Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bangladesh terrorism is flip-side of Pakistani terrorism


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The phase Bangladesh is passing through can be taken in two parts. An aspect of it belongs to the early 1990s when the “Islamist” outfits in Pakistan did not offend the conservative Muslim League but were seen as a threat by a liberal PPP. These days the ruling BNP in Bangladesh is most reluctant to take action against the Islamists as they continue to attack Awami League cadres and communists; but when phase two opens up, the BNP will be equally threatened. The “purifying” dynamic of the Islamists will demand that the BNP bend to the kind of shariah the warriors favour in light of their training in Afghanistan and their “salafi” contact with Al Qaeda. Therefore, while the Bangladeshi journalist may be offended today that Bangla Bhai and Jangi Bhai are being hauled up under pressure from the United States and the European Union, a day will come soon enough when the state of Bangladesh will come under threat from the Islamic warriors it is now empowering through denial.
Bangladesh terrorism is flip-side of Pakistani terrorism

An Associated Press report on Saturday said that “the police in northern Bangladesh have arrested 11 alleged Muslim militants after raiding homes and mosques as part of a crackdown on a recently outlawed radical Islamic group”. Those arrested belonged to “Jumatul Mujahedin” and Jagrata Muslim Janata militant groups. A lot of arms and explosives were recovered from the hideouts (including mosques) of these organisations widely reported two weeks ago as practising violence in the name of Islam, enforcing hijab and namaz on pain of death. The report went on to say that “the investigators were trying to find out whether the two newly-outlawed groups were connected”. Significantly, the police were “also looking for Jagrata Muslim Janata’s leader, Siddiqul Islam, also known as Bangla Bhai”.

After violence and coercion by Bangla Bhai were reported in the international press, a Bangladeshi journalist writing in a Karachi daily strongly condemned the “international conspiracy” to malign Bangladesh. He described the Bangla Bhai phenomenon like this: “What is going on in some parts of north-western Bangladesh does not bear any semblance of an Islamic revolution but looks like gang warfare for dominance and extortion, common in many unruly pockets in the Third World.” One assumes that he would similarly describe the shenanigans of another violent gang run by one Jangi Bhai in south Bangladesh. The journalist did not deny violence and extortion and killing in the name of Islam but protested strongly against the labelling of this phenomenon as “Islamic revolution”. In his mind there is a pristine image of ‘Islamic revolution’ which he wants to save against pollution of foreign comment. In his anger the Bangladeshi journalist addressed a warning to the ‘secular’ rulers masquerading as Islamic leaders against fascism on the lines of what happened in Europe before the World War II.

It would have been appropriate to compare the “pseudo-Islamic” upheaval of Bangladesh with the one in Pakistan, especially as both Bangla Bhai and Jangi Bhai had trained in Afghanistan and lived in the seminaries of Karachi. It is ironic that the same Bangladeshi journalist who is in denial about “Islamist” terrorism wrote a book some years ago recording the death sentences passed on women in the Bangladeshi countryside through fatwas. According to the book, the number of women subjected to cruel illegal fatwas began after 1994 and rose to over 3,000 annually. During the period from 1990 to 1995, over 10,000 victims of rape, murder, abduction, forcible marriage and arbitrary divorce, were poor rural women with no social support. In 1993 alone, 6,000 women committed suicide after being trapped in fatwa situations. The obsession with sharia law was always present in Bangladesh but received a fillip through the Islamisation processes unleashed by General Ziaur Rehman and General Ershad, reaching a new furore after the “Taslima Nasreen incident” in 1994.

If Bangladeshis “in denial” should care to look at Pakistan more closely instead of hating it blindly, they will find that the disease of ‘Islamist terrorism’ was incubated in Karachi and Khost and then passed on to Dhaka. A glace at the looking glass in Dhaka will discover Pakistani-jihadi footsteps all over the place. The Harkatul Mujahideen al-Islami (the one called HUJI in Bangladesh) is the outfit whose leader was a graduate of the Banuri Mosque seminary in Karachi and whose activists tried to kill our prime minister Shaukat Aziz recently. HUJI is the international face of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. As for the “pseudo-Islamic” nature of what is happening in Bangladesh, let us accept that that is the way of ‘Islamic revolution’ these days. This is what the Uzbek Islamist Tahir Yuldashev did in Osh before he came down to Afghanistan and then to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. The Hizb al-Tahrir, which Pakistan banned only after Yuldashev’s discovery, worked in tandem with him in Central Asia and is now clearly working in tandem with HUJI in Bangladesh.

As in Pakistan, seminaries also flourish in Bangladesh with foreign funding because of poverty and — and this few observers mention — profits to the organising clergy. Had the clergy been devoted to a higher cause they would have used the money to promote local Islam and not the hardline Wahhabi-Saudi one now associated with the Taliban. An increasing number of Bangladesh’s madrassas are now following the pattern of study of the madrassas in Pakistan and have become Deobandi in their worldview. The Hindus have been targeted, aided by the widespread belief that they should be expelled from the country. The jihad in Afghanistan brought in Al Qaeda money, and the training camps in Bangladesh have since begun to turn out warriors for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The phase Bangladesh is passing through can be taken in two parts. An aspect of it belongs to the early 1990s when the “Islamist” outfits in Pakistan did not offend the conservative Muslim League but were seen as a threat by a liberal PPP. These days the ruling BNP in Bangladesh is most reluctant to take action against the Islamists as they continue to attack Awami League cadres and communists; but when phase two opens up, the BNP will be equally threatened. The “purifying” dynamic of the Islamists will demand that the BNP bend to the kind of shariah the warriors favour in light of their training in Afghanistan and their “salafi” contact with Al Qaeda. Therefore, while the Bangladeshi journalist may be offended today that Bangla Bhai and Jangi Bhai are being hauled up under pressure from the United States and the European Union, a day will come soon enough when the state of Bangladesh will come under threat from the Islamic warriors it is now empowering through denial.