Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

May 13, 2015

Moderate Muslims are moderate in some things

Filed under: Bangladesh,Religion — David Hume @ 6:13 am

Bangladesh bloggers: Clear pattern to killings:

Since then, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appears to have reached an accommodation with Hefajat. The Islamist group has confined itself to the madrassa premises and the government has put five bloggers in jail for allegedly hurting the religious feelings of Muslims.

The government now appears to be walking a tightrope.

There is little doubt the prime minister wants to pursue a secular future for Bangladesh. But she appears to have little time for atheists who are on a collision course with Islamists.

The bloggers don’t just want protection from killers and justice for those murdered – they also want to enjoy the freedom of speech that is enshrined in the constitution. The government does not seem to think that freedom should stretch to the criticism of religion.

And Islamist extremists want to strike terror into the hearts of such writers and bloggers through targeted killings.

Why is the government walking a tightrope? Because, as Omar Ali observes the majority of Bangladeshis are Muslims, and many of these individuals are wary of standing up for the rights of those who verbally attack their religion. Many “moderate Muslims” may enjoin peace, but won’t fight for it on behalf of others.

Overall, compared to a sectarian hell like Pakistan Bangladesh is doing well. But if it wants to continue to be an exemplar of liberal economic practices grinding away poverty one percentage point at a time it needs to also stand by principles of liberal social tolerance. It is difficult to have one without the other in the long term.

February 24, 2012

The data sets in the dark

Filed under: Bangladesh,Genetics,Genomics,Human Genetics,Human Genomics — Razib Khan @ 12:09 pm

Recently I was tipped off to the appearance of a new paper, Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Chromosome 10q24.32 Variants Associated with Arsenic Metabolism and Toxicity Phenotypes in Bangladesh. This is the section which caught my eye: “Using data on urinary arsenic metabolite concentrations and approximately 300,000 genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for 1,313 arsenic-exposed Bangladeshi individuals.” 300 K SNPs with 1,313 Bangladeshi individuals is a lot! I’m interested in this data set because of the 200+ participants in the Harappa Ancestry Project my parents remain the “unadmixed” South Asians with the highest fraction of East Asian ancestry (10-15 percent). Within South Asia aside from those groups with clear East Asian affinities only peoples of Munda background have the same levels. This data set could answer a lot of questions as to the typicality of my parents (literally within a few hours in terms of data exploration). But this is all you get in the supplements:


Zack Ajmal has already sent off an email asking about this data set, so hopefully the results will be positive.

This is a medical genetics study, so all they wanted to confirm is that there wasn’t population stratification due to inbreeding. They confirmed that. It is fine if they don’t want to explore further questions in relation to ancestry, but it would be really depressing if the data set can never see the light of day for those who are interested in asking other questions.

September 23, 2011

Expectations of Bangladesh

Filed under: Bangladesh — Razib Khan @ 7:09 pm

The New York Times has a puff piece on Sheikh Hasina up. In general I favor the Awami League despite its socialist origins because the party is less bigoted against religious minorities and would likely wink less at de facto ethnic cleansing (though of course the typical Awami League Muslim is still rather prejudiced against non-Muslims, just not nearly as so as BNP supporters I’d bet). But I worry that Bangladesh’s economic growth is a short term feature of its demographic dividend, as the nation still is near the bottom on most metrics of human capital.

June 20, 2011

“Fortress India,” things that make you go “hhhmmm”

Filed under: Bangladesh,India,Politics,Wall — Razib Khan @ 9:29 pm

I always consider Foreign Policy to be a shallower version of Foreign Affairs, but there are so many weird issues with this piece, Fortress India – Why is Delhi building a new Berlin Wall to keep out its Bangladeshi neighbors?

First, the subhead. The uniqueness of the Berlin Wall is that it wasn’t meant to keep out outsiders, it was meant to keep in citizens of the Communist East German regime. Whatever the merits of demerits of the India wall, the analogy is just stupid because of this basic inversion of the structure.


Felani wore her gold bridal jewelry as she crouched out of sight inside the squalid concrete building. The 15-year-old’s father, Nurul Islam, peeked cautiously out the window and scanned the steel and barbed-wire fence that demarcates the border between India and Bangladesh. The fence was the last obstacle to Felani’s wedding, arranged for a week later in her family’s ancestral village just across the border in Bangladesh.

Yes, the story is about the India-Bangladesh border, but it starts out with a story about a 15-year old child bride who was the subject of an arranged marriage! Cultures differ, and economic realities are what they are. But the very fact that the girl was having to cross a border at this age to get married to someone she had probably never met is problematic in and of itself.

Then, stuff about natural disasters and climate:

. The slow creep of seawater into Bangladesh’s rivers caused by global-warming-induced flooding, upriver dams in India, and reduced glacial melt from the Himalayas is already turning much of the country’s fertile land into saline desert, upending its precarious agricultural economy.

Saline desert? Perhaps. But from what I gather, and what past history tells us, is that a hotter heart of Asia should increase the power of the monsoonal “pump.” There might be less snow which melts in the Himalayas, but there might be more water overall. This argues for better cooperation in hydraulic electric power across the trans-Himalayan region.


And it’s no secret where the uprooted Bangladeshis would go first. Bangladesh shares a border with only two countries: the democratic republic of India and the military dictatorship of Burma. Which would you choose?

The reason that Bangladeshis choose India is because there are already many Bengalis across the border, many Bengali Muslims, and even Bangaldeshi Muslims. In Burma Bangladeshis would stand out, and look like Rohingya. Democracy or dictatorship is less important than the cultural affinities, which the article already references.

The New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses estimates that there are already 10 to 20 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India. (By comparison, there are an estimated 11.2 million illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States.)

Yes, but there are three times as many Indians as Americans! Additionally, the cultural difference between Bangladeshis and Indians, Islam aside, is probably far less than between Mexicans and Americans. The income gap between Bangaldesh and neighboring regions of India is also not nearly as great. There are so may differences between the two cases that the analogy isn’t telling us much useful.


But by April the Indian soldiers had reloaded, shooting a Bangladeshi cattle trader and three others in separate incidents. It was a bleak reminder that while the fence itself may be a flimsy thing, the tensions that make it into a killing zone are remarkably durable

“Cattle trader.” To an American this might sound innocuous, but the cultural context here is important. What was this cattle trader up to? It is an open secret that Bangladeshis engage in a brisk trade of Indian cows which they capture and transport across the border to kill and consume. I don’t personally have a problem with this on a deep moral level. I’ve seen cows being slaughtered as a very small child in the streets of Dhaka itself, but obviously a lot of Indian Hindus find this a very objectionable practice. Bangladeshi Muslims view the wandering cows of India as a literal “movable feast,” and they help themselves to free protein whenever possible. This is just how the market equilibrium works, but it doesn’t mean that Indian Hindus don’t get very made about this.

Overall I think the reality is that Bangladesh’s fertility is dropping, and it’s economy isn’t such a basket-case anymore. In 10-15 years this might not be a big issue, insofar as the poor rural migrants who are moving to India might find better and easier opportunities in Dhaka and Chittagong. But unless Indin develops a biometric system so it can track who is, and isn’t, an Indian citizen I can see clearly why they want to control their border. If the Bangladeshis want to work in India they should lead a movement for reunification with India. As it is, they don’t want that. What they want is their independence as a distinctive nation with its own folkways. But such independence comes with a cost. It really sucks for Bangladesh that India is such a bully quite often. But it could be worse. Bangladesh could make a show of fighting back, and then be knee deep in the geopolitical mass which is Pakistan’s self-imposed lot.

January 29, 2011

The archaeogenetics of Bengal

Filed under: Bangladesh,Genetics,History — Razib Khan @ 3:22 pm

Over at Gene Expression I have a very long piece, “Asian” in all the right places, which interprets my most recent batch of 23andMe results. Additionally, I use these results to generate some inferences about the population history of eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh).

“Asian” in all the right places

mtDNA haplogroup G1a2

The pith: In this post I examine the most recent results from 23andMe for my family in the context of familial and regional (Bengal) history. I also use these results to offer up a framework for the ethnognesis of the eastern Bengali people within the last 1,000 years, and their relationship to other South Asian and Southeast Asian populations.

Since I received my 23andMe results last May I’ve been blogging about it a fair amount. In a recent post I inferred that perhaps I had a recent ancestor who was an ethnic Burman or some related group. My reasoning was that this explained a pattern of elevated matches on chromosomal segments with populations from southwest China in the HGDP data set. But now we have more than my genome to go on. This week I got the first V3 chip results from a sibling. And finally, yesterday the results from my parents came in. One thing that I immediately found interesting was my father’s mtDNA haplogroup assignment, G1a2. This came from his maternal grandmother, and as you can see it has a distribution which ...

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