October 06, 2015

Bangladesh: Is there any reason to worry? (Nadeem Qadir)

Dhaka Tribune 7 October 2015

Is there any reason to worry?
Nadeem Qadir

We need to stand together for a better Bangladesh

Jumping to conclusions does not help the investigation
Photo- Bigstock

The killings of an Italian and a Japanese national in the name of Islamic State coincided with many major events; but above all, we never questioned whether, as Muslim-majority country, we have any issue with the IS that it will take on the government.

In a country where its prime minister covers her head, keeping in line with Muslim customs and offers her daily five-time prayers ritually, why the IS would target Bangladesh is a major question, and thus minimises the alleged claim of its involvement.

According to Banglanews24.com, three Islami Chatra Shibir (ICS) members were arrested in Mymensingh for planning to resort to terrorist acts in the name of IS, in a bid to tarnish the government’s image. Then came the report in Amadershomoy.com that two Bangladeshi-British girls had tweeted something that resulted in the postponement of the Australian cricket tour of Bangladesh. They also published the hit-list of free-thinkers and bloggers of Bangladesh. It is apparently baseless. Ansarullah Bangla Team reportedly denied publishing any such hit-list.

The Dhaka Tribune, in a report quoting intelligence, said “anti-liberation forces” were resorting to such activities to scuttle the execution of 1971 war criminals SQ Chowdhury and Jamaat-e-islami leader Abu Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed, the chief of the notorious Al-Badr militia.

Indian blogger and journalist Rudroneel Ghosh, in Talking Turkey, published in the Times of India online, was categorical that it is “clear that there is a concerted attempt to target and intimidate foreign nationals in Bangladesh.”

He wrote about the difference between the opposition BNP of Khaleda Zia and the ongoing war crimes trial as major factors for such acts.

With BNP and its allies nowhere, and some radical Islamists feeling they are being cornered, the opposition does not want to allow Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to take the country forward.

Ghosh writes that it is clear by such acts these groups are trying to portray a different picture to the international community and thereby attempting to influence them into holding parliamentary elections earlier than 2019, as required by the constitution as well as a pledge made by the premier herself that elections will not be held earlier than that.

In a related development, two Bangladesh-British educationists and activists named in the so-called hit-list denied that they ever spoke or wrote on any religion or God, leave aside Allah. But Dr Rumana Hashem, in an interview with the London’s Independent newspaper, said: “I am known for my feminist work and as an organiser for environmentalist, anti-corruption, anti-racist, and secular activism.”

The other lady is Ajanta Dev Roy. She believes she has been targetted for campaigning for Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, one of the founders of East London Mosque, to be extradited back to Bangladesh where he has been convicted of war crimes.

Ajanta Dev Roy said: “Hundreds of British citizens went to join IS, many of whom are of Bangladeshi origin, which proves Jihadi sentiments are very much present among some of the people here (Britain). None of us are safe (in Britain). They know how to find us.”

The Independent, in its report, said: “Those named on the new hit-list say it represents a deliberate targetting of intellectuals and people who are fighting to keep Bangladesh a secular country.”

In an interview with London’s influential Guardian newspaper, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had rightly said that British Jihadis in Bangladesh are fanning flames of extremism, and that her counterpart David Cameron needs to do more to combat radicalism. “The British government should take more steps on the ground ... Jamaat has a strong influence in East London. That’s true. They are collecting money, they are sending the money,” the prime minister told the daily.

The Guardian quoted intelligence sources as saying British Jihadis were stoking an Islamist revival in Bangladesh, schooling a new generation of young religious radicals sympathetic to ISIS.

The BNP sharply reacted that the prime minister’s comment hurt the image of Bangladeshi Britons, instead of probing independently and helping the government in tackling the situation as well as building pressure on Cameron to stop such radicalism in Britain.

The Guardian team published three reports based on the PM’s interviews, which many here in London said was unprecedented in recent memory.

For the opposition groups, Sheikh Hasina’s international triumphs are a cause of major irritation and instead of dealing with issues politically, many apparently are resorting to killings, like the grenade attack on the PM on August 21, 2004.

There was a very interesting report in The Times of London on September 18, 2015, headlined “3,000 terror suspects plotting to attack UK.” A very scary report -- but do we have anything like that in Bangladesh, or are people fleeing London?

British security agencies are monitoring the 3,000 “home-grown Islamic extremists willing to carry out attacks in Britain,” it said, adding that MI5 says “British men and women, many in their teens, are being radicalised within weeks.”

The Times said about 1,000 are thought to have joined Jihadist groups in Syria, 300 have returned, and 70 have been killed fighting in Syria and Iraq since 2011.

Thus the opposition BNP’s criticism is redundant.

Last, but not the least, we should, ourselves, support the government in not only maintaining security, but also helping to find the real perpetrators, and to ensure there is no more killing of any kind for political reasons.

As Bangladeshis, we should stop being critical -- we sometimes tend to be more critical than others -- about our own country, and help a government that is progressive and secular. Foreign countries should not postpone their plans due to fear, which means submitting to the evil forces, but should jointly overcome security concerns and move forward with the schedule. You do not want another Afghanistan in this part of Asia.