HISTORYOF BANGLADESH: ISLAM AND ETHNICITY
Historyof Bangladesh: Islam and Ethnicity
Theissue of radicalization is of key concern in the world of today sinceit has an impact on the lives of many people in various parts of theworld. Since it began, radicalization involves teaching political,social, cultural, as well as religious ideologies to a group ofpeople. Radicalization is connected to the aspects of Islamism andfundamentalism. Fundamentalism refers to a religious movement thatcan be seen as conservative, and conforms to texts that can beregarded as sacred. Although in the past it related to AmericanProtestants, fundamentalism has become an affair of diverse religiousmovements. Islamism refers to an Islamic movement that conservesMuslim morals and is guided by the teachings of the Holy Book ofKoran. This paper will discuss the development of radical movementsin Bangladesh and Syria. The paper will also highlight therelationships between these movements to the Islamic religiousteachings.1
Forquite a long time, religious extremism has defined1the political decisions in Bangladesh this has applied both in theurban centers, as well as rural areas. Since the 1970s, politicalmovements have been associated with radical groups that haveexpressed their rule over this country. The inclusion of some radicalmovements in politics has strengthened their dominance and presencein Bangladesh.1As a result, their activities have become widespread with all overthe nation and in other neighboring regions. The movements seem to begaining popularity every day as the number of members who join themseems to increase tremendously. The government has been unable torespond to the terrorist activities masterminded by these groups.This is because the groups have developed strong resistance and havean established network that hinders the government efforts to bringtheir terrorist activities to an end.
Duringthe 1990s, the activities of terrorist and radical groups2in Bangladesh became common. Before the 1990s, Bangladesh wasregarded as a stable Islamic state that enjoyed democracy and goodeconomic growth. However, attacks by militants associated with theIslamic groups have increased tremendously, especially since 1999.The radical Islamists target some groups and are determined to ensurethat they destroy people they regard as enemies. The people targetedinclude religious minorities, scholars, judiciary members, scholars,as well as leaders of the opposition parties. The actions of theradical Islamic groups in Bangladesh can be seen as a violation ofthe fundamental human rights. This has been fuelled by thepoliticization of the civil society, as a result of which theindependence of the judiciary has been largely affected.2
TheIslamic militants operating in Bangladesh have a lot of impunity andthey do not compromise with people who oppose their ideologies. Theyare involved in numerous bombings where hundreds or even thousandsdie. Some of the attacks relate to political assassinations that aimat killing a certain political opponent. The rise of radical Islamicgroups in Bangladesh can be attributed to a number of factors. Someof the factors that have significantly contributed to radicalizationinclude the transformation of the social and political aspects inBangladesh. With some leaders agitating for legitimacy, some militaryrulers based their political ideologies on Islam. Consequently, theseleaders created conditions that facilitated the emergence of radicalgroups in the country. Conservative Muslims were given theopportunity to victimize religious minorities and perpetrate theIslamic ideology, which supported the spread of radical and terroristactivities.
Povertyand the unequal distribution of wealth has also been a major cause ofIslamic insurgency in Bangladesh. There is a high population ofMuslims in Bangladesh. About 90 percent of the entire population inthis country is made up of Muslims. In the world ranking, Bangladeshranks third in terms of Muslim population this implies it fallsbehind Pakistan and Indonesia. Therefore, culture and politics inBangladesh is determined by the Islamic faith. The disparitiesbetween the poor and the rich has resulted to the rise of Islamicfundamentalism in Bangladesh.3Many youths, especially from poor family backgrounds, are motivatedto join radical movements because they are promised cash when theytake part in terrorist movements. Majority of suicide bombers inBangladesh are poor youths who do not have an income or any formaleducation.
InBangladesh, Islamic radical movements are characterized by the lifeof peasantry and they normally stay in rural areas. The behavior ofsuch groups is that of an agrarian society that lives predominantlyin the rural areas. The peasants who refer themselves as Islamicradical use primitive methods of cultivation, and their way of lifeis characteristic of traditional societies. This has made them resortto religious radicalization to identify witheach other and ensure that they get the sustenance andsupport needed. The traditional life they stay gives them anopportunity to attack urban centers and escape without being caught.Some of the radical groups live in forests and isolated regions wherethey cannot be easily reached by the military. This gives them anadvantage and enables them to hide from the government.
Therise of radicalism in Bangladesh has an impact on neighboringcountries such as India. The parts of India that border Bangladeshhave been experiencing political turmoil, as well as instability andtension. This has been fuelled by illegal immigration of militantsfrom Bangladesh to the North Eastern States in India. Some regimes inBangladesh have aided militants by providing them with weapons thishas accelerated conflicts in India. While the local inhabitantsstrive to protect their region, the illegal immigrants fromBangladesh engage the locals in conflicts with the aim of taking overthe region and converting the inhabitations to Islam.
Inrecent years, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has supported theactivities of radical movements such as Jamaat-e-Islam. The party hasavailed funds to finance the militants, and with the popularity ofthis party, its attainment of power implies that Islamist movementsare likely to have a huge impact on the affairs of thestate. As an Islamic movement, Jamaat-e-Islam emphasizes on theadvancement of Islamic ideologies, which will make sure thatBangladesh becomes a purely Islamic State. The group focusses a loton the teaching of the Holy Book of Quran, as well as the principlesof Sunnah. The movement has been actively agitatin4gfor the conversion of Christians to Islam. Members of the group havesought to teach Islamic morals and establish a state whereby theleader is God fearing and thoroughly follows Islamic doctrines. TheAl Qaeda militant movement has been very active in Bangladesh,especially since the 9/11 attacks. With the weak economy andinability of Bangladesh to fight terrorism, the country became a softtarget for Al Qaeda.
Foundedin 1992, HUJIB has been one of the most dominant militant movementsin Bangladesh. During its formation, the main goal of the movementwas to ensure that there was establishment of Jihad rule inBangladesh. Initially, the organization was being funded by thenetwork of Osama Bin Laden, and it was dominated by veteransbelonging to the Afghan Jihad. The movement was listed among the mostnotorious terrorist organizations by the United States in 2008. Theorganization was later banned by the Bangladeshi government onallegations that its activities were against the law. However, themovement continues to carry out terrorist activities while hidingunder the umbrella of political parties. It is believed that themembers of the group ran into thousands. The Bangladeshi army andpolice have been conducting frequent attacks on the centers where themovement operates, and this has weakened the radical group, affectingtheir activities negatively.5
Theformation of ISIS can be attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi thegroup took advantage of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 to gainpopularity. Before the invasion, American officials had reported tothe Security Council of the United Nations that there was a linkbetween the group being led by Zarqawi to Osama Bin Laden, who wasresponsible for the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda believed that theirassociation with ISIS was instrumental in enabling them becomerelevant.
Inthe last ten years, (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) have gained alot of popularity in Islamic states. As a jihadist group of the Sunnidescent, the main aim has been the perpetration of civil unrest inSyria and Iraq. The group wishes to see the establishment of anIslamic state in these nations, which will be guided by the Sharialaw. The origin of this movement can be related to Iraq invasion byAmerica during the era of Saddam Hussein. The resultinginsurgency gave the group an opportunity to engage the coalitionforces, as well as their allies in guerilla war. Since its emergence,the group has commanded huge following, with many Muslims becomingconverts of the group. This has strengthened the activities of thegroup, helping it penetrate to areas that are non-Islamic.6
Theextremist movement that comprises ISIS has, in the recent years,attracted militants from diverse regions of the world. Not only isthe movement comprised of radical Iraqis and Syrians, but is alsocomprised of foreigners. There are car bombers from Saudi Arabia andsnipers from Chechnya who have joined the movement. What surprisesmany people about the movement is the fact that it has attracted evenwesterners who fight alongside it against American troops. This meansthat the United States will soon become a target of this group and itis likely that the movement may plan an attack on the American soil.The group is notorious for kidnapping American journalists who spy ontheir activities the journalists are later tortured and murdered andthe horrific images can even be displayed on social media. In Iraqand Syria, where the activities of this movement are deeply rooted,they use punishments to convert people to Islam.
Thefinances being utilized by the organization mostly come from the saleof oil, which is a major economic activity in the Arabic nations ofSyria and Iraq. In Iraq, the area where the movement gets its oilfrom is Nineveh while in Syria, the organization sources oil from theRaqqa and Deir al-Zour provinces. The market of the oil sold by theorganization mostly comprises of the black market in Iraq, the groupsbelonging to the opposition, and the Syrian regime. With the hugeproceeds from the oil income, the organization manages to continueconducting its activities confidently. Extortion has also beenanother major income source for the organization. In some parts whereISIS operates, businesses are required to remit a certain amount,either on a monthly basis or after a few months. In addition, themovement also abducts wealthy Syrians, as well as foreigners, and askfor millions of ransom.7
Inorder to defeat the enemies and coalitions that have been formed tofight against it, the organization employs several strategies.A major strategy employed by the organization involvestargeting the allies of the United States this ensures that the U.S.forces fighting against ISIS are isolated from each other. Themovement has also aimed at frustrating the efforts to reconstruct theregions that they have already destroyed. ISIS has managed to do thisthrough launching attacks on aid workers who have been sent byhumanitarian agencies, as well as attacking contractors who areinvolved in the construction of basic infrastructure such as roads.The movement has also engaged in the use of civil war as a strategyto fight Americans whereby they have targeted Shiites, thus drawingthe attention of the American army to the civil war between Sunnisand Shiites.
Justlike other radical groups that operate in Bangladesh, ISIS has beenindependent of Jihadist movements operating in Syria and Iraq. Thereis high tension between ISIS and al-Nusra, which is an affiliate ofal-Qaeda operating in Syria. Hostility towards this group has grownsteadily in Syria owing to the fact that the organization has beentargeting supporters of opposition political parties, and attackingother rebels. This has resulted to attacks on Syrian ISIS fighters,with many Islamist groups launching offensives aimed at ensuring thatforeign fighters are driven out of Syria. However, such attacks havenot been successful as ISIS seems to be a well-organized group withexceptional fighting tactics and strategies, which cannot be matchedby the other rebel groups. According to the Unit8edNations, ISIS is responsible for crimes against humanity. Thiswarrants the arrest and prosecution of the group’s leaders by theInternational Criminal Court (ICC).
Inconclusion, it is worth noting that radicalization is a commonphenomenon, especially in Islamic states. The emergence of radicalgroups can be associated to Jihadist teachings, which support thekilling of non-Muslims and religious minorities in Muslim dominatedstates. Most rebel groups are well organized and this makes itimpossible for governments to fight them. In Syria and Bangladesh,radicalism has been an issue of concern over the years. Being Islamicstates, these countries have witnessed an influx of militia groupsthat fight against the government and seek political dominance. ISIShas destabilized Syria and Iraq and is the greatest contributor ofpolitical and economic instability in these countries. The radicalmovements operating in both Bangladesh and Syria have somesimilarities based on their objectives, target victims, and thefighting strategies they employ.
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1 Guidère, Mathieu. Historical Dictionary of Islamic Fundamentalism. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2012. 20.
2 Hwang, Julie Chernov, and Quinn Mecham. Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. 200.
3 Kibria, Nazli. Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2011. 2.
4 Kibria, Nazli. Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2011. 4
5Uddin, Sufia M. Constructing Bangladesh religion, ethnicity, and language in an Islamic nation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 44. 6 Glint, Michael. Can a War With Isis Be Won? – ISIL/Islamic State/Daesh. New York: Conceptual Kings, 2014. 10. 7 Sekulow, Jay. Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can`t Ignore. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014. 110.
8 Rabil, Robert G. Syria, the United States, and the War on Terror in the Middle East. Westport, Conn: Praeger Security International, 2006. 22.