SHEIKH HASINA WAJED has inflicted many injuries on Bangladesh’s democracy. She has pursued a dogged vendetta against her main rival for the job of prime minister, Khaleda Zia, hounding her supporters and persecuting her party. She has picked on any prominent person or institution that is not beholden to her, from Muhammad Yunus, a microcredit pioneer, to Bangladesh’s biggest Islamic bank. Citing atrocities committed during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1971, she oversaw the dismemberment of the country’s main Islamic party, executing many of its leaders. By those standards, her latest failing—pandering to the demands of Islamist agitators and refusing to defend the secular principles of the constitution—may seem relatively mild. But its consequences will be lasting.
By and large, Bangladesh is as moderate as Sheikh Hasina is intemperate. Although 90% of the population is Muslim, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Sufism, a mystical form of…Continue reading