The image of Bangladesh as a tolerant nation for people of all religions has been severely tarnished by a string of highly public murders of bloggers, intellectuals, LGBT activists, and religious minorities. The perpetrators of these crimes claim to be working on behalf of ISIS, but the government of Bangladesh has taken great pains in denying this connection. Whether connect to ISIS or not, it remains clear that religious minorities and those deemed “enemies of Islam” by radical elements in Bangladesh are not safe. Will this trend continue or will Bangladesh be able to combat this and reclaim its legacy of tolerance?
5/31/2016 Bangladesh (The Daily Star) – Not only the European Union, but the rest of the world is also beginning to express concern about the spate of killings by extremists in Bangladesh over the last three years. News organizations such as the BBC and CNN feature these killings prominently in their newscasts. The initial killing of bloggers has now escalated into killing of foreign aid workers, religious minorities and academics. In April and May alone, a university professor in Rajshahi, two LGBT activists in Dhaka, a Hindu tailor in Tangail and a Buddhist monk in Bandarban were hacked to death.
Although the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks, the Bangladesh government blames the opposition parties and insists that there is no presence of ISIS in the country. Mere accusations are not enough. If the government has proof that the members of opposition parties are indeed responsible for these heinous crimes, it should arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. Until that happens, one has to take ISIS’s claim of responsibility seriously. Brutality is ISIS’s modus operandi.
There is a reservoir of goodwill for Bangladesh in the world. Bangladesh is applauded for spearheading women’s empowerment, democracy and communal harmony. As a moderate Muslim-majority nation, Bangladesh is hailed as a paragon not only for other Muslim-majority nations, but also for the developing world as a whole.
Roughly twenty million Bangladeshis are Hindus. Bangladesh has the world’s third largest Hindu population, after India and Nepal. There are about a million Buddhist Bangladeshis – ranking Bangladesh among the top fifteen countries in the world in terms of Buddhist population. Bangladesh also has 700,000 Christians among its citizens. Exposure to citizens who practice the world’s top four religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity – essentially makes Bangladesh a moderate and tolerant nation. This is Bangladesh’s most precious heritage. This is what ISIS is attempting to undermine. ISIS terrorists must not be allowed to spoil Bangladesh’s communal harmony.