After completing architectural studies in the United States in 1952, Muzharul Islam returned home to Pakistan to find the country embroiled in acrimonious politics of national identity. The young architect began his design career in the midst of bitterly divided notions of national origin and destiny, and his architectural work reflected this political debate. In Modernism as Postnationalist Politics: Muzharul Islam's Faculty of Fine Arts (1953–56), Adnan Morshed argues that Islam's Faculty of Fine Arts at Shahbagh, Dhaka, embodied his need to articulate a national identity based on the secular humanist ethos of Bengal, rather than on an Islamic religious foundation. With this iconoclastic building, Islam sought to achieve two distinctive goals: to introduce the aesthetic tenets of modern architecture to East Pakistan and to reject all references to colonial-era Indo-Saracenic architecture. The Faculty's modernism hinges on Islam's dual commitment to a secular Bengali character and universal humanity.

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