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Bangladesh: Admitting the presence of ISIS

Bangladesh has witnessed a dangerous transformation led by religious groups

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. It is the world’s seventh most populous nation with 160 million people, and the third most populous Muslim nation after Indonesia and Pakistan.

There are four political parties in Bangladesh. The largest is the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a political party. Islamist parties have the freedom to perform their political and social activities.

However, frequent acts of violence confirm that religious extremism has developed from a mere ideology into the establishment of terror groups. Bangladesh has witnessed a dangerous transformation led by religious groups that are similar to those that established terror groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.

In denial

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed the abduction and murder of more than 20 hostages, most of them Italian and Japanese. This confirms that what Bangladesh’s government denied in the past is not true. Previous terror crimes were attributed to local opposition groups. Last year, an Italian working for a humanitarian organization, and a Japanese man working in agriculture, were killed.

Previous terror crimes were attributed to local opposition groups. The government refused to admit the problem, and to describe it as terrorism

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The government refused to admit the problem, and to describe it as terrorism. These operations were carried out nationwide, and targeted cultural and political figures. A publisher was killed in Dhaka. Before that, a writer was stabbed and another shot. The publisher had informed the police of threats made against him by ISIS, but the police considered the threats an individual act. Four bloggers had also been killed.

Since the recent abduction involved the murder of more than 20 hostages and received international attention, there is no longer doubt about the validity of ISIS’s claim of responsibility.

In the past 10 years, we have seen many manifestations of extremism traveling to Bangladesh from the Middle East, via extremist religious preaching and collecting funds in the name of charity. There are no occupying forces or foreign powers in Bangladesh. There is no civil war and most of its population is Muslim, the majority Sunni. However, this did not prevent extremism, which claims there is Western culture and immoral values that must be fought.

What is happening in Bangladesh is happening in other countries with the same methods. However, cooperation between countries is limited to exchanging information about organizations and criminals, and their financial transactions and marketing tools.

The cooperation does not include anything about their ideologies, or about environments that foster extremist intellect and then terrorism. What is the point of this delayed cooperation when the disease has spread?

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 5, 2016.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.