Governance and the politics of Islamic militancy
SO far there has been no concrete evidence that Islamic militancy of considerable dimension has been developed in Bangladesh as yet. But, there seem to be elements which suggest that Islamic militancy is in the formative stage and is spreading, especially among the young generation.
The basic reason is lack of good governance resulting in the absence of rule of law which precipitates all social evils like violation of human rights, corruption, discrimination, deprivation etc. These anomalies are creating a sense of frustration in the society, upsetting the public and making the youth desperate for a change in their future.
Similar views have been expressed on the universal cause behind the formation of violent extremism by John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America, in his article 'Our plan for countering violent extremism,' published in the Wall Street Journal on February 18, 2015:
"The most basic issue is good governance. It may not sound exciting, but it is vital. People who feel that their government will provide for their needs, not just its own, and give them a chance at a better life are far less likely to strap on an AK-47 or a suicide vest, or to aid those who do."
In a broader perspective grievances against the government and loss of faith in the system are the root causes. People who feel the government will not do anything good for them and the system will not allow a smooth and peaceful means to change the government are more likely to look for an alternate way. When a considerable number of people lose confidence in the government and the system, a breeding ground of extremism is most likely to be formed.
A considerable section of our population is still poor. Lack of education, discrimination, deprivation, injustice, etc is widespread. Ordinary citizens feel neglected and harassed by bureaucracy. Institutions responsible to take accountability of the government are considered ineffective. Democracy is seen to be weak and dysfunctional. Transfer of power is getting more and more violent and problematic. Religious sentiments and teachings play an important role in culture. Considering all these factors, it may be concluded that there exists sufficient elements in our society for growth and spread of Islamic militancy.
The violence in politics as seen today in Bangladesh is apparently a law and order situation. But its roots lie in the social unrest formed as a result of certain political moves, such as the amendment of the constitution to change the system of government during the national elections, and the subsequent running of a questionable election under the incumbent government, boycotting of that election by the main opposition led alliance, etc. The main demand now is to hold a mid-term election under a neutral government. The movement is not connected with implementation of an Islamic rule, and the leadership and most of the participating components of the alliance in the movement are democratic and not religious parties. So, it is still not a case of violent extremism as an outcome of Islamic militancy.
In case, it is dealt with as a law and order situation only and tackled accordingly with brute force sometimes allegedly beyond legal jurisdiction, social grievance will likely be further stretched. Radicalisation of politics and enhancement of the cause of Islamic militancy may find an encouraging push out of that dissatisfaction.
Even if the situation could be normalized, the relative calm may not last long. Because, a considerable segment of population would feel deprived of justice. As mentioned by Martin Luther King Jr., "Peace is not the absence of violence, but the presence of justice."
Terrorism or militancy cannot be eradicated by sheer use of force only. Even if each and every extremist is identified and eliminated physically, violent extremism will not end unless the seed of further growth is not taken care of. In the language of John Kerry, in the same article as mentioned above:
"Eliminating the terrorists of today with force will not guarantee protection from the terrorists of tomorrow. We have to transform the environments that give birth to these movements. We have to devote ourselves not just to combating violent extremism, but to preventing it. This means building alternatives that are credible and visible to the populations where terrorists seek to thrive."
As already mentioned, Bangladesh could be a fertile ground for the growth of Islamic militancy. Certain incidents as are being reported in media suggest the seed of militancy has already been sown. Considerable growth could take place in favourable weather. Dissatisfaction, political unrest, uncertainty and desperation can provide that environment.
In order to obtain sustainable peace and a stable social order necessary for human development and prosperity that counters the detrimental violent chaotic conflict prevailing in the country, corrective measures need to be initiated in the political arena to address the social gripes stemming out of that. An initiative for a meaningful dialogue among the feuding sides could pave the way for a resolution in this respect. Conventionally, the onus lies with the government to initiate the dialogue. As per Professor Dr. Raunaq Jahan, a political scientist and academician, (in an interview published in The Daily Star on March 6, 2015) "One of the best ways to tackle extremists is to ensure space for non-violent and democratic opposition."
The writer is former minister and Presidium Member of Jatiya Party.