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Stealing Shahbag: A Re-legitimization of Islamism in the Aftermath of a Secularist Social Movement


  • Anupam D. Roy

    (Howard University)


The Shahbag movement emerged in early February of 2013 as a sit-in protest in the Shahbag square of Dhaka city on the demands of capital punishment of war criminals of the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh. This paper evaluates the movement as case study for the framing tasks theory of social movements and explores how faulty framing of the movement grievances led to counterproductive consequences for the movement constituents. The theoretical analysis is supported by the empirical findings of an original public opinion survey of up to 300 movement participants. Key movement leaders and movement critics were also interviewed through open-ended questions to further inform the survey data. The paper provides a genealogy of the secularist civil society framing tasks and shows how Shahbag, after originating from that frame, eventually shifted away from it under the a politically coopted leadership. As a consequence, the Islamist civil society mobilized a countermovement under the banner of Hefazat-e-Islam, which lead to the re-legitimation of Islamism as a political ideology and reestablished Islamists as an influential interest group.

Suggested Citation

  • Anupam D. Roy, 2018. "Stealing Shahbag: A Re-legitimization of Islamism in the Aftermath of a Secularist Social Movement," Bangladesh Development Research Working Paper Series (BDRWPS) BDRWPS No. 34, Bangladesh Development Research Center (BDRC).
  • Handle: RePEc:bnr:wpaper:34

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    Social movement theory; Shahbag Movement; Islamism; Bangladesh;
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