Bangladesh’s slow capitulation to Islamism

Ikhtisad Ahmed in

ScreenHunter_1939 May. 10 20.56On April 25, Islamists butchered LGBTQ activists Xulhaz Mannan and Tonoy Mahbub in the presence of Xulhaz’s mother at Mannan's home in Dhaka, for being “the pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh (sic)”. Two days before that, extremists hacked to deathRezaul Karim Siddique, a Muslim professor of English at Rajshahi University in northwest Bangladesh. His killers accused him of “calling to atheism”.

At the time of writing this piece, news of the hacking of a Hindu tailoraccused of insulting the prophet has just come in – reportedly the doing of the Islamic State or its local agents. Along with the murder of the bloggerNazimuddin Samad earlier this month, the red hues greeting the Bengali New Year have been painted with blood.

The most recent killings mark the widening range of targets of the unconscionable machete-wielding Islamists in Bangladesh. A total of 35 such fatal attacks have taken place since 2004, and counted Hindus, Christians, moderate Muslim preachers, secular intellectuals and activists, and foreigners as their victims. By turns, Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent and the Islamic State laid tenuous claims on these heinous killings – including ones that preceded their appearance in this region.

Attacks on progressive intellectuals in Bangladesh date back to the country’s birth in 1971. They resumed again in the early 2000s, with the attacks on celebrated poets Shamsur Rahman and Humayun Azad. While Rahman survived with minor injuries, Azad died of his injuries months later. Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s biggest Islamist party, and its proxies played a crucial role in the war crimes of ’71, including listing and rounding up leading intellectuals for revenge killings in the final three days of the war. Ziaur Rahman, the founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the country’s president from 1977 to 1981, rehabilitated the Jamaat in politics after the assassination of the nation’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 1975.

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