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International Periscope

Newsweek International
Feb. 5, 2007 issue

For 16 years, Bangladesh has stood out as a rare success story in the Muslim world, boasting fairly free elections and a mostly secular political culture. All that may now be changing. In the last month, the country has descended into chaos. What went wrong? Five years ago, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) formed an alliance with the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami in order to win an election. In return, experts argue, the BNP -- which was replaced by a caretaker government last October -- allowed Jamaat sympathizers in the security services to ignore the rise of local radicals. "The BNP has been pussyfooting with the radical[s]," says Sumit Ganguly, a South Asia expert at Indiana University. Taliban-style madrassas, he argues, have also grown in popularity as the public-school system has broken down.

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