The Militia Movement in Bangladesh
Quamruzzaman, A. M. M.
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In the post-9/11 world, Bangladesh has been identified as a new hub of the Al-Qaeda network in South Asia. Most of the contemporary national and international media reports, security documents, and even academic studies point to the fact that an Islamist movement is on the dramatic rise in Bangladesh in recent years. These reports and studies portray the Islamist movement as closely linked with terrorism and devoid of any historical roots and relations with other types of movement. Contrary to this view, this study argues that the Islamist movement is not an unprecedented phenomenon but historically linked with a broader militia movement which subsequently leads to the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation state in 1971. Since its inception, the nation state is dealing not only with the Islamist movement but also with two other types of militia movement almost simultaneously – the leftwing and the ethnic. Having identified these three types, this study defines the militia movement in terms of five analytical categories – ideology, motivation, mobilization, organization, and ritual – following Freilich and others. It analyzes the Bangladesh militia movement in terms of these five dimensions, providing historical-empirical data from both primary and secondary sources to show how the contemporary militias are carrying forward the legacy of their historical forerunners. This study concludes with policy recommendations on how informed decisions can be made to effectively deal with the militia issue.