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Sheikh Hasina’s toughest challenge-defeating the rising tide of Islamism in Bangladesh



The spurt of incidents of attacks on Hindu minority community in Bangladesh in recent times brings into focus the increasing influence of Islamists in that country despite the Hasina government’s profession of secularism and its attempt to maintain that credential. Islamism in Bangladesh is rising precipitously, permeating every aspect of life and has taken root as much in urban centres as in rural communities.

To quote a perceptive analyst: “Everywhere – from modern business office to daily social life – Islamic codes tend to exert authority. Burqa and hijab-wearing women who vow to uphold such a system are numerous, and so are men with Islamic zeal. Two decades ago, most Bangladeshis would have considered such behaviours ludicrous.”

Sufferings of the community continues since the mayhem that took place during the Durga puja in October last when Hindu properties were looted, their houses were burnt into ashes leaving four people dead and many others injured, temples were desecrated and set on fire over a contrived blasphemy issue of the copy of Holy Koran found near the image of Hindu God Hanuman. The government had to deploy para-military forces in 22 districts of Bangladesh then.

The latest incident took place on February 8 when five brothers of a Hindu family were crushed to death injuring two others of the same family by a pick-up truck in what is believed to be a ‘premeditated’ attack according to the surviving members of the family.

The incident took place in Chakaria Upazila in Cox Bazar district in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh. ‘Hindu Lives Matter’, an organisation that has sprang up recently has reported about another incident of physical violence and forceful occupation of a clinic-cum -residence of a Hindu family outside Dhaka by a well-known film actor named Jayed Khan and his associates. Examples of such torture and harassment of Hindu families abound.

Even while the Sheikh Hasina government is mindful of the predicaments of the Hindu minority and tries to protect them from the onslaught of the Islamist communal elements, it has not really succeeded in providing the community a sense of security and fear-free atmosphere in the country resulting in migration and a slow process of dwindling of their numbers in Bangladesh. What accounts for this dichotomy of the government remaining by and large secular but the vast section of the population are communal and Islamist in their preferences? The reason lies in the very birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

While the commitments of the Awami League (AL) that brought independence to the country after a brutal oppression by the Pakistani military, and of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to a secular polity were unquestionable, they could not rid the newly emerging country of the scourge of communalism and of the poison of religion-oriented politics of the Pakistani days. The majority undoubtedly went along with the secular politics of the AL and of Bangabandhu, but there were still a major section of people from the armed forces and from the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s leading Islamist organization, who could not reconcile to their separation from Pakistan, their umblical chord.

The Jamaat-e-Islami – which was banned soon after independence for its collaboration with Pakistan and role in massacring thousands of secular Bangladeshis – was resurrected in late 1975 by the elements that were responsible for the brutal killing of Bangabandu and members of his family. It was not just Sheikh Mujib and his family alone but many of his associates and other secular figures were annihilated by the Islamist elements.

The military regimes that followed after that under Generals Ziaur Rahman and Ershad patronized the Islamist elements whose numbers grew exponentially during those periods. The civilian rule under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), now led by General Zia’s widow Begum Khaleda also encouraged the Islamist forces to grow. Even while the BNP was founded as a nationalist centre-right party, it began to veer towards the Islamic elements to compete with Awami League’s secularism.

The BNP was born in the military barracks, and its founder and military ruler General Ziaur Rahman had legitimised the pro-Pakistani collaborators by removing the ban on them. Its brand of Bangladeshi nationalism is religion-driven. The BNP had made its political preference clear when it formed the government in 2001 with pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami as its coalition partner. For the next five years of the BNP-Jamaat reign, a surfeit of Islamist radical terror groups like HUJI (Harkat-ul- Jihad al-Islami), JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh) and Ansarullah Bangla Team surfaced or consolidated their position in Bangladesh, unleashing horrible pogroms against minority Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

Another organisation that has taken the centre stage since 2010 in Islamist politics in Bangladesh, other than Jamaat, is Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, an Islamic advocacy group of madrassah teachers and students. The formation was allegedly triggered by the 2009 “Women Development Policy” draft.

On February 24, 2010, Hefazat wanted to hold a rally at Laldighi Maidan, Chittagong to protest the government’s move to slap a ban on religion-based politics, cancellation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, and a proposed education policy that would have ended madrasah education. The police refused their request to hold a rally and injured 19 protesters.

A few of these madrasa students were arrested by police and later released. In 2011, Hefajat-e-Islam protested some aspects of the proposed Women Development Policy. According to The Economist, Hefazat is financed by doctrinaire Islamists in Saudi Arabia. In 2013, it gained most prominence when secular and atheist Bangladeshis rallied to demand the execution of Jamaat leaders convicted for war crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War, the Hefazat took to the streets and counter-mobilized massive support.

It submitted at the time to the government of Bangladesh a 13-point charter, which included the demand for the enactment of a blasphemy law with death sentence to its victims, mandatory Islamic education, and a ban on intermixing of men and women and followed this up by mobilising thousands of madrassa students for a “siege” of Dhaka.

The Awami League (AL) was quite unnerved by Hefajat’s power of street protests and mobilization of Islamists elements and in course of time decided to coopt the organisation into a coalition in order to counterbalance its rival party, BNP which has Jamaat as its partner, and in the process had to grant certain concessions to Hefajat. AL’s strategy paid dividends for some time as Hefajat being in the coalition toned down its militancy. But the appeasement policy did not succeed for long, as over the last 2 years, it has again resumed its militant politics finding expression in the defacing of statues, particularly of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and attack against minority community at the slightest pretext, leading the AL government to impose restrictions on its activities turning the organization at loggerheads with the government.

For, over the past years the Islamists have unleashed violence against them by killing writers and cultural activists, damaging statues in public squares, and setting off bombs at cultural gatherings. To their dismay, the Islamists now dictate what social and cultural norms should be.

Islamism receives impetus also from Saudi patronage and funding of large number Islamic institutions and Mosques. Since the late 1970s, Saudi Arabia funded the construction of thousands of radical mosques and madrasas. Today, Hefazat-e-Islam, controls over 14,000 mosques and madrasas where up to 1.4 million students get an Islamic education without any state supervision. These mosques and madrasas are thought to be breeding ground of radicalism in the country.

Military rulers abused religion to consolidate their power in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia used this opportunity to fund radical mosques and madrasas. Saudi Arabia has also patronized Islamist parties including Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh whose sole objective is to establish sharia and implement Quranic punishments. Saudi influence is also thought to be behind the rising trend among Bangladeshi women to wear black burqas.

Today, Saudi Arabia has about two million Bangladeshi migrant workers who send billions of dollars home annually, making a vital contribution to the economy of the country where one-third of people live in poverty. In exchange for opening the labour market, Saudi Arabia has been allowed to export and promote radicalism in Bangladesh.

In the absence of a viable democratic opposition, as the BNP has almost become a defunct organization with its leader Begum Khaleda Zia remaining either in jail or under house arrest, the political space is captured by the Islamists who are ideologically driven by the goal to replace secular democracy with theocracy. As Hefajat continues to gain a foothold, it is also paving the way for other Islamist groups to achieve political success.

For the Hasina government and the Awami League, a traditionally liberal, centre-left party, the challenge is formidable, as Dhaka must aggressively protect its secular legacy traced to Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and others – the very ideology the party was meant to protect.


US: Apple, Lululemon, Foot Locker & Other Stores Looted After Riots In Philadelphia




Philadelphia: In a shocking incident several stores including popular stores were looted by a crowd of juveniles on Tuesday (September 26) in Pennsylvania’s largest city. Several videos of the loot are doing rounds on social media. It can be seen in the video that a large crowd of juveniles barge into the stores and loot expensive items from the stores. An Apple Store was also looted by the juveniles in Philadelphia’s Center City.

The stores that were looted include famous stores like Apple, Lululemon and Footlocker

The stores that were looted include famous stores like Apple, Lululemon and Foot Locker. There are reports that the watchman at the Foot Locker store was assaulted by the mob. The Philadelphia Police have denied the claims that the robberies has any connection with the demonstrations and protests held over the death of Eddie Irizarry.

Crowd looting several stores one by one in Philadelphia

The videos that are going viral on social media shows crowd looting several stores one by one in Philadelphia. A video shows that youngsters barge into the Apple store and steal iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices from the store and flee from the store. There are videos that show that the stores are ransacked and the front glass of the Footlocker store is broken and all the accessories are lying on the floor after the crowd left the store after looting it.

Police said that it has activated Citywide Rapid Response

Police said that it has activated Citywide Rapid Response after the incident of riot and loot in the City Centre area. The police said that it had activated the Citywide Rapid Response after the large crowds of people were gathering and rioting and engaging in extensive looting. The Police further said that incidents of multiple stores have been broken into were reported. The Police have also advised people to refrain from going to the City Center area.

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International News

Indian Woman Anju Celebrates Pakistan’s Independence Day With Husband Nasrullah, Cuts Cake




Indian woman Anju, who went to Pakistan to meet her Facebook friend Nasrullah, was seen celebrating Pakistan’s independence day on Monday (August 14). Pakistan marks its independence day on August 14 every year, a day ahead of India’s Independence Day. In a video shared on social media, Anju can be seen during the cake cutting along with Nasrullah to celebrate Pakistan’s independence day.

Anju’s story made headlines

Anju, a married woman with children, got to know Nasrullah of Pakistan on Facebook. As friendship grew between the two, Anju tried to get a visa for close to two years in India, said reports. Anju recently went to Pakistan after getting the visa. Reports claimed that she converted to Islam in Pakistan and also got married to Nasrullah. However, she denied the claims in a video she released and said she wanted to return to India.

Anju’s father disowns her

Recently, Anju’s father, fed up of constant media presence at this house had castigated Anju for her decision to cross borders for love and marrying Nasrullah, as reports claimed. Anju’s father had said that he wished for her daughter not to return and said, ‘Let her die there’.

Anju’s husband in India was shocked when he learnt about Anju having gone to Pakistan to meet her Facebook friend Nasrullah. The husband had said that Anju had told her she was going to Jaipur and that she would return back in a few days. However, he was shocked when police came calling after reports that Anju had gone to Pakistan went viral.

Anju and Seema Haider, tale of two women

Anju’s story emerged even as news about Pakistani woman Seema Haider’s dramatic and suspicious entry into India along with her four children dominated news space. Seema Haider, a Pakistani woman, had entered India from Nepal and an investigation was carried out in the case. She married Sachin Meena who lives in Greater Noida.

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Asains found guilty of smuggling migrants to UK




A 38-year-old Asian-origin man has been found guilty of being part of an organised crime group linked to the prolific smuggling of migrants, including minors, to the UK.

Najib Khan, 38, from Ilford was identified as being part of the network by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), following the arrest of his co-conspirator Waqas Ikram, 40, in March 2021.

Ikram, who was caught red-handed attempting to break into a heavy goods vehicle to put migrants inside, worked for a people smuggling organised crime group headed by Mokter Hossain.

An iPhone belonging to Ikram, seized following his arrest, contained numerous conversations with Khan outlining their involvement in a separate people smuggling network, charging migrants up to 7,000 pounds a head to bring them to the UK, the NCA said in a statement.

Phone evidence showed that Khan and Ikram had been involved in a successful crossing involving five migrants being transported into Harwich in March 2019, and two other attempts that had been foiled by border agents.

The first of these was in May 2019, when 15 Vietnamese and one Afghan migrant were found in a lorry at the Hook of Holland as it prepared to board a ferry to Harwich.

In the same year in August, 16 migrants including 11 minors, were rescued from a purpose built concealment in a lorry carrying 2,000 loose tyres.

The lorry was preparing to board a ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven, and officers reported the heat and the nature of the concealment made breathing difficult.

The lorry drivers involved in both would later be jailed in the Netherlands and France, but the NCA was able to prove Ikram’s crime group had been involved in both attempts.

Further conversations between Khan and Ikram showed they were using GPS trackers to follow lorries that they had arranged to be broken into without drivers’ knowledge to stow migrants.

One of the trackers was found at Khan’s house when he was arrested by the NCA. In 2020, Khan and Ikram purchased a rigid hull inflatable boat for the purpose of smuggling migrants, and Ikram attended a course for piloting powerboats that June, the NCA said.

In July, the pair were encountered by Border Force off the coast of Suffolk in their RHIB.

They told officers they were scouting for scuba diving sites, and returned to Walton-on-the-Naze.

“Ikram and Khan had no regard for the safety and security of those they were transporting, they were only interested in making money from them,” NCA branch commander Andy Noyes said in a statement.

“In at least one case it was only the fact that the migrants were discovered by border agents that prevented them being left in what could have been an incredibly dangerous, and potential fatal, situation,” Noyes added.

Ikram was arrested by the NCA in 2021, charged with people smuggling offences and released on bail by the court. Both he and Khan were detained in connection with further offences by the NCA in July 2022 and charged with three counts of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.

While Ikram pleaded guilty to the charge, Khan went to trial, following which a jury at Reading Crown Court on Friday found him guilty on all three counts.

They will be sentenced on October 30.

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