The War on Terrorism, or whatever it has morphed into, is necessity for the international community. Muslim and western nations have a shared history and a common threat. Radical Islamism has boomed since the 1970s buoyant on Saudi petrodollars. Bangladesh shouldn’t be shy about pointing the finger at its detractors.
Bangladesh has decided to tackle the problem head on and has begun to examine its horrific birth. They have also concluded that events which have occurred, after the liberation war of 1971, have come from neglecting and condoning the rise of radical Islamism. These developments have stifled Bangladesh in the past, but they have decided to look for closure. Bangladesh’s friends agree. They have supported most of Sheikh Hasina’s efforts, but have fallen short on many accounts to properly endorse her war against radicals.
The Jamaat-i-Islami has become ostracised and weakened as a result, but their powerful backers around the world remain defiant. Bangladesh’s political and security establishments simply won’t allow the Jamaat-i-Islami to be used by the likes of the Pakistani ISI to foment trouble in their country or against their neighbours. This is creating a problem for its adversaries and allies of the Jamaat-i-Islami
The Jamaat-i-Islami has been involved in fanning conflict throughout the Muslim world often in disguise of self-defence for most of its existence. Western intelligence agencies have turned a deliberate blind eye to this practise and it has led to the unfortunate labelling of Muslim moderates, which are in the majority not the minority as far-right politicians would let their supporters believe. Mandarins, foreign policy wonks and security specialists have often said that the Jamaat and the Muslim Brotherhood are bulwarks against the more radical forms of Salafist groups like the Islamic State. It’s not true. Since 9/11, there have been many pious and orthodox Islamic movements which have been fingered as being al-Qaeda linked. Pakistan helped push the theory that Hizb-ut-Tahrir was the sources of all its militant problems. Western intelligence fell for it. Pakistan didn’t want to touch the real problem, the alphabet jihadi soup, which it had been nurturing to fight its battles in Afghanistan, Kashmir and beyond.
The radical strains of Islam and their merger as a political movement was initially seen as a welcome benefit for NATO nations as it would create an orthodox multi-religious alliance against the anti-freedom and atheist Soviet bloc. The Cold War helped to give birth to modern counter-revolutionary warfare. During this struggle, the British were in a unique position as former colonial masters of large swathes of land mass inhabited by poor people that looked for salvation in either communism or god. They had historic and personal contacts in the Muslim world which would boost this new religious movement. Pakistan, probably one of the major British allies and former subjects was one of the main fists of the Sunni Muslim world. Pakistan’s military leaders were often sent across the globe to reinforce and train their Muslim brothers. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was on the receiving end of Pakistan’s military might when Yasser Arafat intentionally caused trouble for the Jordanian government. They were met with the Pakistani boot.
The plan for pushing radical Islamists at the expense of normal secular politics was flawed. They couldn’t be controlled and were also highly contemptuous of western society which they had made a Faustian pact with. Islamists didn’t want Communism or our tolerant pluralistic political systems. They didn’t need any check and balances, which are inherent in democratic societies, when the Quran and hadiths led the way. Islamism didn’t have much success even though it was used by autocrats and military dictators to smash their oppositions to pieces. Violence and intimidation in civic life and right down to student politics was the norm. In the UK, during the 1980s radical Islam simply wasn’t an issue. They much larger domestic issues such as the Northern Ireland Troubles and the Falklands conflict. However, this ignorance was burst when Salman Rushdie was issued with a Fatwa against his anti-religious writing. Angry Muslims and their political organisations suddenly became known to the British people. They were quickly forgotten until the Balkan conflicts. Islamism has always punched way above its weight. Most scholars and political scientists were writing Islamism off during the 1990s. They believed it would die off after the Cold War. Its electoral success was abysmal across the Muslim world, people simply didn’t see it as an option. 9/11 happened and things began to change.
Erdogan, the Turkish premier, is spouting off communiques and undermining Bangladesh efforts to hold Jamaat to account for crimes against humanity. Turkish Islamists have been colleagues and friends with Jamaat leaders in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh since the 1960s. They were part of the thinking when Cold War contingency plans were being made and Saudi monarchs were getting bored and paranoid about their roles as patrons of the Islamic faith.
Which brings us back to accountability and turning a blind eye to radicals in the West. Muslim Aid, is Britain’s largest Muslim charity it has been dogged by accusations it is front for the Jamaat-i-Islami and has been tied to terrorist financing. The charity doesn’t seem to mind. Muslim Aid has powerful lawyers in Carter Ruck, it can rely on scholars that call it democratic and has friends in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). I mean why else would they appoint a former director of the ISI to be the leader of Muslim Aid in Pakistan? Untouchable…It certainly looks that way.
Image: Fueling the flame of justice.