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To help remedy this neglect, my Georgetown colleague Christine Fair presents an overview of Islamism in Bangladesh and assesses the terrorism threat there today.*** On 12 December, a 27-year old named Akayed Ullah attempted—but failed—to set off a pipe bomb in the New York City subway.Despite the size of its population and growing importance, Bangladesh gets little attention in policy circles.
Bangladesh’s two mainstream political parties are known more for their rivalry, corruption, and incompetence than for governance.
Since independence, Bangladesh has experienced creeping Islamism that continues to enjoy popular support.
Approximately three million people died in the conflict, and millions more were displaced.
Many of the perpetrators of extreme violence were associated with the Je I, which aided the Pakistani army to commit atrocities against civilians in East Pakistan.
Despite these fairly impressive figures, Bangladesh has remained ignored in scholarly and policy analytic circles.
Bangladesh: Between Secularism and Islamism Since 1947 In 1947, the British divided the erstwhile Raj into India and Pakistan after Muslim League activists demanded a separate Muslim state by mobilizing the “Two Nation Theory,” which held that Muslims could not live with security and dignity in a Hindu-dominated, democratic India.In contrast, West Pakistan was ethnically diverse but had less religious diversity.West Pakistan deployed political Islam to suppress ethnic aspirations in both wings of the nascent state.More worrisome yet, Bangladesh is increasingly the site of Islamist violence.Between January 2005 and December 2017, some 746 people have died in Islamist terrorist attacks, including 339 alleged terrorists; of those attacks, 91 percent have taken place since 2013.Bangladesh may be an important source of future jihadi manpower.The Bangladeshi “Success Story” Scholars, commentators, and policymakers alike have generally held that Bangladesh is a success story of a moderate, secular, Muslim democracy; however, this view never rested on strong empirical ground.Bangladesh is an important provider of global security, and is consistently one of the largest contributors to United Nations Peacekeeping Missions.While not a top-tier military, its military forces are ranked 57th out of 133, using an index that considers the forces’ end-strength, diversity, and number of weapons systems as measures of national power.Indeed, since Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971, the durability of both secularism and democracy have been undermined by numerous military coups—many of which involved multiple counter-coups before a clear “victor” emerged—in 1974-75, 1977-1980, 1981-82, 1996, and 2007.In January 2012, the military claimed it had thwarted another coup.