In what can be described as a major victory for Bangladesh in its battle against radical Islam and terrorism, a court has sentenced seven men found guilty in the Holey Artisan Bakery Café attack in 2016, which had been described as the deadliest terror attack in the country till date. One of the eight accused was found not guilty, while the other seven who were found guilty have been served capital sentences.
The deadly terror attack, which had then made headlines across the world had resulted in the death of 22 people, including one Indian, two police officials and several other foreign hostages. ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack.
However, Bangladesh government has consistently taken the position that no trans-national terror outfit like the Islamic State or the Al-Qaeda is present in the country. It has blamed domestic elements instead. The Information Minister at the time when the terror attack took place had said that the terror attack was more likely a work of the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which has targeted several religious minorities in the past. JMB has also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
It is important to mention here that the year before the terror attack, had witnessed several individual murders of foreigners and secular writers, claimed by the Islamic State or the Al-Qaeda. Bangladesh has therefore been battling Islamic radicalism for quite some time now. In such circumstances, death sentences to those found guilty in the 2016 terror attack is a historic step in creating a deterrent effect against the Islamists.
The Bangladesh government has already taken a slew of measures to combat Islamic extremism. Days after the 2016 terror attack in Bangladesh’s capital city, the Sheikh Hasina government had banned Zakir Naik’s Peace TV. It had come to light that at least one terrorist involved in the ghastly terror attack had drawn influence from the televangelist’s speeches. The Sheikh Hasina regime had realised the dangers associated with the telecast of Naik’s speeches who has often come under scanner for encouraging radicalism. He had even said, “If Osama bin Laden is terrorising the US, I am with him… every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina has also been very clear in her approach of not pandering to Islamists. Recently, she made it clear that presence of Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh is a threat to national and regional security. She said, “In terms of regional security, I would like to say that more than 1.1 million Rohingya citizens of Myanmar fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution and they are a threat to the security not only for Bangladesh but also for the region.” Bangladesh has also been pushing for deportation of the Rohingya immigrants to the country for their origin. It has also taken a number of security initiatives in an effort to avoid the threat posed by the Rohingyas.
The capital sentence to those guilty in the gruesome 2016 Café terror attack. This sets a very good precedent for other Islamic countries not to pander to Islamism and radicalism. Bangladesh has shown how to handle Islamic radicalism and terrorism. Now, it is time for other Islamic countries to follow the suit and ensure that Islamists are not given a free run. It is unfortunate that nations like Pakistan continue to harbour and protect terrorists, including specially designated global terrorists like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed. While the Bangladesh administration shows its true commitment to freeing the nation of terror, several other nations have time and again shown lack of effort to address the threat.