Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above.
Today, I talk to “Alex,” a Bangladesh freethinker who reverted to Buddhism from Islam. He’s someone who rubbed shoulders with a lot of activists in Dhaka in the mid-2010’s, while also being a 4chan troll.
We discuss the economic and social situation in Bangladesh, but also the oppression of tribal people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
9 thoughts on “Browncast: An Ex-Muslim Bangladeshi convert to Buddhism speaks”
Tibeto Burmans have been migrating away from the Himalayan barrier towards South Asia and South East Asia via the river systems for many centuries. From Karens in Burma, to Garos in Meghalaya are the surviving intact cultural groups. Others seemed to have mixed with already existing populations, one doesn’t need a royal expedition for gene admixture .
Interesting conversation and surprised with some blunt opinions expressed by the guest. Some main takeaways
a) Existence of love-jihad in Bangladesh
b) Promotion of AIT by left intellectuals mainly to project a large section of hindus in sub-continent as invaders
c) Persecution of hindus
d) Fascination and desire to have Arabian/Turkic ancestry among substantial section of muslims
Guest also mentioned about some 25% reservation for ethnic minorities in response to persecutions of hindus. However this reservation is not that straightforward and for hindus specifically. As per wiki “Under the existing Bangladesh government recruitment system, 56 percent of government job entry positions are reserved for specific “entitled” classes: 30 per cent for children/grandchildren of 1971 “freedom fighters,” 10 per cent for women, 10 per cent is for districts based on population, 5 per cent for ethnic minorities, and 1 per cent for people with disabilities”
Even this seems to have been abolished/modified in response 2018 protests against quota system
Fantastic guest and great conversation. Razib is not just a skilled interviewer but also has the knack for picking good guests (underappreciated skill). Not everyone who knows how to talk to people can first do a proper filter, so it is rare to see both in combination. Keep ’em coming, Razib.
I feel kinda the opposite. This podcast seemed to come off very awkward.
As a Bangladeshi,
1. Bangladeshis seem parochial because of their low English proficiency. So, you might often find groups of people in Dhaka tea stalls passionately chatting geopolitics but definitely never find them sharing their ideas with the English speaking world. It’s a Japan like situation in this regard.
2. Bangladesh is going through an interesting phase of urban-rural ideological divide. Dhaka is going through rapid transformation in terms of ideological modernism comparable to the east asian lens of it. On the other hand, rural parts are still trying their best to resist the wave but if the current regime continues for another 10 years, my guess is that even rurals will succumb into this wave. I’ll attribute the causation of this modernist movement to rapid economic development, methodical extermination of the radicals by current gov, cheap broadband internet (even in rural parts), better knowledge of bengali history, korean/japanese/western media.
3. The hindu-muslim vote politics of West Bengal mainly affects the outlook of rural Bangladeshis because of it’s islamized environment. It basically justifies the fear mongering of local mullahs and gives them ammunition to target minorities in the country. So persecution of hindus in Bangladesh currently in whatever capacity is being accelerated because of Indian politics. Though most of these persecution attempts are motivated by land grabbing tendencies; using religion as the shield.
4. I think the guest is bang on point about proselytization and forced assimilation of ethnic minorities by the army and settlers. During the liberation war period, CHT ethnic minorities largely tried to use the conflict to negotiating independence by siding with pakistan. Since then, the army strategically sent settlers and militarized the area to prevent that from happening ever again. Forceful marriage is just part of the game.
5. The only religion that gets a good rep in Bangladesh is Buddhism. It’s humanist, globalist, esoteric/exoteric values are compatible with the ideas of Bengali mystics (they took inspiration from Vajrayana Buddhism as well). People are relatively familiar with these ideas because of it’s significant role in concocting the modern Bengali identity. It also has a pacifist image, which doesn’t intimidate muslims. Although in areas where buddhists preach, muslims do tremble because of it’s appeal among people.
6. Fascinated by Razib’s work. I used to wonder, what role genetics and demogaphics played in creating today’s Bangladesh. History alone couldn’t conclusively answer why bengalis don’t have any homogenous look unlike other neighbouring groups. Many in my family looks straight up tibetan/mongoloid. Also, i’d like to someday translate the site to Bangla. Although, google translate is increasingly doing fine these days; I think a plugin could be added to the site. That’d spike up traffic from Bangladesh for sure.
7. Also an ex muslim, Bangladeshi in Dhaka, deeply revere Japan, practice Buddhism.(try to)
Fellow Bangladeshi Ex Muslim convert to Buddhism here. Let me know if there’s any way we can contact anonymously. We can contact on email or fake/alt social media account if you have safety concerns.
This is one of the best Brown Pundits podcasts of all time.
“Alex,” you are stunning. It would be amazing if you could be on future BP podcasts or write blog posts. Is there a way to chat offline?
Maybe we know some of the same Baul singers? Would love to ask you about specific spiritual places in Bangladesh. Within India Bengalis pay some attention to Bangladesh, and the view is generally positive. Bengalis take pride in Bangladesh’s rise. Sadly other Indians do not appear to be that aware of Bangladesh. 🙁
Rejat, would you like to touch base with “Alex”?
Rayan, can you answer more questions about Bangladesh?
Thank you for the kind words brother. Yeah I am available on Facebook, Clubhouse and Twitter. Look up – “Alex Zurvan” on these platforms.
This was a great interview and great window into Bangladesh. I loved ‘Alex’s’ no-bullshit frank and forthright answers and his deep knowledge of history and culture. Hope to hear more from him in the future!
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