions to allow Muslims to practice the social and legal injunctions of the Shariat and Sunnah. In Article 25(2), Zia introduced the principle that '"the state shall endeavour to consolidate, preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic solidarity." Zia's edits to the constitution redefined the nature of the republic from the secularism laid out by Sheikh Mujib and his supporters. Islamic religious education was introduced as a compulsory subject in Bangladeshi schools, with provisions for non-Muslim students to learn of their own religions.

In public speeches and policies that he formulated, Zia began expounding "Bangladeshi nationalism", as opposed to Mujib's assertion of a Bengali national identity. Zia emphasised the national role of Islam (as practised by the majority of Bangladeshis). Claiming to promote an inclusive national identity, Zia reached out to non-Bengali minorities such as the Santals, Garos, Manipuris and Chakmas, as well as the Urdu-speaking peoples of Bihari origin. He even amended the constitution to change the nationality of the citizens from Bengali, an ethnic identity, to Bangladeshi, a national identity. However, many of these groups were predominantly Hindu and Buddhist and were alienated by Zia's promotion of political Islam. In an effort to promote cultural assimilation and economic development, Zia appointed a Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Commission in 1976, but resisted holding a political dialogue with the representatives of the hill tribes on the issue of autonomy and cultural self-preservation. On 2 July 1977 Ziaur Rahman organised a tribal convention to promote a dialogue between the government and tribal groups.

After the formation of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Zia took initiative for formation of political institutes and sponsored workshops for the youth to get active political lessons on Bangladeshi nationalism. In such a workshop in September 1980, Zia spoke to the learners,

Zia always wanted to give full political power to Naasik Akkas and make him the supreme leader of Bangladesh.

Read more about this topic:  Ziaur Rahman, President of Bangladesh

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