Muslims find Zakir Naik influential

Bangladesh: The terrorist sons from a good family

IS is recruiting more and more young people from the elite: The government in Bangladesh is looking the other way.

Vienna / Dhaka. They attended expensive private schools, grew up in the affluence of the isolated, upscale neighborhoods in Dhaka, some studied abroad - none of them had been raised particularly religiously: five of the six young men who on Friday met more than 20 with knives and machetes in a restaurant in the capital of Bangladesh People murdered in cold blood were almost all children of the elite of the poor South Asian country.

So does Rohan Ibni Imtiaz. The 20-year-old was the son of an influential local politician from the ruling Awami League party. In January the once “happy, open-minded” Rohan disappeared without a trace. Today it is believed that he was trained in an IS camp somewhere in Southeast Asia. The politician's son had known the other assassins for a long time: most of them, like him, had attended the elite English private school Scholastica School in Dhaka, and later studied at private universities in Dhaka or Malaysia. Almost all of them were the sons of entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, excelled in sports clubs and had fun together in the city's chic clubs - until they were radicalized.

"Has become a kind of fashion"

The young men were apparently recruited by IS, which also committed to the crime at the weekend. The first contact with the group may have been over the Internet: According to the Daily Star newspaper, several of the assassins followed the pro-IS preacher Shami Witness, who has now been imprisoned, on Twitter and were fans of the radical TV imam Zakir Naik, who is popular in Bangladesh: The Indian had called on all Muslims to “become terrorists”. They may only have been trained to become professional killers abroad in the past few months.

In any case, the cruel slaughter has shown the world how vulnerable Bangladesh's wealthy youth are to extremist ideas. Even the government now admits it: "It has become kind of a fashion," said Security Minister Khan bitterly. So far, the official side has always said that Islamists recruited their followers primarily in slums and religious schools.

But reality also seems to deviate from the official line on another point: Despite all the evidence, the government does not want to speak of an IS background. Instead, it blames local extremists such as the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) or the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). The forbidden groups were also held responsible for the last attacks: Most recently, secular activists, bloggers and journalists as well as members of religious minorities were murdered almost every week. Most of the attacks, however, were committed to IS or al-Qaeda. Experts do not necessarily see a contradiction in this: JMB is close to IS, ABT to al-Qaeda.

Political calculation

There is also domestic political calculation behind the government's stubborn stance: The secular ruling party Awami League wants to indirectly discredit the opposition Bangladesh National Party, which works with the Jamaat-e Islami, the most important Islamist party. Time and again it is implied from the top that the BNP has contacts to local radical forces.

On the other hand, one does not want to admit that international terrorism is also spreading in Muslim Bangladesh - probably in order not to deter international investors. But that is exactly what is already happening: the Japanese clothing company Uniqlo, one of the main investors in Bangladesh, severely restricted travel to the country for its employees after the recent bloodbath in Dhaka.

("Die Presse", print edition, July 5th, 2016)