University Professor Ali Riaz has just commenced an overseas speaking tour on South Asian politics.
On November 18, Riaz gave a keynote address titled “Politics of Bangladesh, Rising Middle Class and a Few Questions.” The presentation was held at a seminar organized by the Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS). Riaz’s speech sounded the alarm about the political direction of the country given the rising influence of religion on social life. The presentation was covered by The Daily Star, which quotes Riaz as stating that “Bangladesh was created on the basis of democracy, human dignity, equality and social justice. But, it has failed to institutionalise democracy, and now there are questions if the country, which has experienced authoritarian rules several times, is again walking the same path.” This is especially disturbing, he notes, given that the middle class, who was responsible for the rights movement early in the country’s inception, has failed to challenge the creeping authoritarianism that threatens democracy in Bangladesh.
In another lecture held on November 20, at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) at Dhaka, Riaz spoke about the “Pathways of Militants: Evidence from Bangladesh.” This event was organized by the Center for Enterprise and Society of the ULAB. the university’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Jahirul Haque, introduced Professor Riaz. Drawing on his current research with Saimum Parvez of University of Sydney, Australia, Riaz explained the profiles of 150 alleged militants of Bangladesh. The study has underscored that there is no clear pathways of Bangladeshi militants, but few common traits are identifiable. Militants tend to be young, male, relatively educated, and came from middle class and upper middle class families. Riaz also showed that personal trauma has served as driver of radicalization, among other factors.
During his trip to Bangladesh, Professor Riaz also participated in a panel titled “A Past Divided: Shared Memories and Transformations” at the Dhaka Lit Festival on November 16. Other panelists included Professors Annyana Jahanara Kabir and Parween Hasan; the panel was moderated by Parsa Sajid. The panel examined the literary and other representations of the 1947 partition of India.