chapter
6 Pages

Introduction

ByALI RIAZ AND C. CHRISTINE FAIR

This volume examines the historical and contemporary contexts and contours of political Islam in Bangladesh. In the early years of the present decade, Bangladesh attracted the attention of the world as a potential transit route for terrorists fleeing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. A spate of high profile terrorist attacks, including failed and successful assassination bids on high-level political leaders as well as intellectuals, artists and secular-minded Muslims together with a series of several hundred explosions throughout the country on a single day in 2005, further discomfited western policy makers about the growing threats of intolerance, Islamist militancy, and a permissive government that indirectly and directly benefited from these developments. The overt alliance between the mainstream political parties, particularly the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and declared Islamist parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) – which ruled the country for five years between October 2001 and October 2006 fueled these concerns. In the same period, Bangladesh emerged as an important logistical hub for Pakistan-based militant groups seeking to operate throughout India as well as for the nascent Indian Mujahadeen looking to expand its presence throughout the state.