The 8/17 blitzkriegs by Islamists does not bode well for Bangladesh 

A.H. Jaffor Ullah

Published on February 13, 2007

The August 17, 2005, will go down in the annals of Bangladesh history as the day Islamists blasted uncountable homemade bombs allover Bangladesh . The idea was not to inflict bodily injury, but to get maximum attention from the blasts. In that regard, their objectivity was met; they received the �honor roll� or dubious distinction.

The news of the mini blasts made the headlines all across the globe. This scribe read the news of the blasts moments after they rocked Bangladesh in the Internet. Of all major news networks, the AFP gave the maximum coverage. On top of it, Bangladesh �s newspapers also described in gory details the heinous incidences that mar the good name of Bangladesh .

The government of Khaleda Zia, which is so petrified every time someone says Bangladesh has become a new hub of terrorism, has to swallow their own words as they gave glib answer when bombs or grenades rattle the republic of 145 million.

Digging the archives of English news dailies published from Dhaka will reveal a plethora of information on how Khaleda Zia�s government, which is soft on Islamists, had abetted the goons of Jagrata Muslim Janata of Bangladesh (JMJB) in western districts of Bangladesh in early 2004. Under pressure from the donor nations, the four-party alliance government headed by BNP finally outlawed the wayward Islamic Party headed by Bangla Bhai. Before the leaders of JMJB went underground later in 2004, their enthusiastic supporters took to the street in Rajshahi in motorcades flaunting their newly gotten popularity. Now after a year when the news of bomb blasts made headlines on August 17, 2005 in the West, the name of JMJB came into fore one more time.

It was mentioned in the news that the coordinated bomb blasts are probably the handiwork of Jamayetul Mujahideen (JM) and another hard-line group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh. While the JM was banned earlier after their men fought pitch battle in rural Bangladesh with police, the JM was reincarnated into JMJB. The spiritual guru of the both the organizations is the same ultraconservative Mullah who believe in Sha�ria Law and who wants to institute Allah�s law (read Sha�ria) in Bangladesh. It is a small wonder that police found handbills in bombsites allover the country those that are written by JMJB.

Bangladesh had been treading the path of Wahhabi Islamism for the last three decades with disastrous outcome. I have been vocal about it and so were quite a few Bangalee writers in the Internet forums. One such forum is Mukto-Mona (web forum of freethinkers and secularists from South Asia), which was started by Mr. Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi doctoral student from Singapore. However, every time we wrote about growing Islamism in Bangladesh we were pooh-poohed by �patriotic� Bangladeshis.

When veteran reporters Bertil Lintner and Alex Perry wrote their articles on emerging fundamentalism and terrorism in Bangladesh, then secularist writers and freethinkers gave their kudos to the writers. However, �patriotic� Bangladeshis vilified Mr. Lintner and Mr. Perry calling them sensationalists. Then again, in 2004, Ms. Eliza Griswold, a renowned poet whose work is being published in prestigious New Yorker and reporter at large for New York Times magazine, published an article on Bangla Bhai phenomenon. Ms. Griswold also concluded that Bangladesh had been treading the slippery slope radical Islam in recent days. The government of Bangladesh found the NY Times magazine article very �offensive� and distasteful. If my memory serves me right, the article written by Ms. Griswold was banned in Bangladesh. After today�s news, who could refute the conclusion of Mr. Lintner, Mr. Perry, and Ms. Griswold? Never mind the myriads of article written by a whole bunch of secularists from Bangladesh who saw nothing but evil in Bangla Bhai�s pet organization JMJB.

From AFP news of bomb blasts in four-corners of Bangladesh, we learned that about 350 bombs of various sizes and strength were detonated over a period of one hour in 64 towns. Two people died in the blasts while hundreds of people sustained injuries. The motive of the blasters was not to kill fellow Bangladeshis but to tell the civil society that the organization that did the coordinated bombings is a mighty powerful one. The idea that this organization could organize such a coordinated event should be a matter of concern. These folks are gung-ho about bringing Sha�ria Law into Bangladesh. Thus, they boldly proclaimed that they have no respect for manmade law (read: the Constitution of Bangladesh); they would like to see Sha�ria as the law, which the bomb blasters called Allah�s Law.

There are other Islamic parties in Bangladesh those are very vocal about instituting Sha�ria Law in Bangladesh. They often take to the streets after Friday Jumma prayer and clash with the police. These folks are keeping the momentum going. Nevertheless, they know that the bulk of the civil society won�t go for such repressive and antiquated set of laws. The hard-core Islamists are now using terrorism to make their wish known to Bangladesh citizens.

The present government of Khaleda Zia is responsible for the unprecedented growth of Islamic Constitution Movement. She kowtowed the Islamists to win the election in October 2001. The Islamic goons descended on minorities after the victory of the four-party alliance of which three could be labeled as Islamic parties. As goons from Jamaat and other Islamic parties unleashed a reign of terror, she and her party lieutenants kept their lip sealed. The country witnessed an onslaught of sectarian skirmishes allover Bangladesh. All the signs are there for growing sectarianism in Bangladesh. But the government won�t raise its finger against the Islamists. The reason is very clear. Khaleda Zia�s party, BNP, has to kowtow the Islamists if she wants to win any future parliamentary electron; the next one is slated for late 2006. The Islamists know this for a fact and that is precisely why they are thumbing their nose at the present government.

The police in Bangladesh are not taking the events of August 17 seriously. In AFP report, it was mentioned that Abdul Kaiyum, Bangladesh's Inspector General of Police (IGP), said, �These were small, homemade bombs designed to create panic.� How could the IGP say such a foolish thing? A bomb blast is a blast. In the eyes of police, terrorism no matter how small its scale is should be considered the act of terrorism. The police are trying to downplay the incidences of 350 bomb blasts.

The home ministry is also acting rather naively when a statement from the department read, �After analysing all the incidents it is assumed that the main aim of the explosions was to create panic and to create a destabilised situation in the country.� We all know that blasting small homemade bombs could hardly do much damage and kill people but the government is misreading the incidence of August 17 bombings. The fact that the organization could coordinate and execute such a complicated scheme of bombings in 64 towns within a specified time should give a chill. The organization has some grassroots support and have the capability to do harm to Bangladesh�s ordinary people � this is good enough for giving the government a real shock. All this downsizing of the impact from the blasts serves no real purpose. The government should sternly deal the growing menace of bomb blasts and squish the Islamic Constitution Movement, which is growing � la cancer.

Finally, the JMJB men should be rounded up from all districts of Bangladesh. The government agencies running the intelligence know the identity of Bangla Bhai goons. The Prime Minister and her cabinet ministers should stop giving a lip service while not addressing the growing menace of terrorism that is being perpetrated by Islamic terrorists. The longer the government waits the more powerful the terrorists will become. Catch them when they are inexperienced or else face the consequence.

The bomb incidences of August 17, 2005, should not be taken blithely. Either the government should squish the Islamic Constitution Movement at this time or the civil society will face Islamists� wrath in the near future. The BNP and her alliance members have been nurturing the proverbial cobra � the hooded serpent � all these days with milk and banana only to find that the serpent is expanding its hood too early to bite the masters. Won�t it be easy to kill the hooded serpent at this time or face serpent�s wrath in near future?

Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA