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Akhter Hussain
2 articles

Terrorism in Bangladesh

Writer: Akhter Hussain Category: প্রবন্ধ (Essay) Edition: Dhaboman - Eid 2018

Terrorism has become a global phenomenon. Such activities are being perpetrated around the globe and Bangladesh has been no exception to that. The United Nations General Assembly describes terrorist acts as, "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."


If seen from a historical perspective, terrorism in Bangladesh has been on the rise since the last two and half decades or so. The occurrence of terrorist incidences in the county has been quite frequent until the last one year or so. But the fact remains that it has been there and the threat still persists despite a zero tolerance policy of the government. Rather, it is perceived that it is on the rise. In the most recent report published by the Institute of Economics and Peace it has been mentioned that Bangladesh has risen three points in the Global Terrorism Index, meaning the situation has deteriorated. Bangladesh’s score at 6.479 places is the 22nd out of the 163 countries listed in the index. Last year, Bangladesh scored 5.921 and stood at the 25th position. In 2014, it scored 5.25 and ranked 23rd. The index scores are calculated using reports of terrorist activities and attacks in a particular year. Bangladesh has also been included in a group of countries that has seen “dramatic increases” in number of deaths from terrorism.


Analysis of the trend of the terrorist activities in Bangladesh reveals that the philosophical premise behind these activities are largely based on religious belief and interpretations of the different tenets of the religion from a sectarian perspective. However, there is widespread disagreement even among the religious scholars whether these are appropriate or permissible by the religion itself. A background analysis of the people who were and are supposed to be involved (dead or alive) in terrorist movements and activities include the religious clerics, youths, both males and females, and some expatriates of Bangladeshi origin. The youths’ composition again consists of both urban and rural adherents to terrorist activities. It is again interesting to note that the urban adherents mostly come from relatively well off families with an English medium school background. Surprisingly, on the other hand, the rural adherents are mostly from poor families with religious (Madrasha) school background. The expatriates are generally fund providers and in some cases, are also active participants in terrorist acts and movements.    

The question, “why do they subscribe to terrorism?” could be perceived from different perspectives of the backgrounds of the various types of adherents to terrorism. The religious clerics involved generally renounce the current world order including those existing in Muslim majority countries. The prevailing political and social order according to them is against the tenets of Islam and roots of all disorder if not evils. They want Sharia-based law and social and cultural practices. The political system should be turned into, “Khilafat,” like the one that existed during the reign of the first four caliphs of Islam (Abu Bakr (R) , Omar (R) , Uthman (R) and Ali (R) popularly known as ‘Khulafa-e-Rashideen’.


The youth, both males and females, especially with urban and English schooling background, consider terrorism as a means to change the current world order and protest against different forms of injustices that are being done around the world, especially in Muslim majority countries by the rich and powerful western countries. In the earlier days, the popular appeal among them was communism and socialism. But these have lost appeal with the dismemberment of the Soviet Russia and Peoples’ Republic of China adopting a ‘Market friendly approach’. In such a prevailing situation, religious extremism has gained the upper hand and they perceive that through this process, the desired changes could be brought in the socio, economic, political and cultural arenas of the states. In their case, the religious clerics emerged as their theoreticians and mentors. These clerics again on their part got indoctrinated by foreign extreme orthodox religious leaders.       


The youths coming from rural areas with mostly Madrasha education in overwhelming cases are poor and unemployed. To them, extremism has great appeal to change the current order in their favour. In their case, monetary incentive also plays a major role as they are resource poor. The terrorist organizations provide them with money and other resources which allure them to choose the path of terrorism to fulfill their cherished goals.   


The other important group subscribing to terrorism and extremism is some expatriates of Bangladeshi origin. It is perceived that they suffer from identity crises where they have settled and also feel discriminated in different spheres of life. Moreover, the social and cultural values and norms of the adopted countries are quite alien to them and a deep-rooted sense of rejection and hatred works among them. The other reason being crises in different Muslim majority countries for which they blame the western countries. And finally, in recent times, Muslims are in general blamed for all terrorist activities occurring around them. This causes resentment among them and consequently they consider extremism or terrorism the ultimate way to solve these perceived problems. The attitudes of revenge for all injustices also motivate and push them toward extremism and terrorism. Their area of terrorist operation is global and also stretches to their country of origin, Bangladesh.  


The wave of terrorist activities and religious extremism is taking a heavy toll on the country’s economy, its politics and the people’s cultural life. The alarming fact is that the society is being polarized and the phenomenon is influencing or dictating the moves of the political parties to appease the extremist and terrorist forces and ultimately threatening to alter or change the tolerant pluralistic character and culture of Bangladesh society.      


(The writer acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.)          


Dr. Akhter Hussain


Department of Public Administration

University of Dhaka


Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh