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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bangladeshi(s).
Population: About 133 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.59%.
Ethnic groups: Bengali 98%, tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims.
Religions: Muslim 83%; Hindu 16%; Christian, Buddhist, others 1%.
Languages: Bangla (official, also known as Bengali), English.
Education: Attendance--80% (primary school), 21.6% (secondary school). Literacy--52% for males; 29% for females, a total of 40.5% literacy.
Health: Infant mortality rate--66/1,000. Life expectancy--59 years (male), 59 years (female).
Work force (54.6 million): Agriculture--63%; industry--12%; services--25%.
The area which is now Bangladesh has a rich historical and cultural past, combining Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Mongol/Mughul, Arab, Persian, Turkic, and west European cultures. Residents of Bangladesh, about 98% of whom are ethnic Bengali and speak Bangla, are called Bangladeshis. Urdu-speaking, non-Bengali Muslims of Indian origin, and various tribal groups, mostly in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, comprise the remainder. Most Bangladeshis (about 83%) are Muslims, but Hindus constitute a sizable (16%) minority. There also are a small number of Buddhists, Christians, and animists. English is spoken in urban areas and among the educated.
Sufi religious teachers succeeded in converting many Bengalis to Islam, even before the arrival of Muslim armies from the west. About 1200 AD, Muslim invaders established political control over the Bengal region. This political control also encouraged conversion to Islam. Since then, Islam has played a crucial role in the region's history and politics, with a Muslim majority emerging, particularly in the eastern region of Bengal.