January 2024

Aspects of Jamaat-e-Islami

Dear Sirs

It was interesting to read your two very distinct pieces about Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh in the December issue of your magazine.

In ‘Fabric of Instability’, ABM Nasir highlights the not unjustifiable fearsaboutthe BNP-Jamaat coalition that seems to be fomenting violence and anti-secular,anti-democratic practices in Bangladesh. Indeed, on November 19, the Bangladesh highest court dismissed an appeal by the party as it was seeking to overturn a 2013 ruling that barred it from participating in elections for violating the constitutional provision of secularism.

While it appears to be counter-intuitive to bar any party from contesting elections in a democracy, the worrying levels of intolerance of other faiths and secularism exhibited by Jamaat-e-Islami cannot themselves be tolerated in a democratic country.

It was also very informative to read aboutanother aspect of the organisation inthe article on the Democracy Forum webinar ‘Jamaat-e-Islami: A subcontinental Brotherhood’. After all, even given its weaknesses, the party does continue to appeal to large numbers of people in Bangladesh, and it is important to understand why. (One of the reasons is Jamaat-e-Islami’s involvement in social welfare projects to establish links with ordinary people.) And placing the creation of  Jamaat-e-Islami within the context of the anti-colonial movement in India offered an interesting historical perspective.

However,a crucial overall consideration, as Dr Maidul Islam is quoted as stressing in that same piece, is the ideological position of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh. This means that, however the party may alter its rhetoric,itdoes not appear possible for it to make any significant contribution to a progressive Bangladesh. This, surely, is the benchmark by which it must be judged.

TL Akter

Birmingham, UK

People-to-people power

Amit Agnihotri is understandably sceptical about the attempted reset of China-US bilateral relations in recent times (‘Choppy Waters’,Asian Affairs, Dec. 2023 issue).

Of course, we should not underestimate the power of dialogue, even – or especially – between arch-rivals. A case in point wasthe Novembermeetingbetween Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco, which Biden hailed as ‘constructive’ and ‘productive’, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yicalled the ‘direction-setting’, a summit of ‘strategic significance and profound influence’. 

But there is always scope for backtracking and metaphorical door-slamming, especially when it comes to military and security matters.

That is why plans to revive people-to-people ties between the two countries (for example, in education, sports, and cultural as well as business exchanges) is so important, adding a key human slant to the political.

 Calvin Barclay

New Jersey

United States of America


That’s just cricket!

Thank you for publishing MJ Akbar’s wonderfully vivid account of the India v Australia cricket match, which brought that game back to life in the retelling, with all its high-octane drama and almost kinetic energy of its language. This had it all: analysis, humour, pathos, and the exquisite pain (for Indian cricket fans) of an unhappy ending.

SM Kochar

West London

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