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America has to decide on Bangladesh: For or Against Terrorism US-Bangladesh
Photo Courtesy: U.S. Embassy Dhaka Twitter page

America has to decide on Bangladesh: For or Against Terrorism

Dr. Delaware Arif and Dr. Nuran Nabi | @indiablooms | 04 Aug 2023, 01:30 pm

Former U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena mentioned the role of Bangladesh in fighting terrorism and militancy as one of the key determinants of Bangladesh-US partnership in a private conversation with one of the authors (Dr. Arif) in 2012.

Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the foreign relations committee of the senate, mentioned in an event, organized by one of the authors (Dr. Nabi) in 2022 that the current Bangladesh government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a reliable partner of the USA in fighting terrorism. Both also mentioned that the United States would wholeheartedly support any Bangladeshi government’s stance against militancy.

The position of Bangladesh in the global anti-terrorism fight is significant for various reasons: The geo-political location of Bangladesh in the South Asian region, Bangladesh is the eighth largest country in the world by population and the fourth largest Muslim country.

Most importantly, nearly one-fourth of the population of Bangladesh is illiterate and many of them live below the poverty line. Hence, Bangladesh could be a breeding ground for the rise of religious militancy.

The United States along with other Western development partners of Bangladesh strongly realize it and provide utmost importance to Bangladesh. The Western partner of Bangladesh including the United States expect a government in Bangladesh that is strongly committed to fighting terrorism.

Sadly, several recent incidents by U.S. politicians have ignited questions about the ongoing support of the U.S. to Bangladesh in fighting against terrorism and religious fundamentalism.

There is a symbolic meaning of the recent visa restrictions of the U.S. on Bangladesh.

The BNP-Jamat-led right-wing political parties who have been patronizing the extremism in Bangladesh took this step by the U.S. as part of their victories in questioning the legitimacy of the current Awami League government.

As the lawful citizen of the greatest country on earth, we the Bangladeshi Americans strongly agree with the advocacy of the U.S. government for free and fair elections and for maintaining human rights in Bangladesh. We also believe that like any other democratic government, the Awami League is not out of the question.

There might be some room to improve for the current Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina.

However, the steps on the counter-terrorism taken by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are outstanding and nobody can ignore the success of the Awami League in wiping out the national, regional, and international terrorist organizations in Bangladesh.

For example, Bangladesh’s position went up almost double from 23rd to 43rd in the global terrorism index. This is the greatest success of the last one and half decades of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s rule in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh used to be known as one of the hubs of fundamentalism and terrorism in the world before Sheikh Hasina’s government came to power in 2009.

Right after 9/11, BNP came to power with the collaboration of the extremist right-wing Islamic party Bangladesh Jamat-e- Islami. Bangladesh never experienced such type of rise of religious fundamentalism as it happened during the BNP-Jamat regime from 2001-2006.

The situation was so bad that the international terrorist groups went rampage and started mushrooming all over Bangladesh. The international media termed Bangladesh as the next “breeding ground” or “next Afghanistan.”

There were valid reasons for this type of characterization of Bangladesh by the international media. The supporters of Bangladesh Jamat-e-Islami used to have a slogan, “Bangla hobe Afghan means Bangladesh would become Afghanistan.”

Sheikh Hasina expressed the firm commitment of her government to wipe out terrorism and fundamentalism right after getting elected in 2009.

It was one of the agendas in the election manifesto of the Bangladesh Awami League.

The ordinary people of Bangladesh were so frustrated with bombings and killings of progressive writers, activists, and bloggers. Basically, Bangladeshi gave a supermajority to the Awami League to fight against those evil elements of the society.

She ordered law enforcement agencies to follow the “zero tolerance” policy in wiping out terrorism from Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina government also have been using the special elite force Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to fight these notorious groups.

As a result, extremist leaders like Bangla Bhai and ShaykhAbdur Rahman, the leader of Jagrata Muslim Janata (Risen Muslims) who instructed their forces to bomb all the districts in Bangladesh at the same time were captured and prosecuted in a speedy special tribunal.

Extremists leaders got capital punishment. In addition, the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina rooted out all most all other small terrorist groups that mushroomed during the BNP-Jamat government.

These types of actions against those groups who ran their political actions solely based on Islam in a Muslim-majority country were not easy for the Awami League.

It was politically risky for Sheikh Hasina and her party. Thus, Bangladesh became a role model among all Muslim countries to fight religious fundamentalism.

Recently, the way some of the lawmakers in the U.S. asked the Biden administration and the United States to put an embargo on Bangladesh is unrealistic.

Questions might arise whether these politicians are cross-checking the facts or analyzing the historical data about Bangladesh.

Under these circumstances, some of us wrote to President Biden and some congressmen about the true situation of Bangladesh and urged them to cross-check the information before putting any further statements about Bangladesh. Some of them appreciated us for enlightening them by educating them about the facts and figures on Bangladesh.

We simply stated the facts about the activities of the counter-terrorism of Bangladesh Awami League and how historically Bangladesh Awami League has been known as pro-religious minorities (Hindu, Buddhist, Christians, etc.) to the right-wing Islamic political parties.

As Bangladeshi Americans, we felt that some of the Congressmen signed the petition to put embargo on Bangladesh without any prior knowledge or they were influenced by the lobbyists hired by the BNP-Jamat.

As Bangladeshi-Americans we are worried by such steps taken by the Congressmen. We strongly believe that this type of initiative is directly contradictory with the ongoing support of the United States to fight against terrorism and militancy in the South Asian region.

Like the politicians and the U.S. government, we also support the demand for free and fair elections and ensuring human rights in Bangladesh.

However, we must be very careful in terms of the process of regime change and directly supporting the right-wing fundamentalist groups to come to the power.

This type of activity would be against the interest of the United States in South Asia.

We strongly believe that like any other democratic government in the world, Bangladesh Awami League is not above criticism, and they might have some missteps in running the government. However, in terms of the global political scenario, it is undeniable to ignore the contribution of the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina toall almost wipe out religious terrorism in Bangladesh. 

(About the author: Dr. Delaware Arif is an associate professor of digital journalism and immediate past President of the USA Faculty Senate, darif@southalabama.edu,  and Dr. Nuran Nabi is a councilman of Plainsboro Township of  NJ, Ekushey Podok Awardee and a Freedom Fighter, nurannabi@gmail.com.)

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