Bangladesh – Rise of radical Islam, challenges and forthcoming General Election

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Since 2001, when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) came to power by forming an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB), radical Islamic militancy groups started peeping up from the gator. As political ideologies of both the parties are almost similar and they strongly uphold anti-Semitism and anti-Israel policies, the government was giving indirect patronization to the rise of radical Islamic militancy when notorious groups like Khatmey Nabuwat Movement (a group of fanatic Muslims demanding to proclaim the Ahmadiyas as ‘non-Muslims’. Attacks on mosques of this minority religious group surprisingly increased while the radical Islamists were regularly seen burning American and Israeli flags on the streets of the capital city of Bangladesh. Taking full advantage of this situation, notorious Islamist militancy groups like Hizbut Tahrir (HT) and Hizb Ut Towheed (HUT), as well as Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), were gaining strength silently. Under such extreme adversity, I was the first journalist to expose the rise of radical Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh and had written numerous articles proving the fact as to how Qaqwmi Madrassas (Koranic Schools) was being used as the breeding grounds of the jihadists. According to my assessment in 2003, there were around 84 thousand Koranic schools in the country, wherefrom hundreds and thousands of radicalized students were melting into the society. The situation was such grave that the Islamists did not hesitate in openly chanting slogans on the streets of the country saying – ‘We shall be Taliban, Bangladesh will become Afghanistan’.

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It may be mentioned here that, the sentiment of jihadism and the trend of growth of radical Islam began when thousands of Bangladeshis were returning from Afghanistan and ‘Palestine’ after fighting there against the ‘enemies of Islam’. In the eyes of these repatriated jihadists, Osama Bin Laden and Yasir Al Arafat were seen as real heroes, while they were even voicing in favour of waging jihad against the non-Muslims in the country.

Hizbut Tahrir and Hizb Ut Towheed were even much fanatic and aggressive. They openly declared democracy as the theory of the evils and were demanding the establishment of Caliphate [similar to that of Islamic State, which had emerged since 2014], while on the other hand, Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh were demanding the establishment of Sharia rule in the country. It was alleged that some of these radical Islamist groups were enjoying patronization from BNP and JIB. For BNP, it was an easy tool of drawing favor from the 170 million population [almost 90 percent Muslims] most of whom were either ignorant or were already under the heavy influence of the culture of hatred. Ever since the independence of Bangladesh, Israel had been seen as an ‘enemy state’ while Judaism and Jews were projected by the Muslim clergymen as the ‘enemies of Allah’. This was an extremely hostile situation for any secular mind like me to either write or confront such wrong actions. No one practically had any courage of standing up and saying NO to such rogue tendencies.

But my conscious provoked me in standing up and writing against radical Islam and confront anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. I also decided to speak out in defense of the Jewish State because I knew it was terribly unwise for Bangladesh to continue the ideologies of Iranian Mullahs and the enemies of peace. I did not really understand as to why Bangladesh should consider Israel as ‘enemy nation’ and Judaism and Jews as ‘enemies of Allah’. I knew it is a sinful offense for any human being to promote the culture of hatred and give space to anti-Semitism.

Very unfortunately, at that time, I was a single man in a virtual battlefield combating radical Islam, denouncing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and openly proclaim my support towards Israel. I had to pay a heavy price of my mission of peace. From November 29, 2003, to April 30, 2005, I was in prison and then again from November 8, 2012, to July 29, 2018, I had to pass horrible days and nights inside prison thus my family was in extreme difficulty. My newspaper, Blitz, only pro-Israel and the most influential newspaper had to suspend publication due to acute financial hardship. The state machinery was showing extreme hostility towards me and the courts were under pressure in wrongly convicting me in the false cases. In the eyes of the Bangladeshi courts, I was labeled as a traitor, a blasphemous and above all – a Zionist spy.

Since 2001 to 2018, there had been political change in Bangladesh, Islamist coalition lost power in 2006 and a secularist party named Bangladesh Awami League came to power through a landslide victory in 2009. But unfortunately, this secularist party also did not abandon the rogue culture of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and even had joined voice with Iran thus demanding the elimination of Israel from the global map. Especially in 2015, the situation turned such worst that several responsible ministers were openly proclaiming Bangladesh as a Muslim country and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the Muslim Prime Minister. These ministers even did not hesitate in labeling Israel as the enemy of Bangladesh and were seeing the Jewish State and Mossad behind each of the political adversities and or series of attacks by the radical Islamic militancy groups such as Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh, Ansar Al Islam, Islamic State and even AQIS [Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent]. None of these members of the ruling party ever thought that Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and it has been vigorously and relentlessly combating jihad and threats of radical Islamic militancy, especially posed by Hamas [a mega-terrorist outfit] and terror-patron rogue nation named Iran. Only sensible people could realize that the antisemitic mindset of these politicians and ruling elites were pushing them towards such a wrong and dangerous path.

Is the Palestinian’s statehood legitimate?

Certainly not! There is no existence of the word Palestine in the Arabic vocabulary. It actually is a Hebrew word meaning invaders. That means, the so-called Palestinians had illegally occupied the land of the Jewish State and are now demanding a separate state in the land they had wrongly occupied or invaded. But unfortunately, none of the Muslim nations are considering this simple fact. Of course, lately, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has taken a very dynamic and strong stand on this issue and has even signaled to establish relations with Israel. In an exclusive interview with American journal The Atlantic, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman said, “Jewish people have the right of having their own homeland.”

Crucial situation and a challenging future for Bangladesh:

In December this year, Bangladesh is scheduled to have a general election and there are signs that radical Islamist parties like Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh in collaboration of Bangladesh Nationalist Party may return to power, meaning, Bangladesh will become another Iran, if not even worst.

Actually a deep-rooted conspiracy of bringing back the Islamists into power had begun in 2017 when hundreds and thousands of Muslims from the Rakhine State in Myanmar were abruptly forced to enter Bangladesh as the Myanmar army all on a sudden began numerous forms of barbaric actions including murder, rape and setting fire on the homes of the Rohingya Muslims. Until December 2017, almost seven hundred thousand Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh and took refuge. Bangladesh has to provide food and basic needs worth hundreds of millions of dollars to these refugees completely on the humanitarian ground. This refugee crisis has already put tremendous pressure on the country’s economy and social system. According to several reports published in the international media, the Rohingya crisis was a creation of the enemies of the current secular government in Bangladesh. The intention behind this conspiracy was to put unbearable pressure on the government of Bangladesh so that it becomes puzzled and surrenders or gets defeated to the radical Islamic forces such as Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh. The same groups of conspirators are also giving instigations to radical Islamist groups like Hefazat e Islam is becoming a major political factor in the country. Because of such patronization, Hefazat e Islam has suddenly emerged as a political factor in the country and there are even signs that this group, mostly comprising teachers and students from the Koranic schools [similarly as Taliban in Afghanistan] may attract popular votes and even emerge as a major coalition partner in the next government which will take oath by January 2019.

Most possibly Indian policymakers are not sensing the grave threat to be posed by Hefazat e Islam or the radical Islamist groups, once it either comes into power or becomes a major factor in Bangladeshi politics. Indian policymakers need to remember a plain math – if for any reason the current secularist government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina loses power, Bangladesh will ultimately become the safe haven of anti-Indian forces and separatist groups.

About Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is our Managing Editor. He is in charge of International affairs and Counter-Militancy reporting. He is the editor of the Bangladesh based English weekly tabloid “Weekly Blitz” – the most influential anti-Jihadist newspaper in Bangladesh. He is awarded PEN USA Freedom to Write Award in 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award in 2006 and Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] in 2007; Monaco Media Award in 2007.

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