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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 4 Jul 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Bangladesh: Death of a Promise



By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

Much like India, Bangladesh is a study in promise. It’s a promise of charting out an alternative history beyond the confines of narrow religious nationalism. And a promise to live out a multicultural and multi-religious existence. Bangladesh stands for everything which is the opposite of Pakistan: narrow bigoted nationalism build on the idea Islam exhausts all the identities which a South Asian Muslim possess. Again, much like India, that idea of communitarian secularism and co-existence is on the wane in Bangladesh. What is most worrisome is that parties which opposed the movement of independence in Bangladesh, like the Jamat e Islami is today a powerful presence within its society and polity. It’s a pity of what has become of that country: its promise no longer seems tenable, far less executable.

The signs were there for all to see. Serial killings of writers and bloggers, teachers unable to teach freely within their spaces and targeted killings of priests belonging to Hindus were all telling us that something had gone horribly wrong within the country. And yet, the state kept denying that it had an Islamic radical problem at hand, blaming these killings on petty criminals. Non acceptance of radical Islam is just a delaying tactic, as the Bangladeshis understood with bloodied consequences inside the Holey restaurant in one of the best secure areas of Dhaka. And the prevarication still continues. The government still has not come up with a clear cut answer as to who were behind the attacks. The search is still on to put the blame on someone: local criminal gangs, JamatulMujahideen, the ISIS or the Pakistani ISI. There is still no soul searching over the fact that those who carried out the attacks were local Bangladeshi boys and how is that they came to be radicalised in such a pernicious ideology in the first place. The prime minister will do better if she confronts the problem straight and asks for an open debate on the role and place of Islam in Bengali society. There must be difficult questions asked and some of those questions have to be directed towards the imperialistic ambitions of Islam which is currently spawning a death cult throughout the world.

There seems to be tremendous surprise at those behind the attack. People are not being able to make sense of how these young boys, some studying in the best schools of Dhaka could take part in something so macabre. Actually this is surprising in the least. Throughout the world, most terrorist attacks are carried out by well-educated Muslim boys who have had varying degrees of exposure to the western culture. It is this class among the Muslims today which is in search of a root, an anchor to park their anxieties in a fast changing world whose speed at times overwhelms them. The poor and the disadvantaged do not have time for this reflection, busy as they are to get money home to feed their family. The overwhelming numbers of terrorists are product of a western education and almost all of them face some kind of a cultural dislocation. It is irrelevant to debate whether they are religious or not. The important thing is that Islam gives them an ideology as well as permission to carry out their fantasies. It is a sort of conversion and as the saying goes, the rage of the new convert is something which one should be afraid of.

One of those from whom these young boys drew inspiration was our very own Zakir Naik. Serious scholars of Islam have already chastised this person as someone who hardly knows the depths of Islam. And yet, his popularity seems to be increasing by the hour. Under the rubric of his Peace TV, this peddler of half-baked knowledge has been teaching Muslims the doctrine of Islamist supremacism, hate for those with alternative sexualities and turning Muslims away from their cultural roots. The problem is that despite having shown to be extremist in his views and banned from many countries including some Muslim ones, why is it that he commands such an immense influence on the Muslim youth. Is it because he fulfils some existential crises within the Muslim community? ZakirNaik is both the symptom and the disease. Unravelling the logic behind his popularity might tell us why is it that these Dhaka Muslim boys got attracted to his teachings. It might also tell us what is fundamentally wrong with the Muslim situation today. 


A columnist, Arshad Alam is a Delhi based writer



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