Bangladesh is currently facing the risk of falling under the influence of various extremist groups, including ultra-Islamists, jihadists, anti-Semites, and religious bigots. This could ultimately lead to the country transforming into a neo-Taliban state. The United States and its Western allies need to be cautious about interfering in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.
In recent years, political parties like the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their ideological allies, such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), Ansar Al Islam, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), and Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), have been pushing to turn Bangladesh into a Sharia nation or a caliphate. These parties have also engaged in lobbying activities in the US, the UK, and other European Union nations. Notably, BNP succeeded in appointing Hunter Biden, the son of US President Joe Biden, as its lobbyist.
During the 2001-2006 rule of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government, they even named a bridge “Hezbollah” as a mark of honor, thus openly expressing their support for the Lebanese resistance group, Hezbollah, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization. BNP-Jamaat coalition government’s junior communications minister Salahuddin Ahmed told French news agency AFP, “I named the bridge Hezbollah because of our love for the Lebanese resistance group. Hezbollah is the only group which is fighting Israel and the bridge is named after the group as a mark of honor”.
The then Foreign Minister Morshed Khan went as far as to label Israel’s actions as “state terrorism” and “religious terrorism” while accusing the United States of sponsoring it.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami consider Jews and Israel as “enemy” – support “elimination of the Jewish State from the world map”, while they recognize Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas as “ideological allies”.
What’s concerning is the active support for these Islamist groups by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials at the State Department. The US ambassador in Dhaka, Peter D. Haas, has been seen associating with individuals who burn American flags and threaten Bangladeshi media outlets with visa-related consequences to push their Islamist agenda.
Supporting BNP, inadvertently or otherwise, could empower an organization with an agenda that contradicts American values and foreign policy objectives. The BNP aims to establish Sharia Law in Bangladesh with the help of Islamist allies, potentially turning the nation into an anti-Semitic caliphate similar to Afghanistan. Such a development could undermine US interests in the region.
Empowering Islamist groups in Bangladesh may lead the country toward becoming a neo-Taliban state, with far-reaching implications for American foreign policy and the global fight against terrorism. The US must reconsider its approach to Bangladesh to ensure the preservation of shared values and interests.
During the BNP-Jamaat government’s rule from 2001 to 2006, Bangladesh witnessed a rise in militancy and terrorism. These parties even participated in cross-border terrorism inside northeastern states in India. Islamist groups openly burned American flags and chanted slogans like “Death to America” or “We shall become Taliban, Bangla [Bangladesh] will be Afghan”.
There was a brief period of relative calm, which ended with an Islamist backlash against secularists in 2013. BNP and Jamaat launched countrywide arson and bomb attacks, followed by the murder of Awami League leaders, creating a fearsome atmosphere. During this time, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh’s elite police force, played a key role in saving the country from becoming another Afghanistan or Pakistan.
In 2013, pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) gathered thousands of madrassa teachers and students, including individuals who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and in Palestine against Israel as “mujahideen.” They demanded the enforcement of a caliphate in Bangladesh, with HeI’s leader as the “Ameer” of the caliphate. BNP, Jamaat, and other Islamist forces secretly planned to establish Sharia rule through an Islamic revolution similar to Ayatollah Khomeini’s in Iran.
After the 2014 general election, boycotted by BNP and Jamaat, these Islamist groups carried out systematic bombings and arson attacks on religious minorities, particularly Hindus. Violence continued unabated, with dozens of Hindu homes and temples coming under arson and bombing attacks. Hindu girls and women were raped by Islamist extremists, creating a reign of terror on Hindus in Bangladesh.
Conspirators sought to turn secular Bangladesh into a Sharia nation in 2013, but their plans were thwarted thanks to the intervention of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Afterward, they spread false accusations of human rights violations and mass murders by RAB, which were used to garner sympathy from Western countries.
Today, Islamist extremists and anti-Semites feel emboldened, believing they have successfully influenced the Biden administration and several Western countries to support their agenda of turning Bangladesh into a neo-Taliban state. It is crucial for policymakers in the West to take note and refrain from granting favor and patronage to these forces. Interfering in Bangladesh’s internal affairs is unwelcome, as the country values friendship with all nations but rejects hostile interference.