An article published by the American Thinker addressing the Biden administration’s alleged interference in Bangladesh’s domestic affairs and its use of various tactics, including visa restrictions, to exert pressure on the country, has prompted influential news outlets, The Washington Post and Bloomberg, to jointly publish an opinion piece. They criticize the Biden administration’s approach towards the ruling Awami League government in Bangladesh, characterizing it as “open bullying”.
The American Thinker article previously highlighted concerns about Bangladesh potentially falling under the influence of extremist groups, including ultra-Islamists, jihadists, anti-Semites, and religious extremists, which could lead to the country becoming a neo-Taliban state. It cautioned the United States and Western allies against meddling in Bangladesh’s internal affairs.
The American Thinker article stated: 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 U.K., and other European Union nations.
During the 2001–2006 rule of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government, they even named a bridge “Hezb’allah,” after the United States–designated terrorist organization. The BNP-Jamaat coalition government’s junior communications minister, Salahuddin Ahmed, told French news agency AFP “I named the bridge Hezb’allah because of our love for the Lebanese resistance group. Hezb’allah is the only group which is fighting Israel, and the bridge is named after the group as a mark of honor”.
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.
The BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami consider Jews and Israel the “enemy” and support “elimination of the Jewish State from the world map,” while they recognize Lebanese Hezb’allah 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.
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” and “We shall become Taliban, Bangla [Bangladesh] will be Afghan”.
In recent years, political parties like the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their ideological allies, including 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 for the establishment of a sharia nation or a caliphate in Bangladesh. Some of these groups have also engaged in lobbying efforts in the United States, the UK, and European Union nations.
During the rule of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government from 2001 to 2006, there were instances of naming infrastructure after designated terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, and senior officials openly expressed support for groups fighting against Israel. The American Thinker article raised concerns about the active support for these Islamist groups by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials at the State Department. It also highlighted the involvement of the US ambassador in Dhaka with individuals associated with anti-American sentiments.
The opinion piece authored by Mihir Sharma in The Washington Post and Bloomberg acknowledges Bangladesh’s economic success but raises questions about the country’s political situation. The ruling Awami League has been in power since 2009, and recent elections have faced criticism for their lack of fairness. The upcoming elections are unlikely to be significantly freer, yet the Biden administration has chosen to focus on Bangladesh as part of its “democracy first” foreign-policy agenda.
The US State Department’s decision to impose visa restrictions on certain Bangladeshis, including members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition, has been described as “open bullying”. The restrictions were imposed based on accusations of undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. While similar restrictions have been imposed on other countries, the policy appears inconsistent and makes the US seem partisan.
The opinion piece argues that targeting Bangladesh in this manner sets an unfair precedent, as other countries with comparable issues have not faced similar actions. It also risks further politicizing the situation in Bangladesh and could hinder genuine efforts to strengthen democratic institutions.
The joint opinion editorial in The Washington Post and Bloomberg questions the Biden administration’s involvement in Bangladesh’s domestic disputes and highlights the need for a more balanced and consistent approach in its foreign policy.