Excerpts from late President Ziaur Rahman’s address to the BNP MPs of the second parliament. I have reproduced the absract on Bangladeshi nationalism from the presentation. When Bangladeshi nationalism is under attack by one Judge Khairul Haq, I believe no one else other than the founder of the nationalism itself could do a better job in defending it.

A draft English translation of the above is attempted below,

Now the question is, what is nationalism? If we study history of the world, we will see rise of different sorts of nationalism at different times and places. In this regard, first comes ‘racial’ or ethnic identity based nationalism. Arab or German nationalisms are prime examples of this kind of nationalism. German nationalism is based on Arian race. Hitler might not have talked about German nationalism if after World War I; parts of Germany were not occupied and shared by states like Britain, France and Poland. This act prompted Hitler promote race based German nationalism. And we all know of Arab nationalism. Arab League is conceived out of this nationalism. The late president of Egypt, Mr. Jamal Abdul Naser was able to give a significant shape to Arab nationalism. Arab nationalism still exists and stands tall proudly with all other races in the world.

Next comes language-based nationalism. The slogan of Bengali nationalism is built on this philosophy. And for this reason, Awami League still dreams of establishing Bengali nationalism.

And then Muslim League, IDL and the Jamaatis talk about religion based nationalism. At the beginning of this century, Jamal Uddin Afghani preached Pan Islamic nationalism; the spirit of religion-based nationalism originates from that pan-Islamism. To be frank, since inception of Pakistan, Bangladesh was exploited and ruled in the name of this religion-based nationalism. But the ‘politics of exploitation‘ in the name of Islamic Nationalism could not keep Pakistan intact. Independent-sovereign Bangladesh was born.

Politics can be based on regional identity also, thus creating a new regional nationalism. In this regard we can mention the name of EEC (European Economic Commission). EEC has her own parliament i.e. the European Parliament. Many EEC countries are not even connected via land, yet they were able to bring forth new spirit and new idea of cooperation among themselves. They are collectively trying to give themselves a distinct identity as Europeans. Broadly one can assume that they are moving towards a new nationalistic identity.

War can be the base of nationalism too. But that is not a ‘compulsory’ or essential pre-requisite of nationalism.

Bangladeshi nationalism is based on all of the above components of nationalism. That’s why Bangladeshi nationalism is a complete nationalism. We have ethnic heritage, a rich language and religious tradition. We all live in a single important geographic location. We have the dream of building a new economic order. And the blood-drenched spirit of our war of independence motivates us all. Presence of so many nationalistic elements is unprecedented in one nation’s identity.

When people say that Bangladeshi nationalism is not embracing religion, they are wrong. Religious identity and fidelity to faith is a great and historic trait of Bangladeshi nation. It has been mentioned in the Holy Quran that ” La Iqra Fidweene“, ‘religion should not be forcefully imposed’. Hence Bangladeshi nationalism is neither religion based nor religion averse. This nationalism ensures each and everyone’s faith and religious rights. And Bangladeshi nationalism is also not a purely language based nationalism. If someone says that we only have an economic program, but do not have a philosophy; they are also wrong.

The philosophy of Bangladeshi Nationalism has ‘absorption power‘ and ‘elbow room’. If there is a lacking in one aspect, other elements of this nationalism will supplement. We have alternatives in each element. That’s why Bangladeshi nationalism not only survived, it is getting very popular.