Published:  12:17 AM, 31 October 2018

Digital religion and 'othering' the co-cultures

Digital religion and 'othering' the co-cultures

In the beginning of this century, many idealists thought Internet as a modern instrument of communication would bring about a virtual "equal society" that is going to ameliorate the existing uneven conditions between individuals and communities in the real settings. 

Although, cyberspace has brought a new age democracy and egalitarianism, digital-rewarded-equality may have outperformed the togetherness and centripetal tendency.

Rather, it is promulgating divergence and un-democracy in a unique fashion, and to some extent, animosity along with religious line. Several underlying socio-political mechanisms are also provoking sentimental mass-hysteria in digital public sphere those are yet to reveal. 

Historical evolutions of religion as a basic socio-political factor, which are often misunderstood by the progressives, are also imperative to ponder.

Religious legacy in Bengal

Islam has its serious political legacy deep-rooted in history of the subcontinent. Hindu lower castes' oppressed inhabitants of Bengal perceived the 13th century's Muslim conquest as the salvation of their misfortune, so most of them converted themselves into Islam. 

Back then, ruling with almost equity cushioned the tension between Hindu and Muslim communities. However, the British Raj afterwards precisely handled the fault lines between these two religious sects to prolong their rule on Indian soil. They succeeded.

After the partition of 1947, two states came into being: India and Pakistan (East and West). The only conduit between East and West Pakistan were "Islam". In the name of that single fragile connection, the oppressive rulers started exploiting the resources of East Pakistan. 

As a result, Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation-state after a nine-month's decisive battle. People are often misguided with a more secular notion that, that crucial separation was also a religious one. However, impeccable proof is absent to backup this statement.

Contemporary tendency

Manifold fanaticism is governing contemporary public as well as intellectual arena of Bangladesh. Of them, most prominent twos are politics and religion. Both have certain reciprocity and interdependency-one often influences to soar up the impact of another. Beside, spiritual fanaticism is following the same route of political dogmatism, or vice versa.

Being "digitally pious" has become a trend in contemporary Bangladesh. People are busy in displaying their sentiments regarding their religion as if it is a competition. They glorify Islamic virtues as the single soul of Bengali tradition, and penetrating it into almost all aspects of private as well as social life. Furthermore, denial of religio-cultural tolerance is evident. Thus, a grim wave of orthodoxy is mounting amid this Muslim-dominated society.

Can the seculars speak?

Gayatri Spivak in her essential work asks if the subaltern can speak. Definitely, a big "NO" would come. Bangladesh seculars, in the middle of the growing bigotry of the dominant faith-holders, are in similar state. This nominally secular country has already been rocked by severe "sacred attacks" by extremists those left numerous dead in the past few years.

The authority has already failed to single out the culprits. Even fear-campaign against such vehement murderers was unseen too. Rather, authority along with public is hammering the downtrodden seculars. Digital Security Act (DSA) is fresh evidence that rules out free speech. Even extremists are still active in online to hunt down the so-called "heretics".

Rise of "ultra-superego"

Incredible efforts are coming from the moderate Muslims in Bangladesh regarding their religion. Interestingly, they are appearing more pious in digital sphere than in real life. I personally know few who are originally callous about their religio-cultural practices nevertheless become serious devoted guardian of their faith when they are in virtual. This is merely a disguise of what Freud would call the "ultra-superego".

Why one use to be more innocent-like-being in virtual is undoubtedly linked with the person's real life gain. Enormous socio-political benefits encourage individuals to pretend to be a devotee. 

It amplifies social status with even no harm at all. However, in so-called Islamic society of Bangladesh, religion is now an efficacious ladder to reach to the apex of prestige and respect. Until now, an Imam gets more admiration and recognition in the society than a teacher does.


Digital Islamists are hardening the life of seculars who are merely surviving in the Internet today. Unbecoming and overwhelming religious sentiments in society is expelling the reasons, and othering the minorities-religious, cultural, and ideological. In this modern age, a once-enlightened society of Bangladesh (significant part of previous Bengal), however, is submerging into grave darkness of absurdity.

The writer is a researcher of Digital Sociology

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