Militancy attracting youths
According to a report in ‘Dhaka Tribune’, a recent study has revealed that some 20 – 25% districts in Bangladesh are at risk of militant activities and the tendency is significant among students of rural educational institutions where some 26% students have received offers to join militant activities.
‘Shopner Desh’, a Non-Government Organization professedly dedicated to building a better nation through creating a more empowered and enlightened polity, conducted preliminary research on impact of militancy on students. The research has found that 87% of rural students who got offers to join militant activities believe that Islamist militant activities are justified. Among them 89% girl students and 86% boys of rural institutions firmly believe this militant propaganda.
The research further states 49% students from urban educational institutions received direct proposals from the militants and over social media. Among them some 24%, both male and female, believed in what the Islamist groups propagate.
The paper was presented before media at the auditorium of Dhaka Reporters Unity. The study has found that the extremist groups target the youths and propagate their agenda claiming they are ‘protectors of Islam, democracy is Shirk and the western world is out to destroy and obliterate Islam’.
Almost half of the rural students have been indoctrinated to believe that West was working against Islam and that the extremists were the protectors of Islam. Some 44% rural students and 7% urban students said they have received messages physically. The other ways of communication were invitation from friends through internet, surfing themselves, print literature supplied by friends and elders.
The unbridled growth of Madrassas is another matter of serious concern in this regard. Many of these Madrassas have come to notice for promoting Islamic militancy and Jihadi activities. A survey has revealed establishment of Islamic militant camps in many of these institutions. These camps have international linkages and impart motivational and arms training to the youths to stage revolution for establishment of Islamic rule in the country. Audio and video cassettes eulogizing Osama Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar and urging students to emulate their subversive activities are widely circulated in these camps.
Many of these Madrassas do not observe national days like Independence Day and Victory Day. Opposing the liberation war or taking up arms against the freedom fighters in 1971 is even now glorified and considered a part of Jihad. Some of these institutions do not hoist National Flag on any occasion, nor do they allow students to recite the National Anthem.
In a survey conducted by the Anthropology Department of Jahangir Nagar University, it has been found that many students and teachers of these Madrassas are in favor of issuance of ‘fatwa’ by the cleric against women. They also have an adverse and negative opinion about development programs launched by NGOs, freedom of press, family planning program, women empowerment, progress of women, western education and Bengali language and culture which are perceived to be inhibiting growth of Islamic fervor and zeal in the country. For the present erosion of social values, they hold western education, modernism and women’s progress responsible.
Students passing out from these institutions end up being cadres of Islamic militant groups and taking part in jihadi activities. They were found to have been involved in almost all the Islam-linked terrorist and disruptive activities across the country. They were also responsible for the country-wide synchronized bomb blasts and advent of suicide bombings in Bangladesh in 2005.
International Islamic NGOs including the Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society whose bank accounts in Pakistan were seized following the 9/11 attack on ‘twin tower’, and Saudi based Al Harmain Islamic Foundation which was banned all over the world for its links with Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups, were providing funds to these institutions. Other Islamic NGOs which have come to notice in this regard include Al Fujeira of UAE, Saudi based Rabeta al Alam al Islami and International Islamic Relief Organisation. Students are given many incentives such as free food, lodging and education in these institutions and their guardians, mostly poor, are persuaded to send their wards to these institutions with promises of a renaissance through Islam.
Enormous capacity of these organizations to indoctrinate youngsters and motivate them to plunge into jihad can be envisaged from the fact that on December 24, 2016 a female militant accompanied by her 4-year old daughter blew herself up during a police raid in a militant hide-out at Dhaka’s Ashkona, marking the first time a woman acted as suicide bomber in Bangladesh. A 14-year old boy fought a gun battle with the police until his death, turning down the call for surrender. Their extreme desperation during a police raid on a militant hide-out in Dhaka shows to what extent a woman and a teenager can be radicalized.
Security forces have seized huge stockpiles of explosive materials, broke up numerous terrorist cells and apprehended scores of militants in the recent past. They conducted a number of raids on militant hide-outs killing 28 militants including Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury who masterminded the sensational July 1, 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Gulshan, Dhaka. But despite drives launched by the security forces, activities of the Islamist militants continue unabated. Even a section of women are now joining militant activities. Militancy threat continues to remain in the country and instead of being cowed down the resurgent Islamist militants continue to perpetrate more and more attacks.