Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, shall we believe what you’ve been saying?

by Mustafa Ali Noor

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina already has been showing her charismatic leadership qualities in transforming a corruption-plagued under-developing country into a developed nation. It is rightly forecasted that by 2030, Bangladesh will emerge as a developed nation, which India won’t be able to attain by 2050. With speedy economic progress, life-standard of Bangladeshis are improving rapidly.

But, the biggest threat to country’s prosperous future is radical Islamic terrorism. Sheikh Hasina has been expressing her firm determination in fighting militancy, and showing zero tolerance towards radical Islamic terrorism. Global leaders and internationally acclaimed counterterrorism experts are endorsing this sincere effort of Bangladesh government.

Top military officials of the United States are claiming existence of Al Qaeda in Indian sub-continent in Bangladesh, while several experts, including Prof Rohan Gunaratna are seeing existence of Islamic State in Bangladesh. SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities), which closely monitors jihadist activities and is based in the US has been providing several evidences (including videos), proving a strong connection between Bangladeshi radicalised Muslims and jihadists outfits, and Islamic State. Many Bangladeshi nationals had already gone to Iraq, Syria (mostly via Turkey) and been fighting as Islamic State soldiers. Recently, SITE has released a video of Islamic State fighter Neaz Morshed Raja, hailing from Chittagong district in Bangladesh. Neaz died in suicide bombing in Tikrit city of Iraq recently. In the video of Islamic State, he was named Abu Maryam al – Bengali.

Prof Gunaratna, head of International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore thinks, terrorism threat to Bangladesh would persist for a long time. With IS gradually losing battles in Iraq and Syria, its members are being driven out of their captured territories and forced to take shelter in other countries.

He said “… in the next five to ten years, we are going to see a global expansion of IS – particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Especially, the Muslim countries will be affected. Bangladesh is one of the targets (expansion ground of Islamic State).

Prof Gunaratna said, Bangladeshis who joined the global terror  outfit going directly to Iraq and Syria or from the Bangladeshi diaspora are recruiting fellow Bangladeshis online. Those Bangladeshis are raising funds, building up networks and motivating each other to carry out attacks. “And of course, the networks active in Bangladesh are also communicating with each other. So, this is a continuous and persistent threat”, he added.

Bangladesh authorities have always been rejecting the claims of ‘any existence of Islamic State, and AQIS’ in the country. According to Bangladeshi authorities, radical Islamic terrorist groups in the country are ‘home-grown’ without any link with international terrorist outfits.

If someone would even believe what Bangladeshi authorities are claiming, then it would be proved beyond doubt that the country already has turned into breeding ground of radical Islamic terrorism. And of course, as ‘Made in Iraq’ Islamic State now poses gravest threat to global security, is there any guarantee that ‘Made in Bangladesh’ jihadists or ‘home-grown’ terrorists won’t turn into a serious threat on day?

Those who are repeatedly uttering the words ‘homegrown terrorist’, instead of telling the truth actually are gradually pushing Bangladesh towards unimaginable consequence. No one should ever follow the foul tactics of playing hide and seek with crucial issue like fighting radical Islamic terrorism.

Sheikh Hasina has been consistently calling upon every Bangladeshi to get united and speak-out against militancy. But this noble call gets question marked when we se eminent individuals like internationally known anti-jihadist journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury languishing in prison since 2012 in Bangladesh, serving 7-years rigorous imprisonment in a false sedition, treason, and blasphemy case for the ‘crimes’ of confronting radical Islamic terrorism, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial; and for promoting interfaith harmony.

Keeping Shoaib Choudhury in jail means Bangladesh definitely is not genuinely looking for the nation in getting united against militancy.