Some socio-economic factors are behind the rise of extremism. When there is a lack of democratic rule and lootings continues, the gap between the rich and the poor widens in society, with the young coming forward to bring about changes and some being misguided, Zonayed Saki, chief coordinator of Ganasanghati Andolan, tells Moloy Saha in an interview with New Age
New Age: Politics of religious extremism has apparently taken a violent form in Bangladesh. Why?
Zonayed Saki: Now it is a fact that religious extremism has apparently taken a violent form in our country.
The ‘militant’ attack of July 1 on a Gulshan restaurant that killed 17 foreign citizens proved their broader presence in Bangladesh, but it could not be answered why such religious extremism raised its ugly head in our country.
The existing free market economy created difference in the life of majority of the people who were deprived and the imperialist countries were applying forces in the name of ‘fight against terrorism’ and created al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Islamic states, which encouraged religious extremism.
They were trying to attract the youths of the Muslim community in this militant activities in the name of spreading Islam. The waves also reached Bangladesh naturally.
But in our country, the mass people would not support religious extremism and they would take a stand against it. We have failed to implement the spirit of the war of independence of 1971 and form a non-communal democratic polity and as a result such militant forces have evolved in our country.
The country lacked democratic rules and the rule of laws were not established so far and rights of the people not fulfilled. Moreover, the ruling parties also used the militant forces to prolong their undemocratic rules.
New Age: Contrary to hitherto middle-class intellectual conviction that Madrasahs are the breeding ground of ‘jihadis’, the violent operation by jihadis at Gulshan restaurant in July points out the fact that non-Madrasash youths have embraced politics of religious extremism. Why.
Zonayed Saki: First of all, we must be clear about the issue that religious extremism is not a matter of religion but the issue is political.
It is a kind of reactionary politics and a man who is pious cannot be involved in such militant groups, but a man who is not pious can be involved in it.
The worldwide activities of the US government encouraged such militancy in different countries of the world.
After the brutal end of Saddam Hossain’s regime in Iraq, many of the soldiers joined the Islamic State to take revenge against the US government.
The youths who were non-madrasash students took part in the Gulshan attack were against the humiliating steps against the Muslim community worldwide, opposing the social difference between the rich and the poor, lack of justice and out of frustration.
The number of such misguided youths are a few and they could be refrained from their paths through proper guidance and motivations, political and cultural.
New Age: Do you think certain particular kinds of socio-political and economic factors play any role to push the youths of society to get involved in politics of extremism — religious or otherwise? If so, what are the factors?
Zonayed Saki: Certainly, some socio-economic factors are behind such rise of militant activities. When the country lacked democratic rule and the financial looting continued, the gap between the rich and the poor widened in society, then the youths could come forward to brign about changes in society.
But there may be chances for them to be misguided. The government must face the situations politically, not only by applying forces. This sort of situations could not be controlled applying only police actions.
New Age: What is the way out?
Zonayed Saki: The ruling Awami League government was trying to see the problem of religious extremism as a problem of law and order.
But they should forge a national unity on the issue with all political parties reaching consensus on some minimum issues.
It was the prime duty of the government to reach such consensus and it must take take the initiative first.
During the war of the independence in 1971, a national unity was forged for establishing a non-communal democratic country, which could be replicated to face the present crisis. The government should take steps to ensure security of people. And it should introduce democratic rule in the country.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Interview