This article examines Bangladesh in the context of the debate over the conditions under which Islamist groups are likely to subvert democracy or to be transformed by the democratic process. Bangladesh signals two conditions that play an important role. The first is the role of governments in promoting religion as a source of national identity. Successive governments in Bangladesh have consistently moved away from the promise of secularism that underpinned the creation of the country. The danger of establishing political legitimacy on the basis of religion is the absence of any authoritative interpretation of what religion requires in terms of public policy and how it can coexist with basic liberal freedoms and human rights. The second condition is the role of the government in providing and adequately regulating basic public goods such as education.