Monday, March 07, 2005

BANGLADESH: Islamic Miltancy - The Likely Reaction to Indian Domination - Part 2

Some will continue to insist upon a connection between the JMJB, AHAB, the government and the bomb attacks on the AL meetings and other cultural functions. They will also insist that the JMJB and AHAB are true representatives of a growing Islamist menace that intends to take power by force in Bangladesh. Common sense would point out that there cannot be any conceivable reason why a government deriving such benefits by being in power would so selflessly allow itself to be overthrown and replaced by a theocracy. It also makes no sense why Islamists would take on a jihadist guise when two Islamic parties occupy positions in government (although representing a tiny element within the cabinet and parliament) and could expect further gains through the democratic process as happened in Iraq recently. It also confounds me what attraction these jihadists would have in attacking the opposition unless they assumed that the real power of government resided in the opposition leadership and not in the Prime Minister and her Cabinet.

ISLAMIC MILITANCY – THE LIKELY REACTION TO INDIAN DOMINATION PART 2

MBI Munshi

THE LAST LINE OF DEFENCE

The second line of defence (in the eventuality that the first line would succumb to military pressure from a hostile India) would appear to be organized Islam. Not the type of revolutionary Islamists
(however nominal in belief and ability) that are now being rounded up but the democratic and politically organized Islamic groupings in society. This does not necessarily imply a call to an established political banner but a looser and informal coordination would suffice (something that already exists through Friday Prayers and other mosque based religious activities). This is why I take issue with those that see the present move against the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh
(JMJB) and Ahle Hadith Andalon Bangladesh (AHAB) as a victory against Islam in Bangladesh. If that were the case and if this is the route that they would like to take us, then we would become a virtually defenseless country and India and their European backers know it. The mistake of the government was to assume and hope that a rag tag army of fraudulent and unreliable Islamists (Mr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah recently informed us that they may be an imported brand from India – anything
imported from India has to be suspect, right?) would be a practical and real substitute for planning, strategy and tactics. Through the governments inexcusable act of reckless passivity (in what had been a successful cleansing of Indian backed communist rabble) it has managed to undermine Islam (our second and probably last line of defense) and given India and its friends a whip hand to flay us with. This would, of course, make the conspiracy theories involving Indian participation
in the funding and training of these groups seem a great deal more credible and even justifiable (Bangla Bhai's escape to India puts the final piece into the jigsaw and the last nail into the theory of
impending Islamic revolution – at least and until India decides to go too far and opts for military confrontation and invasion). It would also make the government appear even more ridiculous and comical as I have already indicated in the first part of this essay and I do not wish to burden it further with its embarrassment while it continues to plod along in its search for conspirators in the wrong places and under the wrong premises.

DRAWING WRONG CONCLUSIONS

Due to the governments inept handling of this matter people will be more inclined to draw simplistic conclusions that the attacks on opposition party meetings and the bomb attacks on the Grameen and Brac regional offices as well as at the Shah Jalal shrine in Sylhet (and all the other bomb attacks carried out over the last 6 years) are the same in kind and necessarily perpetrated by the same people. If this view were to gain ground it would make the government complicit in all these acts due to their failure to apprehend the culprits or even determine their identity. With the slow and hesitant action against the JMJB and AHAB this has compounded the problem and taken the issue
to a higher level of concern. Probably the only reason that this conclusion has not yet been drawn is the fact that many of these bomb attacks started during the last AL government who were able to do even less than the present one. Also with the formation of RAB, Cobra and Cheetah forces as well as the involvement of local intelligence services in the investigation as well as foreign investigators (Scotland Yard and the FBI) it should have been a simple matter of identifying the culprits of the bomb attacks on the AL meetings and the Shah Jalal shrine unless of course the perpetrators are not indigenous to Bangladesh or if the planning and financing were conducted outside the country. This has become a more credible thesis after the assassination of former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafiq Hariri by a massive car bomb detonation that has been attributed to a foreign power.

Some will continue to insist upon a connection between the JMJB, AHAB, the government and the bomb attacks on the AL meetings and other cultural functions. They will also insist that the JMJB and AHAB are true representatives of a growing Islamist menace that intends to take power by force in Bangladesh. Common sense would point out that there cannot be any conceivable reason why a government deriving such benefits by being in power would so selflessly allow itself to be
overthrown and replaced by a theocracy. It also makes no sense why Islamists would take on a jihadist guise when two Islamic parties occupy positions in government (although representing a tiny element within the cabinet and parliament) and could expect further gains through the democratic process as happened in Iraq recently. It also confounds me what attraction these jihadists would have in attacking the opposition unless they assumed that the real power of government resided in the opposition leadership and not in the Prime Minister and her Cabinet.

By expressing these views I am opening myself up to the accusation of complacency and some have already alleged that I have expressly denied the existence of Bangla Bhai in a previous article. The truth of the matter is that I described Bangla Bhai as a phenomenon which a section
of the press in Bangladesh and India had created into a mythical and even legendary figure through their lurid and sometimes fictional description of his exploits. It is clear to us now that he could not
have done as much damage as he has done without administrative support and connivance. It was the government's decision to convert a temporary expedient into a permanent solution to the problem of the communist outfits of the North West that transformed this into a much more serious problem especially in light of the disclosures about Indian involvement with the groups. Under the right circumstances, such as Indian intervention or interference in Bangladesh or the resurgence of leftist terrorist groups, could a jihadist organization tap into the public discontent and find willing recruits for an Islamic revolution to throw out the intruders or rain fire on their heads. Let us pray that India does not miscalculate.

POSTSCRIPT

Another recent take on this issue has been provided by Mr. M Shahidul Islam whose analysis starts from a different angle or perspective from mine but the conclusions are essentially the same and which illustrates the large area for miscalculation by those who intend to destabilize Bangladesh and rob it of its sovereignty and independence:

"Bangladesh is neither in the grip of Islamic fanatics, nor is an Islamic revolution lurking in the horizon. Yet such a prospect becomes more probable as more and more accusations are leveled against the nation and its people. If anything, the ongoing instability is a prelude to something that might enable vested quarters within, and their foreign masters without, to justify external intervention. Bangladesh today is the unfortunate victim of brinkmanship by internal and external saboteurs. It is time for the patriots of all denominations to unite and pull back the nation from the brink of what might prove to be an irreversible disaster." (HOLIDAY – 4th March 4 2005)

That this prognosis has yet not come to pass must be divine providence since it is clear that the mediocrities that now inhabit the corridors of power are the least likely to be able to lead us in a time of real crisis.

Email to Dak Bangla from MBI Munshi who writes from Dhaka