Bangladesh: Fighting Radicalism Without Guns

Experts say massive educational reform and social initiative is required to address the lure of extremism

Fighting radicalism without guns

Photo:Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Businessman Alamgir Hossain from the capital’s Kazipara handed over his two sons to police after he became suspicious that they had been indoctrinated in religious extremism.

The man was hoping that the police would help with the rehabilitation of his sons. However, police produced the two boys in court on April 11, 16 days after their detainment on March 25, although they are legally required to bring detainees before court within 24 hours.

The frustrated father is now saying that law enforcement agencies were too busy collecting information from his sons instead of helping them rehabilitate to a normal life.

“Our finding is that about 82% of the arrested militants were radicalised by online writings and conversations. They were misled by militant outfits when they were out trying to sate their curiosity about their own religion:” Dhaka police

On January 14, authorities of Mymensingh Ishwarganj Girls High School and Women College found leaflets containing anti-state speeches and false misguiding information about Islam in the hands of students. They later saw a person clad in burka distributing the leaflets on their CCTV footage.

Since the Holey Artisan and Sholakia attacks in 2016, law enforcement has cracked down on radical militants. Almost 50 militants have been killed in confrontations with law enforcement and the army, and more than 100 militants have been nabbed.

The government, however, appears to be giving far less priority to protecting young boys and girls from getting easily drawn to violent radical ideologies.
Most of steps to prevent radical ideologies from spreading among the public have gone unnoticed or been ineffective.


The government has taken many initiatives to fight radicalisation, key among them is engaging imams of mosques to preach against extremism. However, experts say massive educational reform and social initiative is required. Photo Credit: Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh police’s Counter-Terrorism Focal Point and police headquarters assistant inspector general Md Moniruzzaman said: “Our finding is that about 82% of the arrested militants were radicalised by online writings and conversations. They were misled by militant outfits when they were out trying to sate their curiosity about their own religion.”

Experts are blaming a lack of coordination amongst the concerned ministries, lack of initiatives from different national and regional socio-cultural organisations and lack of unity amongst the country’s political parties.

Dhaka University’s History Professor Dr Muntassir Mamoon said: “Psychological change among the people is necessary to combat extremism.

“The government took many initiatives to counter radicalisation and militancy, which were praiseworthy and partially successful.  But this is not enough. Nationwide socio-cultural movement and effective changes in the education system is necessary.”


A radical change in the country’s education system is must, the academic said.

“We need to synchronise the syllabi of Qawmi and Alia madrasas with mainstream education. Besides, social values and cultural movements must be strengthened in order to get rid of the problem permanently,” he said.

Ali Riaz, a professor of politics at Illinois State University, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Bangladesh has to dissolve the conditions favourable to radicalisation, like limitations to practice democratic rights, hindrance to expressing opinions, extremist speeches in politics, political imbalance and violence.


“The native socio-political crisis when mixed with the global trend of militancy and extremism creates a hazardous situation for the whole country,” he said.
Home Ministry sources said there is no budget for nationwide anti-militancy campaigns.

A Home Ministry official seeking anonymity said people still think that the responsibility of de-radicalisation lies with the government, so they are not taking up any initiatives themselves.

Social scientist Dr Anupam Sen said: “People are not involved with cultural activities that much anymore. The cultural field has been captured by small groups. This is a cause behind radicalisation among youths.”

Islamic Foundation Director General Shamim Afzal Khan, however, claimed the foundation was almost successful with its anti-militancy campaign.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week assured that militants and extremists wanting to get back to normal life would be given support so that they can reintegrate into society.

This story, first published on Dhaka Tribune, is being republished with permission.



Related Articles