Islamic Parties

Bangladesh Table of Contents

At the other end of the political spectrum were a number of political organizations that based their platforms on Islamic issues. The group with the oldest tradition was the Muslim League (established in 1906 as the All-India Muslim League), which had been the main force behind the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Because it favored continued union with Pakistan, the Muslim League was almost eliminated from the political stage during and after the independence struggle. It began to stage a comeback during the 1980s and gathered four seats in the 1986 Parliament. The Muslim League supported complete denationalization and opposed the retention of a 51-percent share of public industries by the government. Its policies closely resembled those that led to the formation of Pakistan. Among other things, the party accused the government of a subservient foreign policy toward India, especially in the matter of water disputes, and it repeatedly called for Islamic rule in Bangladesh.

A more important Islamic party during the 1980s was Jamaat e Islami. This party was temporarily banned in the 1970s because of its opposition to independence, but it returned in the 1980s as the premier Islamic party among the opposition. Jamaat e Islami called for a theocracy, not Western-style democracy, but it simultaneously advocated the resignation of Ershad and the restoration of democracy. The party drew much of its strength from dedicated bands of madrasa students and graduates. As of 1988, its unofficial but militant student front was the Islami Chhatro Shibir (Islamic Students Camp). It also had a workers' front called the Sramik Kalyan Federation (Workers Welfare Federation).

Besides the Muslim League and Jamaat e Islami, there were a number of small parties, possessing little influence, that were oriented toward a poorly defined Islamic state and an anti-Indian foreign policy. For example, the Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan (Bangldesh Caliphate Movement) wanted to launch a "holy war" (jihad) to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh and called for a government based on the Quran and Sunna. In 1986 another one of these parties, the Islamic United Front, demanded scrapping the 1972 Indo-Bangladeshi Treaty of Cooperation, Friendship, and Peace.

More about the Government and Politics of Bangladesh.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress