The problem with security is that, given enough time, it will start to wane.
Whereas walking into Bashundhara City used to involve putting my bag on the counter, it being opened and thoroughly checked, my person given an equally thorough pat-down, cigarettes and lighters inadmissible, it is now a cursory spank on the butt and a grunt. I suspect it is the same in most places.
We are meant to follow patterns and act accordingly. So, when something breaks that pattern, such as the Holey Artisan attack, our danger signals tingle, our panic buttons are pressed, we unsheathe our swords in defence. But, when nothing happens for, say, six months, our minds automatically recognise a new pattern and we relax, we give in to the way our world starts to become as it used to be: We re-holster our guns.
And militants know this.
For the last two weeks, an increasing number of boys have been going missing throughout the country, much in the same way the attackers of Holey did. Some from here, some from there. A few NSU students, of course; one from cantonment; one who works for the National Curriculum and Textbook Board.
Police thinks militancy is again on the rise. Is this what the terrorists do, wait for the panic to die down, and then start recruiting again? And, after Kallyanpur, and after killing Tamim Chowdhury, the apparent emir of Bangladeshi IS, after statements which implied that terrorism had, in fact, been rooted out, why does this continue to happen?
Is it because the government’s insistence that these people are under the influence of the JMB doesn’t ring true? Is it because, that a show of success which prevents the public from panic, in the short-term, is much more important to the government than actual long-term solutions to the problem of terrorism?
To understand why so many young men decide to take the path towards militancy requires a socio-political understanding that the government seems to lack. It requires a true understanding of the culture that has been allowed to fester in Bangladesh.
If one thinks that the Holey Attack is not related to the killing of the Santals, or the burning of the Hindus, or the way Rohingyas are oftentimes treated, they’d be wrong. These are all connected by the thread of difference and sectarianism; if not in law, then in spirit.
Not only does Bangladesh need a socio-political overhaul (if it so desires to attain liberal-democratic values), it requires an education system that allows for doubt, critical thinking
Bangladesh’s proud history of pseudo-secularism is as much as myth as the fictional universe of current secular values perpetrated by the governmental narrative and under-the-gun editorials by the media.
Like all of history of all the lands in all the world, the persecuted have become the persecutors. And the circle will continue.
The problem lies in the undeniable fact that most people in Bangladesh, the ones who will not end up reading this piece in this paper, have no false notions with regards to the religio-ethnic identity of their country: Bengali Muslims. They do not care, or they do not know, or they do not recognise the technicalities of the Bangladeshi constitution which allow for equality and freedom of religion.
This is further the case amongst boys in their late teens and late 20s; they are surrounded by a populace who do not validate the feelings of disenfranchised loneliness and sexual frustration that they so desire. The only time they get it is when they give in to fundamentalist narratives woven out of the theocratic ideals of a few religious leaders funded by Wahhabi agenda.
The validation is two-fold: Society recognises their attempt at “goodness.” The recruiters, be they IS or JMB, recognise their value to the cause, provide them with purpose, and offer up eternal happiness and 72 virgins (to quote the popular notion). If given a choice between pure satisfaction and continued frustration, which would you choose?
Would you have the knowledge required to understand the difference? And, even if you did, could you take the less violent route?
Most people in the country do, despite their common attachment to the religion. They recognise the Western imperialism, the frustratingly one-sided Western narrative, but an inherent moral code kicks in, thankfully.
But if most of the populace continues to attach itself to an interpretation that is potentially violent and disastrous, and when our government and police forces also buy into it to varying extents, why wouldn’t young boys be given the free space and time where they are heavily susceptible to the influences of militant recruiters?
Not only does Bangladesh need a socio-political overhaul (if it so desires to attain liberal-democratic values), it requires an education system that allows for doubt, critical thinking, and the questioning of the very basis on which not only faith was founded, but the very identity of the nation.
Otherwise, the minds that come out of the schools only mould to a shape that is ripe for the plucking, and their hands, ready to be armed with a trigger that could potentially blow our world to smithereens.
SN Rasul is a Sub-Editor at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.