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Preparing the Way


Part IV:  Does Hamas-Like Surprise Await Bangladesh?


Preparing the Way

Dr. Richard L. Benkin writes from USA    

Originally, Dr. Richard L. Benkin planned a three-part series on the Islamist threat to Bangladesh.  But due to the tremendous reaction that the initial article garnered, Weekly Blitz’s USA correspondent has consented to continue writing about this critical topic. Very soon the whole of this investigative and analytical reporting will be published as a book.


In 2003, Weekly Blitz editor and publisher Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury earned the eternal wrath of Bangladesh’s Islamists and their sycophants when he published “Incubating Ultra Radicalism”, which appeared in Middle East Web.  The article began, “Bangladesh is known as a 'moderate Muslim country' and its people have the reputation of 'moderate Muslims,' free of rancor against other faiths. However, our society, like many others, is being subverted by the efforts of Muslim extremists.”  Choudhury presented evidence of how radical Islamists were trying to socialize young Bangladeshis to accept their own rigid (and narrowly held) view of the world through a system of Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas.

History’s totalitarian regimes all have tried to enforce a world view on their populations by controlling people’s access to information.  Adolf Hitler’s Germany did it through complete control of media, schools, and Germany’s voluntary (and involuntary) organizations, such as the Hitler Youth.  Those who opposed their version of reality were demonized and ostracized in an effort to devalue and dismiss their opinions.  They were labeled as traitors, and later the state apparatus moved to eliminate them.  The same process occurred in the Soviet Union, where in a succession of periodic purges over its 70 year history, the state send those who tried to oppose the agreed-upon orthodoxy into exile or worse.  Generally, their sentences were accompanied by some official finding calling them insane.  Today, mass communications make it more difficult to control information flow that way so to hide alternate information from the people. And it can be no coincidence that the world’s most repressive regimes are the same ones that are trying to keep their peoples from using the internet.  North Korea, for instance, is the only country in the world where it is a crime to access the internet.  Iran is having a tremendously difficult time with internet use.  Opposition blogs are flourishing there despite the danger to those who might be caught by the Iranian secret police.

In democratic Bangladesh, the situation is not as clear; but those whose goal is a totalitarian Islamic state are finding other ways to control information.  Their most effective tool:  money, petrodollars.  A seemingly unending torrent of money from the Gulf States is brainwashing Muslims in Bangladesh and elsewhere to believe that the only real variant of Islam is an intolerant one.  Through this cabal of evil, you are being told—by people who have no respect for your traditions—what to believe; through this cabal of evil anything that refutes their predetermined conclusions are labeled seditious, blasphemous, or both.  And what even they cannot refute, they often ascribe to wild conspiracy theories, or simply dismiss as lies hoping that the populace will not be able to see the truth of what they are denying.

American political analyst and columnist Jane Novak wrote of the many advances of which Bangladeshis can be proud, but added:  “Lately Bangladesh has gained notoriety for the spread of Islamic extremism, but jihadis don’t spring from the ground like mushrooms.”  Choudhury wrote of the upsurge in religious extremists back in 2003—and was roundly condemned for it, although now his condemners admit the truth of his findings; adding “law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of ‘Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas’ financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these madrassas have a different program.”  Choudhury also quoted a captured operative as noting that while his organization previously concentrated exclusively on the poor and uneducated, they were anxiously looking for boys from the affluent class since politics is mostly controlled by them.”

As noted, Choudhury was condemned for going public with his findings, and the Islamists in the government and media attempted to ruin him financially and discredit him professionally—all culminating in a Soviet-like charge of sedition.  Choudhury identified one culpable organization, but was ignored, and the group was banned only two years later after being implicated in the terror bombings in Bangladesh in 2005.

Captured operatives—in 2003 and today proudly and openly--admit that the madrassas also fund jihad activities in Bangladesh.  This admission is extremely troubling as the government is refraining from a major action that could curb such activities and better enable intelligence and law enforcement units to identify the—truly—seditious perpetrators.  At least fifteen registered Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGO) receive over Tk 200 crore in donation every year from donors, primarily from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates; but they are not required to report these funds.  Requiring that the donations be reported would (1) open up anyone who does not do so accurately to legal action and (2) provide a means by which Bangladesh security can track their activities.  If these activities are all legal, the groups should have no objection to the reporting requirement.
Jihadist activities aside, the madrassas pose a serious threat to Bangladeshi democracy because they inculcate their charges with a rigorously held ideology that sees democracy as anti-Islam.  Various scholars of the wahabist variant of Islam (the variant espoused by Gulf and Saudi supported madrassas) have called today’s War on Terror a war between Islam and democracy.  Is this the belief system that most Bangladeshis would like to see the next generation adopt?

In the Arab world, systems of information control have been near total for decades.  Schools, “think tanks,” the media, the mosques, and the government all subscribe to a rigid ideology.  It holds Jews to be the “sons of apes and pigs,” Christians to be “crusaders,” and Hindus scorned as “polytheists.”  Such a lack of diversity does not bode well for the Arab world ever to have any kind of open interaction of equals with the rest of the world.  As Shoaib Choudhury found out in 2003 (and even today), powerful forces in all Bangladeshi social institutions are trying to collude to bring about a similar situation in that country.

Nor is such informational isolation good for the people themselves.  In certain Muslim countries battling desperately against a murderous AIDS epidemic, people have rejected life-saving anti-AIDS drugs and AIDS-preventing condoms because their religious, educational, and media institutions told them it was all a Zionist plot.  In 1967, we saw surreal scenes of Arabs celebrating while their armies were being slaughtered by Israel because the only information they received was that of phantom victories because that was all their government would allow.  Later, when the truth of their defeats were inescapable, the government attributed them to Western conspiracies—all of which hampered Arab recovery, available relief, or even the opportunities for Mid-East peace offered them.

Bangladesh stands at a crossroad.  Its people can choose to remain true to their traditions and also take advantage of the bounty that an entire world offers them; or they can choose to ally themselves with the forces of darkness and reaction that hold only one narrow variant of their great faith is correct and worse, that no other faith is correct, including that of their more than 20,000,000 neighbors who are not Muslim.  The choice seems obvious.  In order to choose that path, Bangladeshis will have to break the monopolistic grip that the wahabis have strengthened on much of their media, significant components in other major social institutions, and most of all the mosques and schools that are training succeeding generations in whose hands Bangladeshi democracy will pass.

Posted on 28 Jun 2006 by Weeklyblitz


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