Bangladeshi Americans

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Author: J. Sydney Jones
Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2014
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Topic overview
Length: 10,573 words
Lexile Measure: 1320L

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Bangladeshi Americans

J. Sydney Jones

OVERVIEW

Bangladeshi Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Bangladesh, a country located in Southeast Asia. Bangladesh (formally known as the People's Republic of Bangladesh) is bounded to the east, north, and west by the much larger country of India, with which it shares a 2,500-mile border. To the southeast, Bangladesh shares a 119-mile border with Myanmar (Burma). To the south of Bangladesh lies the Bay of Bengal. Fully two-thirds of Bangladesh is made up of low-lying delta land, through which the many branches of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers flow to the sea. Flooding via the Bay of Bengal is both a gift and a curse, providing the nutrients and water supply for Bangladesh's three-crop rice production, but also displacing thousands of Bangladeshis annually. Bangladesh covers an area of 55,598 square miles (143,998 square kilometers) and is roughly the size of Wisconsin.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics' Population and Housing Census, the population of Bangladesh was more than 14 million in 2011. Some 90 percent of Bangladesh is Muslim, and the remaining population is divided among Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Animist. The majority of the population considers itself Bengali. The non-Bengali minority encompasses the Adivasi (Indigenous) peoples and the Urdu-speaking population. The Adivasis (also known by the more political term “Jumma”) are divided into many groups, which include the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Chak, Pankho, Mru, Murung, Bawm, Lushai, Khyang, Gurkha, Assamese, Santal, and Khumi. The majority of indigenous people live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts area of southeastern Bangladesh, which has a unique Adivasi culture that is distinct from that of the rest of Bangladesh. There are also Adivasis in some flatland areas. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and this population pressure contributes to economic stress and disparity. While economic indicators in Bangladesh have been weak since independence, the country has made substantial improvements in the prosperity of its poorest strata. Annual income per person, for example, has risen from $540 in 1990 to $1,909 as of 2011. The national poverty rate is high—31.5 percent as of 2010—but has declined significantly since 1992, when it was 56.6 percent. Some 45 percent of the workforce is engaged in agriculture. Bangladesh is the world's second largest garments exporter, exceeded only by China. The country earned approximately $19 billion from garments in 2012, servicing brands such as Walmart, Nike, and Disney.

Early immigrants who came to the United States in the late nineteenth century from what is now Bangladesh were identified as Indian. They initially settled in California and other western states, as well as in cities such as New York, Detroit, New Orleans, and Baltimore. They built railroads, worked in factories, cut lumber, settled homesteads, and worked as traders. After Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971, a second wave of immigrants began to arrive in the United States. Some of these people came because, no longer being part of Pakistan, migration was easier. In the late 1970s, others came as the political situation in the then independent Bangladesh continued to deteriorate. These new immigrants were mostly young male professionals seeking employment opportunities. The most substantial wave of Bangladeshi American immigration occurred after 2000 and was a result of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which provided diversity visas (DVs) to immigrants from countries such as Bangladesh with low rates of immigration to the United States. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, however, immigration officials began to place more hurdles, such as longer wait times and in-depth security checks, in the way of those seeking to migrate from Muslim-majority countries. This resulted in a drop in the number of Bangladeshis allowed in the United States.

According to U.S. Census data, the population of Bangladeshi Americans doubled between 2000 and 2010, rising to 147,300 in 2010. Unofficial estimates, which take undocumented immigrants into consideration, place that number as high as 250,000. Bangladeshi Americans are a very young migrant population, with seven in ten born outside the United States. Only about half have become American citizens. In New York during this period, Bangladeshis were the fastest growing new migrant group. Other areas of with significant Bangladeshi American populations include California, Florida, and Michigan.

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HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE

Early History While Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, the area it occupies has a long cultural history. Originally known as Bengal, the region of the eastern Indian subcontinent around the Bay of Bengal has been settled since the first centuries of the Common Era and has a recorded history of over two millennia. The earliest inhabitants of the region were of mixed Mongoloid, Austric, and Dravidian heritage. This early civilization had highly developed arts, trade, and agriculture. Between 2000 and 1500 BCE, much of this was swept aside after invasions by Aryans, which brought the Sanskrit language and Vedic Hinduism to India. Bangladeshis are primarily descendants of the non-Aryan inhabitants of the region, with a very small portion also claiming descent from merchants and travelers from the Persian, Turkic, and Arab regions.

Bengal has a rich literary heritage, as written records in Bengali date back to the ninth or tenth century. Under the Buddhist Pala kings, Bengal was first unified politically between the eighth and twelfth centuries. At the height of its power in the early ninth century, this Pala empire included all of Bengal and most of Assam and Bihar.

The Hindu Sena Empire took the place of the Pala Empire in the late eleventh century but by about 1200 was already suffering from repeated incursions by invading Muslim armies led by Muhammad Bhaktyar. Muslim domination lasted until the Battle of Plassey in 1757, in which the British, under Robert Clive, defeated the Muslim ruler of the region and established British rule. However, more than 500 years of Muslim rule in the area left a lasting and rich legacy. Bengali Muslim rulers generally sponsored the arts and sciences at their courts and became patrons of poets, both Hindu and Muslim. A high point of Bengali literature was reached between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. During this time period, large numbers of Bengali, especially in the eastern region (today's Bangladesh), converted from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam. This had a lasting effect in the region, in effect creating two Bengals—one in the west that was majority Hindu, and one in the east that was majority Muslim.

Modern Era With the defeat of the Muslim ruler Sirajud-Daula at the Battle of Plassey, Bengal fell under British rule. In 1905 the British partitioned Bengal into Muslim and Hindu areas, but the partition was revoked in 1912 due to protest from the Hindu political class. Thereafter, Bengal remained a unified part of the British Raj until 1947. Two legacies of British rule were the English language and a European-style educational system.

During the nearly two centuries of British rule, the rift between Muslims and Hindus widened. The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny was a crucial factor in this, since the British analysis concluded that, in many cities, Muslim soldiers had been the leaders of the rebellion, even though Hindu soldiers had also participated. Thereafter, British imperial policy strategically exacerbated various divisions between the two main religious groups so as to head off any possibility of another united Hindu-Muslim rebellion against the British. In cities like Delhi, intellectual and economic control shifted from the Muslim to the Hindu population, due to the British policy of gradually disempowering the Muslim population. At the end of the Raj, the stage was thus set for a partition of the Indian Empire based on the two main religious groupings. India remained primarily Hindu, while the state of Pakistan was formed for Muslims. East Bengal became East Pakistan and was separated from West Pakistan by more than a thousand miles, with India in between the two wings of Pakistan.

Relations between the two wings of Pakistan were poor from the outset, as the Bengalis in East Pakistan distrusted their fellow Pakistanis in West Pakistan. East and West Pakistan were culturally and linguistically distinct from one another with only a shared religion in common. The beginning of mistrust came in 1952, when East Pakistan resisted an attempt by the Urdu-speaking elite section of West Pakistan to make Urdu the official language of the entire country.

Later in the 1950s, the Pakistani military took control of the political system and suspended the democratic process. Due to the military's overwhelming base in West Pakistan, this further exacerbated tensions between the two Pakistans. Though East Pakistan had the majority of the population of the new country, and though it accounted for much of the foreign exchange through its rice and jute production and the activities of the port of Chittagong, it held far less political power than West Pakistan. Less than 13 percent of Pakistani government employees were Bengali, and less than 10 percent of high-ranking army officials were from the eastern wing of the newly constituted Pakistan. Only 36 percent of the national budget was spent in East Pakistan.

By the early 1960s, a movement for regional autonomy in East Pakistan began to form under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was popularly known as Sheikh Mujib. In 1966 Sheikh Mujib was imprisoned on conspiracy charges. When the charges were finally dismissed, he emerged from prison a national hero. Three years later, after sustained anti-army protests in both wings of Pakistan, General Ayub Khan stepped down and was replaced by General Yahya Khan. In an attempt to alleviate an increasingly tense political situation, Yahya allowed the first free elections under universal franchise since the army took control of Pakistan in the 1950s. This election, held in 1970, was the first one where the Bengali numerical majority's votes were counted on the basis of one person, one vote. Sheikh Mujib and his Awami League party won an absolute majority of all Pakistan assembly seats, but West Pakistani politician Zulfiqar

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CENGAGE LEARNING, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED CENGAGE LEARNING, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED U.S. Census Bureau, 2006–2010 American Community Survey

Ali Bhutto refused to accept the result. The subsequent negotiations broke down and the army postponed the assembly, inflaming the situation.

In March 1971, the Pakistani military launched a secret military crackdown, arresting all Awami League leaders and killing thousands of people in the universities and other political nerve centers. East Pakistan subsequently proclaimed its independence as a free nation. West Pakistan jailed Sheikh Mujib and declared East Pakistan a rebel province. Some ten million people fled to India and Bengali rebels set up training camps inside India and fought a guerrilla war against the well-armed Pakistani military. During a nine-month war, Pakistani soldiers were accused of carrying out genocidal attacks, targeting Hindu Bengalis, and also using lists of teachers, students, and other professionals to decide who would be picked up.

India allied itself with Bangladesh (East Pakistan) to defeat Pakistani forces in what became known as Bangladesh's War of Independence. By the time the war ended on December 16, the conflict had claimed between half a million and three million lives, according to differing estimates, and had displaced ten million people. Thousands of Bangladeshi women had also been raped by Pakistani forces. At war's end, the exiled government returned from Calcutta, India, to Dhaka, and Mujib was released from Pakistani prison to become the first leader of the newly independent Bangladesh. The war left much of the nation, including its economy, in ruins. Economic recovery was slow since tea plantations in northern Sylhet and the jute mills that fueled industry had been destroyed. Many of the millions who had fled the country returned after independence only to find their homes and villages in ruins. However, a new nation, Bangladesh, had been formed, made up of the former East Bengal as well as the former Sylhet district of Assam.

In 1975 Sheikh Mujib attempted to strengthen his hold on power by banning all political parties but his own Awami League. A coup led by army officers followed, and Mujib was killed. After a series of coups and military regimes during the late 1970s and 1980s, a massive prodemocracy movement gripped the country in 1990 and mobilized reform. Many analysts consider 1990 the last noble moment of all-party, mass political mobilization, comparing it with the 1968 movement that led to the ouster of General Ayub Khan and the 1971 movement that led to the Independence War.

Begum Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) became the first female prime minister of the country in 1991. She was succeeded in 1996 by Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League, daughter of the country's first leader, Mujib. Over the last two decades Zia and Hasina have alternated control of power, with the exception of the two-year, military-backed “Caretaker Government” of 2006 to 2008.

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Bangladesh has weathered attempts at military dictatorship and has made room within its borders for diverse religious groups. It can be characterized as having a fragile democracy, where the military always has the potential to intervene. While the country's intellectual class often discusses the need for a “third force” to challenge the Awami League-BNP duopoly, so far no such force has succeeded at the polls. The brief and failed election campaign of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank further weakened the “third force” scenario. However, in spite of unstable governance, the country has made impressive improvements, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen recently cited Bangladesh as having better results on certain human health indicators than India. However, overpopulation does continue to motivate large numbers of Bangladeshi to seek better opportunities in countries such as the United States.

SETTLEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES

As the nation-state of Bangladesh did not come into existence until 1971, there were no “Bangladeshi” immigrants per se to the United States until after that time. However, immigrants from the Bengali region to the United States have been arriving since 1887. Their numbers were small, in part because of discriminatory immigration laws that allowed citizenship only to Caucasians. These immigrants included dissident student activists, both Hindu and Muslim, who fled to the United States after the partition of Bengal in 1905. Small groups of these male students settled on the west coast, primarily in San Francisco, Oregon, and Washington. Such student immigrants were from both West and East Bengal and numbered only in the hundreds.

Merchant marines also immigrated in small numbers in the early years of the twentieth century. Escaping poverty, they simply jumped ship after docking in New York or San Francisco. As anti-miscegenation laws forbade their marrying white women, this first wave of male immigrants from Bengal married mostly Mexican, African American, or Creole women and also formed communities with these ethnic groups.

Though some of the early Bengali immigrants, such as the student activist Taraknath Das, tested the discriminatory immigration and naturalization laws, little changed in the first half of the twentieth century. Das was able to gain citizenship by proving to a clerk that anthropologists officially labeled his race Caucasian. A handful of Bengali and Indian immigrants won citizenship on these grounds, until the 1924 Immigration Act further restricted citizenship rights. Court battles ensued, and finally, in 1946, naturalization was granted to all Indians, including both Muslim and Hindu Bengalis. A quota of 100 immigrants per year was set, and in 1965, Indian and Pakistani immigrants were given the same status as other nationalities.

In the 1960s, just prior to independence, many East Bengalis had fled to the United States to avoid political persecution, or, in the case of religious minorities, to avoid religious discrimination. These immigrant groups were generally composed of well-educated and affluent professionals. With the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, official immigration records became separate from those of Indians and Pakistanis.

Since 1971, the number of immigrants from this region has increased annually. In 1973, 154 Bangladeshi immigrants arrived in the United States; 147 in 1974; 404 in 1975, and 590 in 1976. These immigrants were mostly younger men who were leaving behind the hard economic and political times of the still-developing Bangladesh. The overpopulation of the region and subsequent poverty continue to be the main reasons for emigration from Bangladesh.

By 1980 there were an estimated 3,500 Bangladeshis in the United States, 200 of whom had already become U.S. citizens. However, these numbers severely underestimate the undocumented portion of this population. They settled in every state of the union but were concentrated in the urban areas of New York, New Jersey, and California. Fully a third of these early immigrants were professionals, and many of the remaining two-thirds were white-collar workers. Immigrants within this wave tended to be men (60 percent) under the age of thirty-nine. About half of these immigrants were already married when they arrived, with families awaiting immigration once the spouse was settled. They formed civic organizations and clubs in the locales where they settled, and they tended to keep to their ethnic and religious communities. Bangladeshi immigrants typically supported Democratic candidates, in part as a result of Republican support for Pakistan during the independence movement.

In the 1980s both documented and undocumented immigrants continued to arrive from Bangladesh in large numbers. Between 1982 and 1992, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service legally admitted 28,850 Bangladeshis. Another 6,000 Bangladeshis also won diversity visas through a lottery between 1988 and 1993. By the 1990s, estimates of undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants had reached as high as 150,000. In 1998 it was estimated that there were more than 100,000 Bangladeshi Americans living in New York City alone, and the area of 36th Avenue in Astoria began to be identified as “Mini Bangladesh” because of the large number of Bangladeshi restaurants in the area. Other large enclaves of Bangladeshis were found in Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. In Los Angeles, the Bangladeshi community is centered in and around the downtown area, where shop and restaurant signs are often in Bengali. As immigrants Page 225  |  Top of Articlebegan to settle in the United States, the networks of kinship brought in smaller groups of migrants, composed of family and friends.

A third and most significant wave came in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Because this program did not give preference to immigrants based on their professional skills or educational achievements, the number of non-professionals was much higher (some argue the majority) in this new group. As a result, a majority of them went into blue-collar jobs, such as taxi driving, restaurant work, and operating newspaper stands and fruit stands.

While New York remained home to the largest number of Bangladeshi Americans, the economic downturn of the early twenty-first century forced large numbers of Bangladeshi Americans to leave the area to seek out job opportunities in Michigan, where they found opportunity in the small businesses that support the automobile industry. Often, Bangladeshis were drawn to economically blighted areas where they could live inexpensively and start new businesses at low cost. In Hamtramck, Michigan, for example, an influx of new Bangladeshi migrants has started to turn parts of the city's devastated economy around toward some measure of solvency. Others sought out new lives in Florida and in large cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Recent immigrants from Bangladesh also included groups of the indigenous Adivasi peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, with their distinct culture. They had left Bangladesh to escape repression by the military, which continues to control the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in spite of a 1997 peace accord that was supposed to end the military's presence. Other Bangladeshis had arrived in the United States indirectly via the Middle East, Australia, or Africa. Though these immigrants tended to be more geographically mobile than earlier immigrants from Bengal and Bangladesh, most still preserved strong ties to Bangladesh and become involved in local organizations that reflected their religious, ethnic, or geographical affiliations in their home country.

According to 2000 U.S. Census figures, there were 41,280 Bangladeshis of single ancestry living in the United States. By 2010 the official count had reached 147,300. Data from 2007 to 2009 indicates that 73 percent of recent Bangladeshi immigrants are foreign born, and 41 percent arrived in the United States after 2000. Between 2001 and 2010, there were 86,158 immigrant visas issued by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to Bangladeshis. Some 41 percent of those were sponsored by family members already living in the United States, and 33 percent had an immediate family member who had already immigrated to America. Only 6 percent were sponsored by employers. Some 64 percent of those immigrants were between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four. Most were Muslim, but some were Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian. Almost all Bangladeshi Americans continue to maintain strong cultural ties with others from their homeland.

LANGUAGE

Bengali, or Bangla, is the language spoken by most of the people of Bangladesh as well as those in the Indian state of Bengal and parts of Assam. More than 200 million people worldwide speak Bengali, making it one of the world's most widely spoken language groups. Part of the Indo-Aryan subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages, Bengali is derived from Sanskrit.

For the Bangladeshi, Bengali is more than a language; it is a cultural identity. One of the first measures that West Pakistan employed in 1952 in its attempt to incorporate East Pakistan was to proclaim Urdu the national language of the country. That measure failed, and after the 1971 independence war, Bengali replaced English in government documents and in most levels of public administration, as well as on street and commercial signs. Schools, too, began to switch from teaching in English to teaching in Bengali after independence. For example, St. Joseph, one of the top schools in Dhaka, switched from the Cambridge system to Bengali-medium in 1973. In the 2000s, however, this trend reversed and the prevalence of English-medium schools, especially in the capital of Dhaka, increased. Bilingual phrasing in both English and Bengali is now widespread on street signs, in shop names, and on billboards. This has led to great anxiety among the cultural class and to several attempts to reduce the increasing presence of English. Among many factors, this was due largely to a growing economic sector, including telecommunications, banking, and advertising, that required English-educated young professionals. Though English continues to be a strong and growing second language in Bangladesh, Bengali is still the official language of government and education. On a street and vernacular level, many Bengalis have some listening comprehension of Hindi due to the popularity of Indian Bollywood films. Rural areas primarily continue to use Bengali speech, often using a local dialect.

Until the 1930s, formal Bengali, sadhu bhasha, was used for literary, printed matter, while the colloquial language, cholito bhasha, was the medium of more informal discourse. Now, however, the colloquial is used for all forms. Most Bangladeshis speak cholito bhasha as well as their own local dialects. Some of those, such as that spoken in Sylhet (Sylheti), Chittagong (Chatgayya), and Noakhali (Noakhaillya), have been somewhat affected by Arab-Persian influences. Loan words from English, Arabic, Portuguese, Persian, and Hindi are common in Bengali in general, reflecting the history of the nation as a trading and convergence point. Famous writers in Bengali include the 1913 Nobel laureate Rabindranath

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BANGLADESHI PROVERBS

Bengali is a language rich in proverbs, many of them reflecting the moral values and ethics of a rural, agrarian society. Homey virtues are represented in the saying “All are kings in their own houses,” while meeting one's own consequences are reflected in “Like sin, like atonement.” Food becomes a metaphor in many proverbs: “Have I drawn a harrow over your ripe corn?” is said to someone who, without reason, wants to harm the speaker; and “He has spoiled my already served rice!” is used to described a situation when something, after much effort, begins to take effect and then is set back or ruined by some outside force or person.

Ignorant actions are mocked in proverbs such as “Cutting the root below and watering the bush above,” and “Standing below the tree while felling it.” Things that last briefly are caught in the phrase “‘Tis a palm tree's shade,” while “An ocean of wisdom” can be applied to wise men and fools alike, the latter with a sarcastic voice. Doing one's best in spite of all is reflected in “One puts on a rag rather than go naked,” while the effects of inattention are summed up in “It comes in through one ear, but it goes out at the other.” Along the same lines, giddy oversight is summed up in “Blind with both his eyes open!” and the futility of striving for the unreachable is represented in “‘Tis sand mixed up with molasses.” Peasant irony and understanding of material realities are represented in “He who has money may ask for judgment.”

Shomoy bohia jaey nodir sroter praye

Time flows away with the river stream. (Time is precious; do not waste it.)

Chokh moner ayna

The eyes are the mirror of the soul.

Karo poush mash, karo shorbonash

For some it is the month of Paush, for others a great disaster. (Paush is when crops come in.)

GREETINGS AND POPULAR EXPRESSIONS

Assalam-u-alaykum (Muslim) or nomoshkaar (Hindu)

Hello

Shuprobhat

Good morning

Khoda hafiz (Muslim) or biday (general, though less common)

Good-bye

Shubhoratri

Good night

Ji (more polite, to an elder) or hya (more informal)

Yes

Na

No

Dhonnobad

Thank you

Kemon achen?

How are you?

Bhaalo achi

I am fine.

Apnaar (or tomaar for less formal) nam ki?

What is your name?

Ami bujhlam na?

I did not understand.

Apni Ingreji bolte paren?

Do you speak English?

Tagore, a Hindu, whose poems, songs, and stories lovingly document Bengali life, and Kazi Nazrul Islam, a Muslim poet who is widely known as the poetic voice of a more rebellious, assertive Bengali identity. The fact that the two most prominent poets of modern Bengal are a Hindu and a Muslim is cited as an example of Bengal's religious pluralism.

Among Bangladeshi Americans, 92 percent continue to speak their own language within their homes, and it is estimated that 188,452 individuals speak Bengali within the United States. Nearly half of all Bangladeshi Americans are considered to have Limited English Proficiency, and a fourth of them have been labeled linguistically isolated because of that language barrier. This is particularly true of older immigrants. When interacting with other Bangladeshi Americans, many speak a combination of Bengali and English.

RELIGION

Some 90 percent of Bangladeshis follow the tenets of Islam, which was the state religion of Bangladesh from 1988, when the military regime changed the constitution, until 2011, when the Fifteenth Amendment to the Bangladeshi Constitution officially made Bangladesh a secular state and made secularism an essential feature of the state.

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Three Bangladeshi American friends in Brooklyn, NYC. Three Bangladeshi American friends in Brooklyn, NYC. DAVID GROSSMAN / ALAMY

Most Bangladeshi Muslims are of the Sunni sect, with a small number of Shi'ite Muslims. There are also smaller numbers of other sects, such as Ahmadiya Muslims, Baha'i, and Aga Khani. About 10 percent of the population is Hindu; the remaining population consists of Buddhists, Christians, and followers of various other sects. Among Bangladeshi Americans, the majority of those entering the United States after 2000 have been Muslim, though there are also small but significant Bengali Hindu, Bengali Christian, and Adivasi (which is primarily Buddhist) communities in the United States. Muslim Bangladeshi Americans have been involved in building mosques and in fighting for their right to work and live peacefully in a society that is largely Christian and where Muslim Americans have been under severe scrutiny since the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.

In American cities with large Muslim populations, such as New York and Detroit, Bangladeshi Muslims are able to practice their religious faith within a diverse community of Muslims. This increases connections outside the Bangladeshi American community. Bangladeshi Americans living in areas without substantial Muslim communities often face difficulties in practicing their faith, such as having to drive great distances to reach the nearest mosque. The same is generally true of Bangladeshi Hindus, who have access to Hindu temples in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Boston but have difficulty finding a religious community in smaller American cities and in rural areas.

CULTURE AND ASSIMILATION

Overall, Bangladeshis are fairly recent arrivals to the United States and tend to maintain ethnic enclaves in the areas where they settle. Having won a war of independence and the right to self-identity in the subcontinent, the immigrants who come to America have attempted to preserve their new identities as Bangladeshi Americans.

For these newer immigrants, preserving religious and cultural identities as Bangladeshi has remained important. Among second- and third-generation Bangladeshi Americans, teaching members of younger generations to respect that identity and learn that history has become a major priority. In central Florida, for instance, a group of Bangladeshi Americans holds monthly social gatherings, where they speak their own language, eat their own food, listen to their own music, and wear the traditional clothing of Bangladesh. However, these meetings also tend to reflect the mixed cultures of the group, with communication often being conducted in a combination of English and Bengali; American food shares the table with traditional Bangladeshi dishes, and jeans and T-shirts appear frequently, particularly among the young. This same pattern is repeated in other cities, especially where entire families are living together (it is more difficult when it is only male migrants alone in America). New York is home to the largest group of Bangladeshi Americans in the country, and members of the community within the New York/New Jersey area have made a sincere effort to promote the Bangladeshi culture through events

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BHAPA CHINGRI

Ingredients

10–12 Pieces of prawns

3½ ounces mustard oil

½ fresh coconut, cut into small chunks

5 tablespoons chile paste and white mustard

2 teaspoons turmeric powder sugar and salt to taste

10–12 pieces green chile, chopped Banana leaves

Preparation
Wash prawn pieces and then immerse in salt water for about 5 minutes.

Pulse coconut in food processor until a paste forms; do not over process. Combine oil, coconut paste, chile/mustard paste, salt, turmeric and sugar, mix well.

Remove the prawns from the water and dry with a paper towel. Place prawns in the coconut mixture and marinate for 5 hours in the refrigerator.

After prawns have marinated, place 1 each on a banana leaf. Sprinkle chopped green chile on each prawn and cover it with another leaf.

Place banana leaf packages in a pressure cooker and cook for about ten minutes.

Serve immediately.

such as the annual Bangladeshi Festival. They also established the Bangladesh Theatre of America, an off-Broadway folk and music theater. While still a university student, attorney Nuren Haider wrote the children's musical Amra Harainee (We Are Not Lost) to teach the children of Bangladeshi Americans about their heritage.

Traditions and Customs Bangladeshi culture, as reflected in its traditions and customs, has a rich mixture of Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian influences, along with more ancient traditions and practices. Most Bangladeshi Americans are aware of, and take great pride in, the long history of their people. Though separated from their homeland, they continue to celebrate and honor the beauty of Bangladeshi culture's great achievements in art, drama, literature, and dance. The culinary traditions of Bangladesh also endure in the United States. In New York, for example, there are renowned Bangladeshi restaurant “blocks” in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx that draw Bangladeshi visitors from near and far. That said, the cultural richness of Bangladesh continues to evolve within the Bangladeshi American community, which blends traditional customs and attitudes with those of America's diverse multicultural milieu.

Cuisine Rice is the mainstay of the Bangladeshi diet. In Bangladesh the cultivation of this crop occupies 80 percent of the cultivated land and is grown in three crops. A summer rice, aus, is harvested in July or August, after which the autumn rice, or amon, is planted, still using the water from monsoon season. A third crop, the winter rice, boro, is grown from December through April.

In addition to this staple, Bangladeshis eat all sorts of fish, another mainstay in the Bangladeshi diet. Meat is also consumed, except pork, which is forbidden by Islamic tradition. (However, other communities, especially Adivasi and Christian communities, do eat pork.) Like much of the food on the subcontinent, Bangladeshi cuisine is highly spiced, and common spices include mustard, fenugreek seed, and cumin. Curries are popular, as is rice pilaf, and Bangladeshi cuisine is also noted for a variety of milk-based sweets such as roso golla. A typical meal for a Bangladeshi American might include fish, vegetables, rice, and a dessert. Fish and vegetables are also combined in dishes such as bhapa and ghanho.

Among the Bangladeshi American population, it is very common to prepare and consume traditional Bangladeshi cuisine. In addition, as the Bangladeshi American population has grown, restaurants that serve this cuisine have opened in American cities such as New York and Atlanta. These restaurants, which sometimes serve Indian as well as Bangladeshi food, cater to a broader population and serve this cultural cuisine to Americans who are not of Bangladeshi descent. In fact, due to the need to attract non-Bengali customers, many restaurants located outside immigrant enclaves brand themselves as “Indian,” even though the majority of them are owned and managed by Bangladeshis.

Traditional Dress Traditionally, one of the few overt differences between Muslims and Hindus in Bangladesh was in their form of dress. Muslim men tended to wear a sarong-like garment, the lungi, which was tied around the waist. This garment was worn with a short vest. Muslim men also wore beards, as is traditional in many Muslim cultures. Hindu men, however, traditionally wore the dhoti, a pleated white garment that was brought between the legs and tied in front. The educated classes of men often wore loose-fitting, lightweight cotton trousers called pajamas (from which the English word is derived) with a collarless, knee-length shirt, known as the panjabi. For traditional ceremonies, such as weddings, the sherwani and churidar, a calf-length tunic and tight-fitting trousers, were often seen, accompanied by a turban.

While such traditional dress is still sometimes worn, the distinctions between what Hindus and Muslims wear in Bengal have broken down. The lungi, for example, is very common but is no longer worn only by Muslims. Pajamas, too, are now worn Page 229  |  Top of Articleby a wide swath of the population, while dhotis are decreasingly common.

Most Bangladeshi Americans wear western clothing in their daily lives, but they might don traditional clothing for special occasions or when gathering with other Bangladeshi Americans. Some Bangladeshi American Muslim women wear headscarves in public for religious reasons. A number of Bangladeshi American Muslim women have joined with other Muslim women in filing lawsuits to protect their right to wear headscarves on the job. However, some ceased wearing head coverings in the years following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, fearing discrimination against Muslims.

Traditional Music and Dance Bengali tradition is rich in music and dance, and much of it is story-based. This strong folk tradition has remained alive in many Bangladeshi American communities, where holidays and festival times are celebrated with Bangladeshi dance and song as well as with drama and poetry. Many of the string and percussion instruments employed are common to the subcontinent as a whole.

There are four main categories of music in the culture: classical, light classical, devotional, and popular. In its popular music, however, Bangladesh proves to be most original, developing forms for which there are no real equivalents outside the borders of Bangladesh. Characterized by spontaneity and high energy, these include bhatiali, bhawaiya, jari, sari, marfati, and baul.

Bangladeshi culture also has highly developed forms of dance, including such classical dances as kathakali and bharata-natya, both of which are typical throughout the subcontinent. However, specific to Bangladesh are indigenous dances such as dhali, baul, maipuri, and snake dances. These hearken back to Adivasi and communal life and describe various aspects of that lifestyle. These dances are performed on certain festival days. In both music and dance, improvisation is considered the primary goal.

The technology of the World Wide Web allows Bangladeshi Americans to listen to the music of their homeland 24/7, and websites keep them abreast of current musical trends. A group of Bangladeshi Americans has also formed the nonprofit organization Bangladesh American Band Alliance (BABA) to present Bangladeshi music to American audiences, and Bangladeshi American events are regularly held in cities with large Bangladeshi American populations to honor this music and culture.

Holidays While the Bangladeshi American community joins in such universal celebrations as New Year's, and in such American festivities as July Fourth and Thanksgiving, the real festivals and holiday occasions for them are religious and cultural in nature. For Bangladeshi Muslims, the two most important holidays are Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and Eid-al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, which observes the pilgrimage to Mecca. For Bangladeshi Hindus, important holidays are Durga Puja, which celebrates the Hindu goddess Durga, and Saraswati Puja, which celebrates the Hindu goddess Saraswati. These holidays are often celebrated with an exchange of visits between friends and relatives, and increasingly with festivals of song and dance. Additionally, Hindus celebrate other pujas, or festivals, honoring various gods and goddesses.

Some Bangladeshi American Muslim women wear headscarves in public for religious reasons. A number of Bangladeshi American Muslim women have joined with other Muslim women in filing lawsuits to protect their right to wear headscarves on the job. However, some ceased wearing head coverings in the years following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, fearing discrimination against Muslims.

Most Bangladeshi Americans also celebrate secular and cultural Bangladeshi holidays. Pohela Boishakh is celebrated on April 14 in honor of the beginning of the Bengali calendar year. National Mourning Day is celebrated on February 21 to honor those who gave their lives in 1952 during the language riots to have Bangla declared the official language of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis celebrate two anniversaries of the nation's independence from Pakistan: on March 26, Independence Day, they memorialize the day that Bangladesh began the war for independence; on December 16, Victory Day, they memorialize the surrender of the Pakistan army and the formation of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. They also commemorate December 14 as Martyred Intellectual Day, in honor of the people killed by the Pakistan army and by local collaborators in the last days of the 1971 war.

Health Care Issues and Practices No specific disease or illness has been identified as being unusually prevalent among Bangladeshi Americans except for diabetes, which is common due to the high starch content of their diet. The community as a whole accepts the practices of Western medicine, though many still work within the framework of the alternative medical practices of the subcontinent, including, among some Hindus, adherence to the Ayurvedic beliefs in spiritual healing and the use of herbs for preventive treatment. Kabiraji, which is another form of herbal treatment, is practiced by both Muslims and Hindus.

Health problems have been a particular issue among older Bangladeshi Americans for whom the language barrier presents a major problem because 83 percent of this group is not proficient in English. There is also a tendency among this group to demonstrate distrust of western healthcare practices, which often leads senior Bangladeshi Americans to ignore health warnings. Diabetics may neglect monitoring their blood glucose levels, and many fail to take Page 230  |  Top of Articlemedications as prescribed. The problem is exacerbated among those who do not have health insurance and who, therefore, delay seeing a health professional.

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY LIFE

A majority Muslim nation, Bangladesh largely escaped the defining caste system of its Hindu neighbor, India. Social organization in the rural districts is based on the village or family (paribar or gushti), generally consisting of a complete or incomplete patrilineal extended household and residing in a homestead. This is combined into the larger unit of extended family house, sometimes called the ghar. The extended household works lands jointly, and food is served in a communal kitchen. The idea of nuclear family is somewhat alien in villages, although it is becoming more common in cities.

From this basic (bari) level, extended kinship ties are also patrilineal, based on real or assumed relationships. Such a kinship system becomes incredibly complex, and there are a variety of words to describe relatives of varying degrees. Thus “uncle,” for example, can have several names. The father's brother is called chacha, while the mother's brother is mama; the father's sister's husband is phupha, and the mother's sister's husband is khalu.

Bangladeshi society is woven together by this intricate kinship system, and even those not related by blood but who are simply older and thus worthy of respect become an aunt (chachi) or uncle (chacha), grandfather (dada) or grandmother (dadi). The use of such kinship names even extends to people of the same generation, who become bhai (brother, used for men older than you) or apa (sister, used for women older than you). Thus, in the United States, Bangladeshis may find some initial difficulty in using people's names instead of kinship titles.

The bari, or household, consists of an extended family, typically married sons on the paternal side. Great respect is shown the father, or abba, and mother, amma. Older brothers are also shown such respect. This model, however, tends to break down in the United States, where the necessities of earning a living often send both parents out into the workforce. Immigration regulations also lead to fracturing with the family structure. For example, restrictions on certain visas preclude immigrants from bringing their families with them to the United States. These visa restrictions disproportionately affect working-class immigrants. Among professionals, family migrations are more common.

Bangladeshi Americans of the first generation see themselves primarily as members of a complex family relationship rather than as individuals making their own way in the world. In addition to forming close ties to other Bangladeshi Americans, they have forged relationships with other American Muslims and with other South Asian immigrants. The typical bari relationship of Bangladesh has already been altered to more of the nuclear family model of the United States wherein unmarried children reside with their parents until they are married and then move away to form their own new family.

Gender Roles As with the rest of the subcontinent, women in Bangladeshi society were traditionally in the home in the role of nurturers while the men were the breadwinners. This has changed in recent decades, however, as result of various factors. First, the increased availability of contraceptives has allowed women greater autonomy. Second, the garments industry, which employs millions of women, has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Third, micro-credit programs, which are small loans and which primarily target women, have proliferated. As result, Bangladeshi women have been empowered economically and, thus, socially and politically.

Though traditional gender roles have begun to break down in Bangladesh, women in the first generation of Bangladeshi Americans tend to adhere more closely to the gender expectations of their native culture than to those of mainstream America. This is exacerbated by the fact that, although they may have worked in Bangladesh, in America they often have a difficult time finding employment and cannot easily do the late-night, hazardous jobs such as driving a taxi or working in a deli, which the male immigrants are able to do. Thus, there may sometimes be a reversal of their position as a result of migration. Younger women, on the other hand, have entered into the educational and professional worlds of the United States while attempting to honor the culture of their homeland and respect their parents.

Education In general, people in Bangladesh attend school for an average of eight years. While 61 percent of men and boys are considered literate, only 52 percent of women and girls meet this requirement. More recent immigrants often arrive in the United States lacking English-language educational skills. Other Bangladeshi immigrants, however, have often arrived with a strong desire for education, particularly those who came to America as college students. The offspring of second- and third-generation Bangladeshi Americans tend to be well educated. Overall, 81 percent of Bangladeshi Americans living in the United States between 2007 and 2009 had obtained high school diplomas, and 47 percent had graduated college with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Courtship and Weddings Arranged marriages are still somewhat common within the Bangladeshi American community, but the practice is beginning to fade away. Arranged marriages were previously the dominant custom in Bangladesh. Young couples, after they have been selected for each other, may exchange photos and even talk with each other long distance before the marriage. Arranged marriages are still common in Bangladesh, but the custom is fading away quickly among the educated middle class and elites. Page 231  |  Top of ArticleFactors that are causing this change in Bangladeshi cities include the huge growth of coeducational schools and cities and an increase in women entering the workforce who desire to choose their own partners. In the United States, where dating and individual choice are customary, arranged marriages are sometimes less common. At the same time, for a Bangladeshi American wishing to marry someone from the same background, some level of “arranging” may become necessary due to the difficulty of finding a partner in America, which is in part a result of the larger male population within recent migrants.

The fact that a prospective son-in-law lives in the United States is often seen as a plus for a Bangladeshi bride's family, promising enhanced opportunities for the couple. Young Bangladeshi men living in the United States often marry other Bangladeshis, flying back to Bangladesh for the ceremony with brides chosen by their families. Many Muslim females within the Bangladeshi American community opt to eschew dating in the American sense for cultural reasons, but this is also changing rapidly in the next generation.

The wedding ceremony itself can be an extended celebration lasting several days. Muslim and Hindu rites are generally observed for such ceremonies, which are accompanied by feasting and the signing of the marital agreement by bride and groom. Often the wedding is held at community centers and accompanied by traditional Bangladeshi or Bengali music. Traditional clothing is common among both brides and grooms, and religious customs often dictate whether traditional or westernized clothing is worn. Even when weddings are westernized to some extent, they generally include Bangladeshi music and food.

Relations with Other Americans Bangladeshi Americans are predominantly Muslim, but these religious ties stretch thinly across cultural lines. Bangladeshi Americans are thus a tightly knit group. Bengali by heritage, Bangladeshi Americans often affiliate with that ethnic minority in the United States, including Bangladeshis of other religions and Bengalis from West Bengal, India (who are statistically more likely to be Hindu). Bengalis of both religious persuasions may associate with each other because of their shared cultural bonds. However, at the larger, organized level, the Bangladeshi community generally separates itself from Indian Bengalis, reflecting the national boundaries of their homeland. This may also reflect the fact that the Bangladeshi American can associate only with an idea of “Bangladesh,” while the Bengali from India can choose to associate with “Bengali” (which can be both Indian and Bangladeshi) and “Indian.” Some of this is overcome especially among young, progressive groups of Bengalis from both countries, who may make a conscious decision to unite based on culture and language, across national borders.

Bangladeshi Americans also seek out other groups with which they share commonalities such as other American Muslims, including African Americans, and other immigrants from South Asian countries. All of this is made more complex by the fact that although a majority of Bangladeshi Americans are Muslim, not all of them are.

Following the events of 9/11, some Bangladeshi Americans became targets of hate crimes. This is particularly ironic given that a large number of Bangladeshis, including those who worked as waiters in the Windows of the World restaurant, were killed in the attack on the Twin Towers. In Texas, for instance, Rais Bhuiyan was shot while filling in for a friend at a gas station. While Bhuiyan survived the attack, his assailant, Mark Anthony Stroman, managed to kill both a Pakistani American and an Indian American during his crime spree. Rais Bhuiyan made national headlines when he appealed to stop the execution of Stroman, saying that his understanding of Islam required him to save every human life. He later formed an organization called World Without Hate. In New York, a number of Bangladeshi Americans have been physically or verbally harassed. In another case that made national headlines, Bangladeshi American taxi driver Ahmed H. Sharif had his neck slashed but survived the attack. He was later received as a “hero” by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. As a result of such incidents, Bangladeshi Americans have banded together to fight hate crimes, and some of the younger generation have started to enter the legal, social work, and organizing professions. These include the prominent lawyer Aziz Huq, who clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court, worked on several prominent cases involving post-9/11 issues, and is currently a professor at the University of Chicago law school.

EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS

Traditionally, only the more educated and skilled classes of Bangladeshi society were able to immigrate to the United States. Early statistics gathered with the first decade of Bangladeshi immigrations showed that a third of these immigrants had professional training and the vast majority of the rest had marketable skills. They typically worked in professions such as engineering, economics, architecture, and medicine.

However, in the 1990s, the new wave of immigration, partly swelled with diversity visa lottery winners, included immigrants with fewer skills and less education. While the new wave brought a large number of computer technicians who found work in Silicon Valley in California, it also brought many who were unskilled. Those immigrants found work clerking in convenience stores, driving cabs, or working in various service industries. Many street vendors in New York are also of Bangladeshi origin.

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According to data gathered by the Census Bureau in 2007–2009, the per capita income of Bangladeshi Americans is $16,784. Roughly one in five live in poverty, and the poverty rate of children and seniors within that group is the highest found among any Asian American group. However, only 3 percent of that group receives cash forms of public assistance. Some 7 percent of those over the age of sixteen are unemployed. One-third of Bangladeshi Americans are employed in sales and office work, and nearly a third are engaged in managerial and professional work. Those who came to the United States as college students are generally the most successful, working as engineers, doctors, scientists, and college professors. Some 17 percent work in production, transportation, and material moving, and another 17 percent are employed in service occupations. Many women sell food and crafts to supplement family income. Less than half (44 percent) of Bangladeshi Americans own their own homes, a trend that worsened during the housing meltdown of 2008 and 2009, and the group is the least likely of all Asian Americans to do so. Almost a fourth live in overcrowded households, and one in four have no health insurance.

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Many Bangladeshi immigrants arrive in the United States with a strong political identity because of their conflicted history, and they tend to continue to exercise their political tendencies as Bangladeshi Americans.


Jawed Karim (1979–), whose father is a Bangladeshi American, cofounded YouTube. com. Jawed Karim (1979–), whose father is a Bangladeshi American, cofounded YouTube. com. MARTIN KLIMEK / ZUMAPRESS / NEWSCOM

Closely aligned with the Democratic Party for both political and cultural reasons, Bangladeshi Americans, like other Asian Americans, express strong support for Democratic tenets. The group feels a particular affinity for President Barack Obama. In order to promote the particular political interests of Bangladeshi Americans, the Bangladeshi American Democratic Party was established in south Florida in 2002. In the 2012 U.S. elections, New York exit polls showed Bangladeshi Americans as the third largest ethnic group in terms of turnout. Ninety-six percent of Bangladeshi Americans voted for President Barack Obama. This represented the largest percentage of any group to vote for Obama.

The Bangladeshi American Community Council works with Bangladeshi Americans to promote political involvement. The group also pays homage to politicians who represent the group at state and local levels. With strong support from both the African American and Latino populations, in 2010, Hansen Clarke, an attorney whose father is Bangladeshi and whose mother is African American, became the first Bangladeshi American to be elected to Congress, representing Michigan's 13th District. In 2012 Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman won a seat on the city council in Paterson, New Jersey. Inventor, writer, and activist Nuran Nabi had already broken ground for Bangladeshi Americans in that area by becoming the first Bangladeshi American to win elected office in New Jersey in 2006.

NOTABLE INDIVIDUALS

Academia Aziz Huq is a professor of law at the University of Chicago and was a clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U.S. Supreme Court. Huq specialized in national security cases and was director of the Liberty and National Security project at the Brennan Center in New York. He is the author of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror (2007), which deals with the expansion of federal powers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Maqsudal Alam is a microbiologist at the University of Hawaii who specializes in the study of genomics. Asif Azam Siddiqui (1966–) is a history professor at Fordham University who specializes in the history of science and technology. He has authored a number of books on the subject of space exploration. Elora Shehabuddin is an associate professor of humanities and political science at Rice University and the author of two books, Reshaping the Holy: Democracy, Development, and Muslim Women in Bangladesh (2008) and Empowering Rural Women: The Impact of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh (1992). Naveeda Khan is an assistant professor in anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan (2012). Ali Riaz is professor and the chair of the department of politics and government at Illinois State University. He is the author of several books, including Religion and Politics in South Asia (2010). Dr. Dina Siddiqi is an independent scholar who divides her time between the Page 233  |  Top of ArticleUnited States and Bangladesh. She works on academic projects as well as conducting research with feminist organizations in Bangladesh such as Ain o Salish Kendra. Lamia Karim is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon in Eugene and the author of Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh (2011).

Architecture Both an architect and an engineer, Fazlur Rhaman Khan (1929–1982) was one of the most prominent Bangladeshi Americans to have migrated to the United States before 1971. His legacy of designs has kept his name alive as an innovative thinker. His work can be seen in buildings such as the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), which is the tallest building in the United States.

Art Hassan Elahi (1972–), a professor at the University of Maryland, is an interdisciplinary artist whose experience being tracked and interrogated by the FBI for being an alleged terrorist has informed his work, which explores questions of identity, privacy, and surveillance in the contemporary world. Elahi's work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale and around the world. Fariba S. Alam is a visual artist, born in Massachusetts, of Bangladeshi descent. Her work integrates tile work, archival photography, and self-portraiture in order to create large-scale photographs and installations. Throughout her work, she reimagines cultural artifacts, geometric patterns in nature, and Islamic architecture. Naeem Mohaiemen (1969–) is a writer and visual artist whose museum projects look at the contradictions of borders, wars, and belonging in South Asia. His work has been included in various shows, including as part of Visible Collective at the Whitney Biennial of American Art. Anoka Faruqee (1972–) is a painter who has exhibited her work in group and solo exhibitions in the United States and in Asia. She is an associate professor at the Yale School of Art, where she is also acting director of graduate studies of the painting and printmaking department.

Business Jawed Karim (1979–) is a cofounder of YouTube and is responsible for much of the technology behind PayPal. Born in Germany to a German mother and a Bangladeshi father, he moved to the United States in 1980. Frequently listed by Forbes as one of the richest men in the world, entrepreneur and engineer Sal Khan (1976–), who received his MBA from Harvard University, made a fortune as the manager of a hedge fund before quitting to run the Khan Academy, a web-based tutorial system that aims to provide free education to students around the world.

Music Operatic soprano Monica Yunus (1979–) was born in Chittagong to a Bangladeshi father, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, and a Russian American mother. A folk rock singer/songwriter, Hamza Jahangir released his first album, Kothai Jabo, in 2012. Born Mohammed Kabir, urban hip-hop artist MOBONIX is a former Marine whose musical talents were shaped in part by his mother, who played with a Bengali band. A Bengali American, jazz musician Badal Roy, who was discovered by jazz legend Miles Davis, is considered the world's most noted tabla (Indian drum) player. Born in Bangladesh, singer Palbasha Siddique (1991–) grew up in Minnesota. Performing with her band Melange, she sings in both Bengali and English.

Politics Democrat Hansen Clarke (1957–) served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1991 to 1992 and again from 1999 to 2002. He won election to the state senate in 2003 and remained in that position until 2011 when he became the first Bangladeshi American to serve in the U.S. Congress, where he represents Michigan's 13th District. His father is a Bangladeshi American, and his mother is an African American. A politician, inventor, activist, and a writer, Nuran Nabi has chronicled the history of Bangladesh's War of Independence in Bullets of '71: A Freedom Fighter's Story (2010). In 2006 he became the first Bangladeshi American to win an elected position in the state of New Jersey.

MEDIA

Bangladeshi Americans have 24/7 access to radio and television stations as well as newspapers and magazines in both their own language and English via the Internet. In areas with large Bangladeshi American communities, a number of weekly print newspapers that cover Bangladesh as well as the Bangladeshi diaspora in the United States and the American Muslim community are available. In New York City, more newspapers are printed in Bengali than in any other South Asian language. The City Planning Department estimates that there are almost as many Urdu speakers as Bengali speakers in the city, but Bengali newspapers outnumber Urdu newspapers two to one.

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Thikana

Started in 1990, Thikana is the oldest of New York's Bangladeshi newspapers and continues to offer Bengali-language coverage of news affecting the Bangladeshi American community.

11-35-45th Avenue
Long Island City, New York 11101
Phone: (718) 472-0700
Fax: (718) 361-5356
Email: wthikana@aol.com;
thikana@mindspring.com
URL: www.thikana.net

Weekly Bangalee

Since 1991, this weekly newspaper has chronicled both national and international news in the Bengali language for South Asian Americans.

86-16 Queens Boulevard
Suite 202

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Elmhurst, New York 11373
Phone: (718) 639-1177
Fax: (718) 565-8101
Email: weeklybangalee@gmail.com
URL: http://weeklybangalee.com/home

Weekly Parichoy

Published in both Bengali and English, this newspaper is updated each Wednesday, covering both national and international news.

72-32 Broadway
Suite 404
Jackson Heights, New York 11372
Phone: (347) 686-8329 or (917) 749-1179
Fax: (718) 559-4835
Email: parichoy@gmail.com
URL: www.parichoy.com

TELEVISION

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WNVC-TV (56)

Operating under the MHz umbrella, this public broadcasting station offers international programming in the Washington, D.C., area and offers Asian programming on Saturday mornings.

8101-A Lee Highway
Falls Church, Virginia 22042
Phone: (703) 698-9682
URL: www.mhznetworks.org

ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS

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Bangladesh American Band Alliance (BABA)

BABA was formed in 2005 to forge alliances among all Bangla bands and other cultural organizations in the United States, in order to promote Bangladeshi culture among young people.

Phone: (703) 629-3150 or (410) 320-4961
Email: jangi1@hotmail.com or ssuhas@comcast.net
URL: www.babamusic.net

Bangladesh Association of America (BAAI)

Established in 1972 to serve the needs of the Washington, D.C., Bangladeshi American community.

Sajda Solaiman, President
6850 Fernholly Court
Springfield, Virginia 22150
Phone: (301) 258-0088
URL: www.baaidc.com

Bangladeshi Medical Association of North America (BMANA)

Seeks to bring together physicians who are from or were trained in Bangladesh to network for further training or placement in North America.

Dilip Sarkar, MD, President
87-46 68th Street
Jamaica, New York 11432
Phone: (757) 621-6755
Fax: (718) 621-7655
URL: www.bmana.org/index.php

DRUM

DRUM was founded in 2000 to build the power of South Asian low-wage immigrant workers, youth, and families in New York City to win economic and educational justice, and civil and immigrant rights.

72-18 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, New York
11372 Phone: (718) 205-3036
Fax: (718) 205-3037
Email: info@drumnyc.org
URL: www.drumnyc.org

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Federation of Bangladeshi Associations in North America (FOBANA)

FOBANA is organization of Bangladeshi associations that aims to encourage Bangladeshi Americans to gather to celebrate their success and introduce their vibrant culture in the United States.

Duke Khan, Convener
1090 Vermont Avenue NW
Suite 910
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: (770) 317-8229, or (770) 882-1293
Email: dukekhan@gmail.com or fobanaec@gmail.com
URL: www.fobanaonline.com

Sakhi for South Asian Women

Sakhi aims to end violence against women, particularly in the South Asian community in the United States.

P.O. Box 2020
Greeley Square Station
New York, New York 10001
Phone: (212) 714-9153
Email: contactus@sakhi.org
URL: www.sakhi.org

MUSEUMS AND RESEARCH CENTERS

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American Institute of Bangladesh Studies

A consortium of member colleges and universities organized to encourage and support research on the history and culture of Bangladesh. Headquartered at Pennsylvania State University, It was founded in 1989 by Professor Craig Baxter.

Laura Hammond, Administrative Program Manager 203 Ingram Hall¸
1155 Conservatory Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Phone: (608) 261-1194
Email: aibsinfo@aibs.net
URL: www.aibs.net

Bangladesh American Center

The groundbreaking for this center, which promotes the history and culture of Bangladesh and of Bangladeshi Americans, took place on March 18, 2011.

Hasan Rahman, Center Director
1314 Renn Road
Houston, Texas 77083
URL: www.bachouston.org

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SOURCES FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY

Bald, Vivak. Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Baluja, Kagri Glagstad. Gender Roles at Home and Abroad: The Adaptation of Bangladeshi Immigrants. New York: LFB Scholarly Publications, 2003.

Foner, Nancy. Across Generations: Immigrant Families in America. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Harris, Michael S. “Bangladeshis,” in American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation, edited by David Levinson and Melvin Ember. New York: Macmillan Reference, 1997.

Karim, Elora. Microfinance and Its Discontents. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Kibria, Nazli. Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

Lewis, David. Bangladesh: Politics, Economics, and Civil Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Novak, James J. Bangladeshi: Reflections on the Water. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Shehabuddin, Elora. Reshaping the Holy: Democracy, Development, and Muslim Women in Bangladesh. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3273300028