May 02, 2007

The Morning After

(Updated below)

Woke up this morning with the blogsphere buzzing. I'm not going to duplicate far better efforts at capturing this buzz. You may find these on the 3rd world view and Global Voices Online. For reactions to news, check out Drishtipat.

My own thoughts, a bit more collected than last time:

1) Attempts to connect this with JMB seem particularly futile. All Islamist movements in South Asia are essentially proponents of "cultural authenticity", by which they simply mean they are anti-everything-that-looks-sounds-feels-ever-so-slightly-Western. Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Arabian, Sudanese are fine. Just not "Western". JMB targetted courts and the police. These people are targetting a sub-section of NGOs (those they deem to be "Western" and thus deserving of the title "NGO") and an oft-maligned minority. JMB's demands were state-directed and ambitious. These people seem particularly aimless and absolutely unambitious if they are taking on NGOs and Ahmaddiyas. Powerful groups, those two are not. Well, certainly not compared to the judiciary and the police.

2) As I said yesterday and I've been hammering the point over and over this last week: NGO does not denote only those organizations that work for liberal values, where "liberal" is defined in a Western context. NGO does not denote only those organizations that are taking money from donors. The more we use the term NGO is a narrow sense, the less potent civil society becomes everyday.

3) The government's response was fast, and kudos to them for that whatever their other flaws. "Strategy of tension" as I mentioned in the first update? Hopefully not. Rogue military elements would have used much more powerful bombs, way more synchronised to make an even bigger impact. There are no reports of bombs being recovered as of yet, but if there are, we have the government to thank for a fast response that may have deterred other potential miscreants.

What to expect from this? Hopefully nothing. Maybe a greater tightening of the martial grip around the country. Definitely greater Western pressure to clean up ship. And they might not mind who does it for them: a democratic government or a military-bureaucratic dictatorship. Are we headed the Pakistan way? One hopes not. Because if there is one thing I'm completely sure of: a dictator may help stem social pressures in the short-run, but simply intensifies their impact in the long-run. And this is doubly true for the egalitarian, opinionated, "politically conscious" and arrogant Bangladeshis than for their sleepier co-religionists in Pakistan.

Update: On Drishtipat (link above), Naeem asks:

How exactly does one become the “Al Qaeda” branch in Bangladesh? Was there an initiation ceremony? Little wallet size cards?

I've read this somewhere, and the wikipedia article on AQ has details about how the organizational structure is loosely-knit and non-hierarchical. In other words, anyone can call themselves AQ nowadays.

He also asks:

Of all targets, why again Ahmadiyas (Kadianis)? Population of 200,000? Why not the expected targets of “AQ”– US, ES Embassy, “The West”, bla bla?

It's easy to forget that AQ's roots lie in trying to overthrow domestic Arab governments. That is why JMB was a lot more like them than these guys.

Why the Ahmadiyas with a population of 200,000? Ask the impoverished, frustrated, 20-30-something, average looking guy (and it's inevitably a guy) who supports such pogroms, be they in Gujarat-2000, Munich-33-45 or Dehli-85. "They are the cause of all our troubles". Chilling but true: evil has a mundane face.


Fugstar said...

i wouldnt say they were just anti western. some would argue that they are very western (JI structure copied from the communist party) and they can only exist because of colonial eradication of precolonial religious intellectual culture. But as pretty much the only anti colonial force left flowing i can see why they would appear that way, and reactionarily so.

Simply because others in the political field have submitted and abdicated responsibility.

give it another few decades. maybe thingl be better then!

Anthony said...

If this is a new outfit with much less ambitious target than JMB then one implication is that there might be other outfits with similar aims. That is, we're looking at the next phase in the 'naxalisation' of radical and violent political Islam in Bangladesh.