The Forms and Ecologies of Islamist militancy and terrorism in Bangladesh

Mohammad Azizur Rahman


Islamist militancy and terrorism, a major sociopolitical issue of Bangladesh today, has largely remained under-researched. This paper mainly explores the forms and ecologies of Islamist militancy and terrorism based on the content analysis of media reports and interviews with some experts in Bangladesh. Ecologies, in this paper, refer to the multiple interrelated and interdependent environments: social, political, and religious, that foster, germinate and nurture the growth of militancy and terrorism.  Despite Bangladesh being globally identified as a moderate Muslim country located in South Asia, Islamist radicalization, extremism and militancy have become a major concern since the incidence of nationwide serial bomb blasts in 2005. Although an estimation of the group operatives may not be possible because these groups change names or members change groups from time to time, the presence of seventy Islamist militant outfits with thousands of militant members was identified during 1999-2010. Islamist militants carried out over 203 attacks killing 164 innocent people and injuring more than 2,658 people in this period. Using bomb explosions, these attacks targeted political parties, cultural groups, intellectuals, diplomats, movie theatres, NGO offices, and minority religious institutions. In response to these attacks, the government has adopted mostly a law-enforcement centric approach, but this study suggests a comprehensive strategy balancing enforcement, intervention and prevention urgently needed for de-radicalization and counterterrorism in Bangladesh --- the 8th most populous country and the 3rd largest Muslim country of the world. Although foreign journalistic and intelligence-based reports have argued that Islamist militants have links with madrassas (Islamic seminary institutions), this system has actually been in vogue for many years in the country. Research suggests that unemployment problems, poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance about religious matters among the youths are the common drivers for Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. An unfocused national educational policy on madrassas, the narrow and dated madrassa curriculum, and frustrations felt by madrassa graduates who cannot find jobs are likely to instigate the madrassa students to get involved in militancy. Political, educational, and religious interventions are must for countering radicalization effectively. Improving education policy and creating employment opportunities for the unemployed youth can begin to address the problem of Islamist militancy and terrorism in Bangladesh.

Full Text:



Abuza, Z. (2003). Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: Crucible of terror. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Ahmad, M. (2005). Madrassa Education in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Retrieved June 8, 2016 from Radicalism/ PagesfromReligiousRadicalismandSecurityinSouthAsiach5.pdf.

Ahmed, I. (2009). "Terrorism beyond reason: Possibilities and limits" in Imtiaz Ahmed (ed.), Terrorism in the 21st century: Perspectives from Bangladesh. Dhaka: The University Press Limited.

Ahsan, Z. (2005). Trained in foreign lands: The spread inland. The Daily Star, 21 August 2005.

Ahsan, Z. (2006). Inside the militants Groups – 2: Foreign funding, local business keep them Going, The Daily Star online edition,, Dhaka, 22 August 2005.

Ahsan, Z. (2016). Militants grow in silence in Bangladesh. The Daily Star, June 7, 2016. Retrieved

Alam, S. (2008). Understanding Bangladesh's experience with militancy. The Daily Star, November 24, 2007.

Aljazeera TV. (2016). Bangladesh: Extremism and shrinking space for dissent. Retrieved from downloaded May 16, 2016.

Asadullah, M. N., Chaudhury, N., & Josh, S. R. A. (2009). Secondary School Madrasas in Bangladesh: Incidence, Quality and Implications for Reforms. World Bank, Human development section, South Asia Region, Retrieved June 8, 2016 from

Bangladesh Awami League. (2005). Growing fanaticism and extremism in Bangladesh: Shades of the Taliban. Retrieved April 11, 2010 from the official website of Bangladesh Awami League at

Barakat, A. (2005). "Economics of fundamentalism and the growth of political Islam in Bangladesh." Retrieved January 25, 2010 from article%20by%20Abul% 20Barkat.htm.

BBS (2013). Health and Morbidity Status Survey- 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2016 from

BBS. (2012). Sample Vital Registration System 2012 (English). Retrieved June 8, 2016, from

BBS. (2016). Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics Website. (2015). Retrieved June 8, 2016 from (2013). "'Shibir leader behind Rajib murder’". 10 March 2013. retrieved

Becker, H. (1967). Whose Side Are We On? Social Problems, 14 (Winter) pp. 239–47.

BEI. (2011). Modernization of madrasa education in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 8 June 2016 from webroot/earticle/2379/modernization_of_madrasa_education_in_Bangladesh.pdfBangladesh Population Census 2011. Dhaka: Ministry of Planning. GoB.

BEI. (2014). The role of civil society in countering radicalization in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. Retrieved June 8, 2016 from

BEI. (2015). The role of education in countering radicalization in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. Retrieved June 8, 2016 from

Belal, S. A. (2003). Terrorism and Asia’s future. The Bangladesh Observer, Dhaka,

Codron, J. (2009). "The Islamist militias of Bangladesh: Symptoms of a weak state?" in Gayer,L. & Jaffrelot, C. (eds.), Armed Militias of South Asia: Fundamentalists, Maoists and Separatists. New York: Columbia University Press.

Datta, S. (2007). Islamic militancy in Bangladesh: The threat from within. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 30 (1), 145-170.

December 3, 2003.

Eliza, G. (2005). The next Islamist revolution?. The New York Times Magazine, January 23, 2005.

Fink, N. C., & El-Said, H. (2011). Transforming Terrorists: Examining International Efforts to Address Violent Extremism. International Peace Institute. Retrieved June 8, 2016 from

Firdous, K. (2009). Militancy in Pakistan. Retrieved July 19, 20101 from

Haider, M. (2007). The rise and fall of Bangla Bhai. Slate, April, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2010 from the New Age at

Harrison, S. (2006). "A new hub of terrorism? In Bangladesh, an Islamic movement with Al-Qaeda ties is on the rise," The Washington Post, August 2.

Hossain, A. (2015). Contested National Identity and Political Crisis in Bangladesh: Historical Analysis of the Dynamics of Bangladeshi Society and Politics. Asian Journal of Political Science, 23(3), 366-396.

ICAM (2010). Institute for Conflict Management, retrieved July 18, 2011 from

IPCS (Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies). (2006). Special Report 11 on Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB): A profile

Islam, S. (2016). Countering terror in Bangladesh. Retrieved June 8, 2016 from

Islam, S. M. (2008). Religious terrorism and Bangladesh. The Daily Star, July 26, 2008.

John, W. (2005). The roots of extremism in Bangladesh. Washington D.C, USA: The Games Town Foundation, January 12, 2005.

Kabir, E. (2006). Terrorism in Bangladesh. The Daily Star, February 19, 2006.

Kabir, S. (2007). "So-called simplicity and falsehood of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders," retrieved April 18, 2010 from Secular Voice of Bangladesh at http://www.secularvoiceof

Khan, M. A. (2005). Tackling terror. The Daily Star, November 19, 2005.

Khan, M. N. (2007). Impact of terrorism and counter terrorism on human rights. Dhaka: ASK.

Kumar, A. (2003). "Bangladesh: Weak link in war on terror" The Straits Times, December 16.

Kumar, A. (2005). Islamic NGOs funding terror in Bangladesh. South Asia Analysis Group. Retrieved on February 21, 2008 from

Kumar, A. (2006). Crackdown on terror in Bangladesh: Will it root out the menace. Dialogue, retrived from http.//

Kumar, A. (2009). Bangladesh cooperates on terror: can India translate it into success. Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis

Laksham, K. (2006). "Islamist radicalization and developmental aid in South Asia," DISS Working Paper, 2006/8; retrieved April 6, 2010 from Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen at 2006-8.web.pdf.

Lewis, C. T. (ed.) (1997). An Elementary Latin Dictionary ed. London: Oxford University Press.

Lintner, B. (2002a). Bangladesh: A cocoon of terror. Far Eastern Economic Review, April 4, 14-17.

Lintner, B. (2002b). Is Religious Extremism on the Rise in Bangladesh? Jane's Intelligence Review, 14 (May), 10-13.

Lintner, B. (2004). "Religious extremism and nationalism in Bangladesh" in Limaye, S.P., Malik, M. &. Wirsing, R. G. (eds.), Religious radicalism and security in South Asia. Honolulu, Hawaii: Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

Lorch, J. (2011). Bangladesh: successes in the fight against Islamist militancy: democracy and the rule of law as a bulwark against radicalism. Berlin, Germany: German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from comments/2011C11_lrc_ks.pdf.

Mannan, A. (2016). Rohingyas: Abandoned in their own land. The Finland Times, June 4, 2016.

Momen, M. N. & Begum, M. (2005). Acts of terrorism in Bangladesh: A general assessment. (2005). Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, 3(6), 850-856.

MORA. (2016b). Annual Report Draft 2014-2015. default/files/files/

MORA. (2016a). Five Years of Development 2009-2013. Dhaka: Ministry of Religious Affairs. Retrieved

Morrison, D. (2004). Terror on the rise in Bangladesh. Newsday, November 23, 2004.

Mortoza, S. (2003). Fundamentalists, fanatics and terrorists- No room for reason. The Bangladesh Observer, Dhaka. November 2, 2003.

Quamruzzaman, A M M. (2011). The Militia Movement in Bangladesh: Ideology, Motivation, Mobilization, Organization, and Ritual. LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing.

Quamruzzaman, AMM. (2010). The militia movement in Bangladesh: Ideology, Motivation, Mobilization, Organization, and Ritual (an unpublished MA at the Department of Sociology of Queen's University).

Rahman, M. A. (2010). Factors affecting the public views of the police in Bangladesh (Unpublished master’s research paper at the University of Toronto, Canada).

Rahman, M. A. (2010). Factors affecting the public views of the police in Bangladesh (Unpublished master’s research paper at the University of Toronto, Canada).

Rahman, M. A. (2011). Le systeme penitentiarie du Bangladesh (The penitentiary system of Bangladesh). In Céré, J. P. & Japiassu, C. E. A. (eds.), Les systemes penitentiaires dans le monde (The penitentiary system of the world, pp 41-55). Paris, France: Dalloz.

Rahman, M. A. (2011). Model police station and satisfaction with police service: The case of Dhaka metropolitan police. Accepted paper for publication in the Asia Pacific Journal of Policing and Criminal Justice.

Rahman, M. A. (2015). Contemporary political violence, terrorism and human rights situation in Bangladesh. A paper presented in a seminar titled ‘Contemporary Political Violence and Its Impact on Victims in Bangladesh’ held on April 4, 2015 at the National Press Club Dhaka organized by the Department of Criminology and Police Science, Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, Tangail, Bangladesh.

Rahman, M. A. & Hossain, M. S. (2014). An empirical study on the issues and problems of criminal investigation in Bangladesh. PSC Journal, Police Staff College Bangladesh, 1 (2), 81-94.

Rahman, M. A. & Kashem, M. B. (2011). Understanding religious militancy and terrorism in Bangladesh. Dhaka: ICA Bangladesh.

Rahman, R. (2007). "Bangladesh's fight against terror: Lessons learnt and future perspectives" in Osmany, M. R. & Kabir, M. H. (eds.), Global war on terror: Bangladesh Perspective. Dhaka: APPL and BIISS.

Rahman, S., Rahman, M. A., & Kashem, M. B. (eds.). (2009). Understanding Crime and Policing in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Centre for Criminological Research Bangladesh.

Rahman, T. (2011). Can Pakistan end terrorism? The Express Tribune with the Herald Tribune, April 7, 2011

Raman, B. (2004). Bangladesh and Jihadi terrorism: An Update. South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG), Paper no. 887, January 7, 2004.

Raman, B. (2006). International Terrorism Monitor, Paper No. 33. South Asia Analysis Group


Riaz, A. (2008). Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: A complex web. NY: Routledge.

Riaz, A. (2016a). Who are the Bangladeshi ‘Islamist Militants? Perspectives on Terrorism, 10 (1). Retrieved June 10, 2016, from

Riaz, Al. (2016). Bangladesh: Extremism and shrinking space for dissent. Retrieved May 22, 2016, from

SITE Intelligence Group. (2016). Bangladesh option=com_customproperties&view=search&task=tag&tagId=550 retried May 27, 2016

Sobhan, F. (ed.). (2009). Countering Terrorism in Bangladesh. Dhaka: University Press Limited.

South Asia Terrorism Portal (2009). Retrieved from Bangladesh Timeline 2009, timeline/2009.htm.

South Asia Terrorism Portal (2011). Major incidents of terrorist violence in Bangladesh. Retrieved on July 12, 2011 from bangladesh/database/ majorincidents.htm.

South Asia Terrorism Portal (2016). Fatalities-Islamist Terrorism 2005 – 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from database/Fatalities-Islamist%20Terrorism%202010.htm.

The Daily Star Investigation. (2005). The daily Star Web Edition, Vol. 5, No. 447, August 28, 2005

The Daily Star, June 10, 2016. Govt shifting blame on opposition Fakhrul protests PM's remarks on recent killings. Retrieved

The Daily Star, June 11, 2016. Crackdown on, so is killing. Retrieved

The Daily Star, June 13, 2016. Retrieved

The Daily Star, May 16, 2016. Buddhist monk latest target. Retrieved from

The Daily Star, May 22, 2016 IS 'claims' credit for Kushtia killing Says it murdered the homeopath for 'calling to Christianity'; locals say he'd no links to missionary work retrieved

The Daily Star, May 4, 2016. Terror attacks more frequent than before: Police. Retrieved from

The New Age Xtra, August 21-27, 2009.

The New Age Xtra, November 12-18, 2010.

U.S. Department of State. (2006). Country reports: South Asia overview, in country reports on terrorism. Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Apr. 28, 2006.

UNFPA. (2014). Launch of the State of World Population Report 2014 in Bangladesh. - Investment in health care to pay Bangladesh huge dividend. Retrieved June 14, 2016 from Itemid=999.

Upadhyay. (2007). Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh – A Threat to Regional Peace. Retrieved from on February 21, 2008 from

US Department of State. (2003). The annual report on the Patterns of Global Terrorism (2003), released by the Counter-Terrorism Division of the US State Department, May, 2003.

Vaughn, Bruce. (2007). Islamist Extremism in Bangladesh. CRS report for Congress, January 31.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Mohammad Azizur Rahman

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 2363-9849 

Proud Member of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)