October 19, 2003
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Bangladesh is known as a 'moderate Muslim country' and its people have the reputation of 'moderate Muslims,' free of
rancor against other faiths. However, our society, like many others, is being subverted by the efforts of Muslim
We must admit that most of the people of Bangladesh still lack the opportunity for modern, scientific education and are therefore open to persuasion by religious extremists. In recent years there has been a strong upsurge in activities of religious extremist groups in a number of countries, including Bangladesh. Recently, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of "Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas" or madrassas financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these madrassas have a different program.
In the capital city of Dhaka, even now such organizations are quite in evidence and have large memberships. Promoters
of these organizations hire huge buildings in posh areas and target boys from the semi-affluent middle class.
Previously, madrassa education was mostly confined to lower income and less affluent groups. However, following the
emergence of these so-called Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh, the students are drawn from richer segments,
and even include boys of the richest class..
One of the accused arrested from one such institution confessed to Bangladesh police that they were planning to have an Islamic revolution in the country, and that they were anxiously looking for boys from the affluent class since politics is mostly controlled by them. The accused admitted that they were heavily funded by a number of African and Arab countries.
The arrest and statement of the accused have been widely carried by local press. According to these reports, these belligerent people under the covering of various 'Deen' (true path) training organizations, intend to coach a section of ill-educated and prejudiced people to be their followers. . Through their clandestine campaigns they are plotting to wage a 'Holy War'. As instruments to induce rage and delude people, they are using different recorded tapes with extremist provocative speeches and songs. They also include messages from Osama Bin Laden.
A few months ago a Syrian teacher was arrested. He had belonged to a similar organization named the 'Al-Haramine
Institution'. According to records of police intelligence in Bangladesh, members of this organization use the
kindergarten madrassa as camouflage. They regularly communicate with various underground armed groups in the country and
even recruit locals and send them to Palestine as guerilla fighters. Each recruit gets US$ 1500-2000 as an up front
payment for their 'new job'. Later family members or legal representatives or spouses of these guerilla fighters will
receive US$ 150-200 per month as salary. If any of the are killed during the war, their family would get US$ 5,000 as
According to the police report, Al-Haramine Institution maintains a secret training camp inside the compound of its kindergarten madrassa. The recruits are given theoretical and practical training for seven weeks before they proceed to their destination. During training, they are given an elementary idea of their responsibilities and a practical knowledge about some of the weapons used by Palestinian fighters and other extremist groups.
Al-Haramine Institute is gradually spreading its wings in other parts of Bangladesh too. Recently they have established their offices in eastern and southern Bangladesh. One of the main objectives of this organization is to sell the idea of jihad (in the sense of violent holy war) to the masses. The organization maintains very good relations with some extremist news dailies including Inqilab, Ittesal, Al-Mujadded, Sangram etc. Owners of these dailies are regularly compensated by this organization and in exchange, these newspapers give quite open support to its activities.
Al-Koran Academy is another such organization run by one Hafez Munirul Islam. He was a teacher in a local madrassa
with the monthly salary of US$ 75 only. Just recently an office of Al-Koran Society has been established in Bangladesh
with Hafez Munirul as its Executive Director in Bangladesh. Office of the organization is located at city's top most
posh area costing US$ 2000 per month. Hafez Munirul also receives US$ 1000 as a monthly salary. This organization claims
that its main activity is printing and distributing the Koran. However, in fact, Al-Koran Academy is mostly engaged in
providing political coordinators for various mosques in Bangladesh. The local tax department raised questions about the
sudden change in fortunes of this poor madrassa teacher, and investigated the sources of the funding. They found that
most funding for this organization comes from the Middle East.
The Daily Inqilab acts as a mouthpiece of the fundamentalists in Bangladesh. the, It is an extremist sort of provocative newspaper spreading the theme of jihad amongst the local population Inqilab was initially funded by Iraq's deposed autocrat Saddam Hussain and presently it receives regular cash support from a large number of hidden organization in Bangladesh and abroad. One of the owners of this daily is based in Dubai where from global activities of this organization continues. It is believed that Inqilab enjoys very close contact with Osama Bin Laden, and it has extremely good relations with a large number of small and medium ranking organizations and parties in Bangladesh. Some of these organizations are on the regular pay role of the daily.
Pressure to conform to extremist opinion is intense. Since my newspaper, the Weekly Blitz, published several articles
that were favorable to Israel, we have been subject to various threats from local fanatics as well from the Palestinian
ambassador in Dhaka. Our newspaper was black listed by some of the local companies financed by the Islami Bank, another
organization that patronizes and nourishes extremist groups here. There were a number of applications to the Deputy
Commissioner of Dhaka to cancel the registration of our newspaper. Hackers entered our Web site and tried to disrupt it,
but were foiled by our technicians.
I received numerous threats from the local extremists and from the editor of an extremist daily, and in one case I had to lodge a written complaint with the local police station. Under the instructions and inspiration of Islami Bank, Ibn Sina Trust and some other religious extremist groups, I was thrown out of a private television company where fanatics suddenly acquired the major portion of the stock. Until now I have not been paid the price for my 20 percent share in that company.
World leaders, government and various organizations have started to make people aware of vicious designs of the
extremists and to combat them. Governments, along with the law enforcing agencies should strengthen their efforts to
isolate these destructive elements before it is too late. Various media can also serve to disseminate messages to
counter extremist propaganda, to generate awareness, and to organize people in favor of peace and against all sorts of
religious and other extremism.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
is editor of the Weekly Blitz in Bangladesh, online at
He can be reached at .
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