The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has warned David Cameron that he needs to do more to tackle domestic Islamic extremism, as British Bangladeshis are funding and exporting Islamism and terrorism into her nation. She argued that closer cooperation is needed to stop radical Islam spreading from West to East.
Bangladesh – a country with the world’s third-largest Muslim population – is currently experiencing a politicised Islamic revival, in line with that seen across much of the Muslim world. The nation is increasingly seen as fertile soil for Islamic State (IS) recruitment.
“The British government should take more steps on the ground,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed told The Guardian. “Jamaat [-e-Islami (JEI) Bangladesh’s leading Islamist party] has a strong influence in East London. That’s true. They are collecting money, they are sending money,” she said.
The warning comes exactly a month after a British citizen was arrested in Bangladesh, suspected of being the “main planner” and “financier” behind the gruesome murder of two prominent secular bloggers who dared to criticise Islam online. Several British IS recruits, including the two men killed in a drone strike last week, are of Bangladeshi origin.
Shahriar Kabir, a journalist working in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, told The Guardian that JEI was “the godfather of all terrorism” which posed a grave threat to Bangladesh’s fragile secular tradition.
“If the BNP [the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party that is allied to JEI] wins the next election, Bangladesh will become Islamicised,” Kabir warned. “ISIS and al-Qaida are targeting Bangladesh. Jihadis are coming here from abroad, some from the UK. And money for the Islamists is coming from Islamic NGOs and individuals in Britain and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
“We are fighting to maintain a secular society. But we are losing ground. If we lose we will become a centre of global jihadi terrorism,” Kabir said.
Britain’s closely knit Bangladeshi population in East London, who recently elected disgraced Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, have well established connections to Jamaat-e-Islami. The East London mosque claims it is “not affiliated to or controlled by JEI” on it’s website, however, they host JEI speakers such as Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, who was sentenced to death in Pakistan in 2011 for terrorism and war crimes.
Counter extremism group StandForPeace, claim on their website that, “The East London mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe are both leading Jamaat organisers in Britain. Both institutions heavily promote the writings of Syed Maududi, the founder of Jamaat Islamism, whose book, Let Us Be Muslims, tells followers: ‘You must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule.’”
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq at a dinner hosted for him by Lord Nazir Ahmed at Westminster pic.twitter.com/QiRxy9pJQ6
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Prime Minister Wazed also defended her government’s zero-tolerance approach to terrorism, which has provoked the obligatory criticism from ‘human rights’ groups: “[The extremist groups] are trying, no doubt about it, and there are some people trying to encourage them, but we have controlled the situation,” she said
She argued that closer international cooperation was needed to halt the spread of radical Islam from the West to Bangladesh: “Certainly we want cooperation from all other countries so that they should be very careful that no illegal money or arms or terrorists should take any chance to create any problem to any other country.”
Also very active in Bangladesh is the Islamist, Muslim supremacist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, who are completely legal and very well finding in the UK. David Cameron, like Tony Blair before him, hinted that he might ban the organisation in June this year, but has remained silent on the topic since.
An unnamed ex-army intelligence specialist told The Guardian that Bangladeshi Islamists have links to several violent terrorist groups, such as LET, who committed the 2008 Mumbi attacks, and JMB, who detonated 500 bombs in a single day in 2005. He also claimed that Hizb ut-Tahrir were the intellectual force behind the Islamist revival in Bangladesh:
“It runs a very savvy information and communications operation. It is extremely active in Bangladesh, one reason for its success being Hasina’s creation of a political vacuum.
“Hizb want a caliphate. They want to be a province or a state of ISIS. Hizb activists are middle class or upper middle class, they are university educated, they have a growing presence in Britain and the US, and they have a large female following, all wearing headscarves. In Bangladesh, they recruit the foot-soldiers.”
Mr. Cameron’s official spokesman told The Guardian: “The PM… set out his thinking in a big speech before the summer. He does believe the government needs to be working with communities in a cross-country effort.
“Alongside that, in many of the bilaterals that he has had with other leaders he also talks to them about what more we can do to work together to look at the best ways to address radicalisation and extremism. When he was in south-east Asia that was one of the things he talked to them about.”