‘Teach captured terrorists to sing, dance and play’: Counter terrorism expert

So says international terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna who is currently in Dhaka to attend a conference of the chiefs of police from South Asia and neighbouring countries.

                    Rohan Gunaratna. Photo credit: Dhaka Tribune

On the sidelines of the event, Gunaratna spoke extensively to journalists on challenges of Bangladesh in countering terrorism and on the rehabilitation of terrorists, which he believes is essential in stopping the spread of these ideologies.


What is the main challenge for Bangladesh in countering terrorism?

Bangladesh government has done a remarkable job in fighting terrorism. The political leadership gave the right message and provided the resources. The police counter-terrorism outfit has also performed exceptionally well. But Bangladesh now has to build programmes to rehabilitate terrorists and extremists in custody.

The biggest failure on the part of Bangladesh has been inability to create a terrorist rehabilitation programme. Because if the terrorists are not rehabilitated when they are in custody, then after coming out, they will be perpetrators, they will infect others and become heroes.

How can we rehabilitate terrorists?

Terrorists can be rehabilitated by bringing in Muslim clerics. Mainstream clerics will talk to them, teachers and vocational instructors will empower them with new skills. They have to be provided with creative rehabilitation. You should teach them songs, dance and music to broaden their minds. Also, counsellors and physiologists are required to remove hatred and anger from their minds.

So terrorist rehabilitation is multi-faceted programme that is an enterprise of ministries of religion, education, social affairs and so many other components of government to change and transform the terrorist.

Why you are saying that there is no New JMB, rather it is IS in Bangladesh?

Because, the JMB as an organisation has ceased to exist when the old JMB ideology has changed. Now the ideology is given by IS. You cannot call it JMB any more because it has changed its constitution, ideology, targeting strategy, and it is currently walking with IS central.

It has even messaged and propagated its operation to IS and IS in Dabiq magazine, the main journal of IS, where they acknowledged that the group that did the Holey Artisan attack is IS.

If IS is in Bangladesh, why would the government say they are home-grown militants like JMB?

Bangladesh government is saying it is JMB because it believes it would create more issues for Bangladesh if the terrorists are called IS.

But I personally believe that Bangladesh government should say that these terrorists do not follow the old ideology of JMB and they are driven by the ideology of the so called Islamic State.

It is so important to identify the new characters and the transformation of this group and prepare the counter-terrorism law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies to fight IS.

Identifying the problem, identifying the enemy accurately is half of the solution. It is a good time for Bangladesh government to tell the truth that the group that attacked the Holey Artisan Cafe is not old JMB, but the transformation of the JMB called IS.

If Bangladesh says it is IS, how does that help us from the security perspective?

If you identify the enemy as IS, because it is IS, it will certainly enable the Bangladesh government’s law enforcement, military and intelligence services to prepare their mind to fight IS. Because IS fights in a different way from JMB.

JMB did not kill foreign nationals – Italians, Japanese – JMB did not attack Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. So, I want to tell you that the enemy has a new form that must be identified. The government and the public must understand the new face of terrorism.

You have already admitted that Bangladesh achieved many things in countering terrorism. And it might be law enforcers’ strategy not to admit that this is IS. May be it is working as well.

Bangladesh police counter-terrorism unit has been very effective in the fight against terrorism. The officers who are staffing and leading the fight, they know that it is a new form of terrorism and they know it is IS and they are mentally very ready to fight IS.

Republished with permission from Dhaka Tribune.



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