Islamist militancy in Bangladesh: why it failed to take root

Moinul Khan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Abstract From 1999 to 2005 Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim country, was swept by a wave of Islamist militancy that triggered considerable media and academic concern that Bangladesh would fall prey to Islamist extremism. The Islamist extremism that Bangladesh experienced during those years was largely the result of an ideology and tactics brought back to Bangladesh by returnees of the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Those returnees believed that the radical Islamist ideology they encountered (and imbibed) in Afghanistan could be transplanted to the Muslim community of Bangladesh. This was a serious miscalculation. The relative ease by which the Bangladesh government's anti-terrorism campaign crushed this outbreak of Islamist militancy demonstrated how seriously the militants had misunderstood Islam in the Bangladesh context, a context in which Islam is intimately interwoven with deeper traditions of tolerance and secularism in that culture. In that regard, Bangladesh as a Muslim country is at odds with the trend amongst some other Muslim countries in South and Southeast Asia where an Islamist agenda has become more apparent or prominent. This article seeks to explain the Bangladesh paradox, i.e., not only why Islamist militancy failed to take root in Bangladesh, but indeed why in the country the secular state and civil society has retained its strength and resilience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-64
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Bangladesh
    • Islamism
    • terrorism


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