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Countering jihadism: Engage the Bengali diaspora

  • Published at 06:37 pm December 13th, 2017
  • Last updated at 11:59 am December 14th, 2017
Countering jihadism: Engage the Bengali diaspora
On December 11, a 27-year-old man Bangladeshi man, Akayed Ullah, detonated a home-made pipe-bomb at a busy transportation hub in New York, resulting in six people being injured, including the suspect himself. This was an act of terrorism inspired and possibly commanded by the Islamic State. The severity of this attack is less of an issue here, but the extent of fear and disruption to public life it caused has been significant. Given that the New York Police Department, along with many US national and international organisations, are working round-the-clock to stop terrorist attacks, it is a matter of great concern that the perpetrator was able to carry out this attack, and hence it will undoubtedly be treated as a very serious incident. Akayed Ullah is the second Bangladeshi involved in terrorist attacks in the US, following the failed attempt of Qazi Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis in 2012. He went to the US seven years ago, and worked at an electric workshop. He once also worked as a driver for hire. On any other day, he would appear to be just another member of the large Bangladeshi diaspora in New York, much like many other Bangladeshi-origin people living in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia as expatriates, migrant workers, or students. And just like any other population group, they are prone to radicalisation by various organisations, advocating a plethora of ideologies, including violent extremism.
Bangladesh must engage with its migrant and expatriate population, and include them in countering violent extremism
In this global world with easy access to digital communication platforms, radicalisation and recruitment by violent extremist groups become easier. Violent jihadi content in the forms of audio lectures, graphic photos, videos, and texts produced or translated in Bengali are effortlessly spread across the globe in a matter of minutes. Al-Qaeda operational manual, directives from IS, sermons from Ansarullah Bangla Team -- they all reach their target audience through the internet in Bengali. In such a world, combatting terrorism must be based on a global approach. Within Bangladesh, much effort has been made in countering terrorism and perhaps more can be made to countering radicalisation. But incidents such as the latest attack in New York show that these initiatives must also take into consideration the Bangladeshi diaspora around the world. Bangladesh must engage with its migrant and expatriate population, and include them in countering violent extremism. Law enforcement agencies and, more importantly, civil society groups, must work together across international boundaries to create multilateral and multi-track approaches countering the violent jihadi narrative. Special focus must be placed on utilising the Bengali language, since Bengali jihad literature plays a critical role as the medium for radicalisation. Asheque Haque is a King’s College, London graduate in South Asia and Global Security Studies. He works as a political and security consultant on Bangladesh. He is available on Twitter as @AshequeH.