Radicalisation has become the major means of recruiting Jihadis who are driven to manifest violent extremism worldwide. The revelation of stories of ISIS butcher Jihadi John, Bangladeshi British teenager Jihadi bride Sharmina Begum, 5-member Britany Brigade, Bangladeshi Bad Boys are the vivid examples of the menace of radicalisation. Though it is not a new phenomenon but now its intricacies have grown in multitude owing to the advantage of easy movement across the globe. The troubling development of the past few years however is that the rise of ISIS comes amid a rapid growth of social networking sites, which can reach millions worldwide – including those in South Asia.
Radicalisation is the process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social or religious ideals and aspirations. It is the process by which people come to accept terrorist violence as a possible, perhaps even legitimate course of action and then join terrorist groups. This may eventually, but not necessarily, lead this person to advocate, act in support of, or engage in terrorism.
Often claims are made that radicalisation takes place only among those from the low socio-economic background; people who live in relatively unwholesome neighbourhoods and are frustrated with the present system and their inconsequential positions in the society. But subaltern isolation and alienation are not necessarily always a precondition, as seen in cases where those from well-off families join the jihadis.
Militants of Ansarullah Bangla Team—a terrorist outfit in Bangladesh captured from Dhaka revealed that they follow an al-Qaeda pattern of structure, ideology and strategy. It pursues a four-phase strategy: Dawah—inviting people to Islam, Idad—recruitment of Ansars, Ribat—preparation for armed struggle and if failed Kital—Zihad (kill people).
Terrorism is often used as a geo-political tool or an extension of the foreign policy. Militant outfits are used as proxies to undermine governments or to bring about a regime change or to influence internal political dimensions or to subjugate other nation-state entities or in combination thereof. Socio-political conditions are altered to make environment conducive to terrorism. Iraq and Syria in West Asia and Afghanistan in Central Asia are vivid examples of such policies. Testimony of David Headley in Indian Courts on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks have revealed the patronage of Pakistan intelligence agencies to non-state actors.
In Syria, resistance movement is turned into armed struggle under the active patronage of extra-national powers. Sharmina Begum, a teenage Bangladeshi expatriate embraced jihadi bride-ship was radicalised at a mosque in East London. Five youths of Portsmouth city who became jihadis were allegedly radicalised in the local mosque. Killer couple of San Barnandino, California was radicalised by his Pakistani wife. The captured killer of Bangladeshi blogger admitted that he was radicalised in a madarsa and ordered by his big brother to kill the blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu. He espouses belief that killing of an atheist will grant him a place in heaven.
From the South Asia and West Asian experience, radicalisation mechanics and growth of terrorist outfits explicitly reveals the geo-political game and regional interest. State actors cannot deny the responsibility of creating non-state actors espousing Islamic theocracy.
Present generation radicalisation and terrorism relies upon Islamic theocracy of radical Salafism which is espoused by Saudi Arabia. IS ideology is found on the brutal application of Middle age rigidity of the Sunni Islam.
Radicalisation in Bangladesh
During the Bangladesh liberation war, Islam was used as a motivation for Pakistani Occupation forces and their local cohorts to win against the local Bangladeshi population. After liberation Bangladesh institutionalised secular culture through enacting its constitution in 1972 and banned all religion-based political parties from politics.
However, very carefully planned manifestation of radicalisation started through peaceful means and ways.
First, state patronage to bring about a change in the Bangladeshi society took place by incorporating a strategy of radicalisation. Military rulers followed the Pakistani path to alter the secular values by religious values. Islam-based political parties made their debut and State patronage worked behind this radicalisation scheme. Bangladesh was opened for Indian secessionists and radicals from Myanmar. Madarsas grew unabated that along with the mosques attacked secular culture of the country to install the Wahabi culture. Thereby a social and cultural battle took shape in the society causing unrest and intolerance. Rampant money flew in from the Sunni monarchs of West Asia and West European expatriates that aided in rapid radicalisation and gave strength to the terror outfits.
The total number of Dakhil, Alim, Fazil and Kamil Madarsas in 1971 was 5,075. This number rose to 9,493 in 2007. A total of 1.4 million students are studying in 13,902 Qawmi Madarsas across the country according to Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) last year’s report. Unofficial reports reveal that there are about 37,000 Madarsas in the country with a total of 3,340,800 students and 2,30,732 teachers.
The presence of Internet might not be sole factor that radicalises a person, but it has definitely created more opportunities for one to access materials related to their extremist beliefs. A report titled ‘Radicalization in the Digital Era’ by Rand Corporation published in 2013 highlighted that while radicalisation is very unlikely to occur without some forms of physical contact with the organisation itself.
We need an unyielding and thoughtful response to jihadist terror. Force is not enough and misused force can have disastrous consequences.
There has been a growing recognition that the broader public and individual communities are stakeholders and partners in countering terrorism, rather than remaining passive. There is a need for developing community-oriented approaches to countering terrorism that emphasise public support and participation in order to increase accountability and effectiveness. These approaches consist of locally tailored and locally driven initiatives that draw on partnerships among a wide range of actors, beyond traditional security practitioners, to include other public authorities, as well as civil society organisations, businesses and or the media.
Unchecked syllabus of teaching, misleading explanation of jihad, unabated propaganda by these so called ‘religious scholars’ against the democratic and social system must be brought under scrutiny and freedom of speech should exclude hate speeches. Tracking and monitoring of the radicalised scholars is essential to prevent brain wash of the youths.
We cannot tolerate political parties that support violent 'End Times' theologies. Muslims must learn to disagree without using violence. We have to keep the conflict measurable by identifying dangerous jihadists, outfits and political parties so as to denude them of democratic privileges and legal advantage.
We need to train the brain of the parents and children about possible attack and reach out tactics of the jihadis. Militant Islam is a political instrument but not the real Islam.
Madarsa education must be brought under regulatory control of the state and should be made for churning out usable working force of the nation by including work oriented subjects and should not be a factory of radicalism.
Islamic NGOs and charitable organisations need to function under state control and their corpus of activity should be confined to development works and the regulatory body of the state should compel them to avoid any discriminatory practice and behaviour.
Religious advisers should not only be older males, but women and young people must be included as well. We must speak out against gender segregation and support girls’ education at all levels. Share testimonies of former extremists and show role models. Rather than restrict free speech on TV or the Internet we must provide a counter narrative of life and peace. Enlist soccer stars and celebrities to promote a message of peacemaking.
Above all, the concept of differentiating between good terrorists and bad terrorists should be done away with in order to develop a common perception of threat.
(The writer is executive Director of Institute of Conflict, Law & Development Studies Bangladesh)