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Blogged and flogged: Lethal tussle between fundamentalism and free expression in Bangladesh

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By Ridham Gambhir

Free speech is strangled when fanaticism provokes men to kill other men for their creed and outlook. Here is a look at the brutality suffered by four secular bloggers of Dhaka.

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Niloy Chakrabarty

Niloy Chakrabarty, a secular blogger in Bangladesh was hacked to death with machetes after a gang of men forced themselves into his apartment and killed him while shouting Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). This murder is the fourth of its kind.

Known by the pen name Niloy Neel, the latter wrote posts condemning the killings of the 3 bloggers in Bangladesh. He also wrote against communalism and advocated for rights of the minority community and women.

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Avijit Roy and his wife

A prominent advocate of free expression, Avijit Roy, was murdered by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 26 February 2015. He and his wife were returning from a fair when they were attacked by unidentified assailants. Roy founded Mukto-Mona, an Internet community for freethinkers, skeptics, nationalists and humanists. Roy described his writing as “taboo” in Bangladesh. He had received death threats from fundamentalist bloggers for his political articles. Rokomari.com, a Bangladeshi e-commerce site, stopped selling Roy’s books after its owner received death threats from Islamists. In an interview with BBC Newshour, Roy’s wife said that police stood nearby when they were attacked on the spot but did not act.

Roy on the founding mission of Mukto-Mona-

“Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science”.

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Ananta Bijoy Das

Bangladeshi blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was killed in an attack by four men wielding machetes in May 2015 in Sylhet. Das wrote blogs for Mukto-Mona, a website once moderated by Avijit Roy. The former was killed in broad daylight, when he was leaving his place to head for work.

Das was also a member of Gonojagoron Moncho, a political movement calling for the execution of war criminals and opposing Islamist political parties. His work focused on science and evolution, but he also criticized some aspects of Islam and Hinduism. After his death, local Gonojagoron activists organised a protest rally, demanding immediate arrest of the killers.

Blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was ambushed by three men, out of which two were students. In their confession, the latter told police that they didn’t know what a blog was or what Rahamn wrote. They were following somebody else’s order and Rahamn’s murder was a “religious duty”.

On social media, Rahman reposted a cartoon depicting Prophet Mohammed from the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. He wished a happy birthday to author Taslima Nasreen, who was forced to flee Bangladesh due to death threats from fundamentalists. And he “liked” a picture of sausages wrapped in crescent rolls that someone had captioned, “Pigs in burqas”. Shortly after this, the blogger received threats and was later slaughtered like an animal.

What crime had these four men committed? Their crime was that they wrote with audacity and blew the clarion of their critical perspective on fundamentalism. These four bloggers wrote and got machetes at their neck that too in a country that has a long tradition of official secularism — the principle was enshrined in the 1971 Bangladesh Constitution.

Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh, an Al- Qaeda-affiliated group, has claimed responsibility for the killing and threatens to follow its ‘hit list‘ which include other secularists.

It is ironical how these four men were writing against religious extremism and communalism and their assailants proved the same by practicing it in broad daylight. Brad Thor, an award-winning writer believed that the freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people. These four people evinced their secularity and skepticism even in their deaths.

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Bangladeshi social activists shout slogans during a protest against the killing of US blogger Avijit Roy.

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India will soon ask Malaysia to extradite Preacher Zakir Naik

India will soon approach Malaysia with a request to extradite hardline Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

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India will Request Malayasia to extradite Zakir Naik
India will Request Malayasia to extradite Zakir Naik. wikimedia commons
  • India will seek the Malaysian government’s help in extraditing televangelist Zakir Naik who faces charges of money laundering and inciting hatred through his sermons broadcast on Peace TV, the foreign ministry said Friday.

Zakir Naik obtained permanent residency in Malaysia 

Officials will approach their Malaysian counterparts with the extradition request sometime within the next two weeks, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a weekly news briefing in New Delhi.

“Any formal request seeking the assistance of a foreign government in cases of extradition requires a completion of the internal legal process involving consultation with other ministries involved in the case,” Kumar said.

“At this stage, we are nearing the completion of this process and as soon as this process is complete we will be making an official request to the Malaysian government in this matter,” Kumar said. “It could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks. But it would be soon and the nature of our request would also be clear.”

Naik fled India a month before terrorist carried out a massacre at a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in July 2016. This week, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said the Islamic preacher legally obtained permanent residency in the country, and that Malaysian authorities would arrest him only if he broke local laws or was found to be involved in terrorist activities.

Naik’s speeches allegedly inspired some of the militants who carried out the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, where 29 people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, were killed.

In November 2016, the Indian government banned Naik’s Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation, which partly funded the Peace TV channel that is banned in India, Bangladesh and several other countries.

Kumar said because the Indian government had knowledge of Naik’s whereabouts, the legal procedures would be tailored to requirements between the two countries in their extradition treaty.

Advocate challenges charges

“Naik is being hounded because he hails from a minority community. The charges that the investigating agencies are trying to frame are all stale and are hardly incriminating,” advocate S. Hariharan told BenarNews in a phone interview from Delhi.

“The charges lack veracity and would not stand scrutiny in the court of law. We will be challenging the extradition and deportation.”

Last week, the Indian government filed a 61-page charge sheet against Naik alleging he was involved in a criminal conspiracy by lauding terrorist organizations. In April, a non-bailable warrant was issued against him in an alleged case of money laundering through his NGO and a shell company.

In Malaysia meanwhile, the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) has urged the government to ignore any request from India to extradite Zakir Naik, Reuters reported.

“For Muslim individuals, even when they won by using arguments and not weapons, like Dr. Zakir Naik, they are considered terrorists because their arguments cannot be countered,” PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang wrote last week in an opinion piece published in Harakah Daily.(BenarNews)

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Iran Accuses CIA for spreading ‘Fake News’ about Tehran’s support to Al Qaeda

The document, part of nearly 47,000 documents released by the CIA, quoted the group's slain leader Osama bin Laden as saying: "Anyone who wants to strike America, Iran is ready to support him and help him with their frank and clear rhetoric."

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has posted a tweet after the release of a 19-page Al Qaeda report in Arabic, which claimed Iran supported the extremist group before the 9/11 attacks. VOA

Tehran, November 3, 2017 : Iran on Friday accused the CIA of spreading “fake news” about Tehrans support to the Al Qaeda, describing the claims as an attempt to “whitewash” the truth about the role US allies had in the September 11, 2001 attacks

“A record low for the reach of petrodollars: CIA & FDD fake news w/ selective Al Qaeda docs re: Iran can’t whitewash role of US allies in 9/11,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Friday.

Zarif posted the tweet after the release of a 19-page Al Qaeda report in Arabic, which claimed Iran supported the extremist group before the 9/11 attacks.

The document, part of nearly 47,000 documents released by the CIA, quoted the group’s slain leader Osama bin Laden as saying: “Anyone who wants to strike America, Iran is ready to support him and help him with their frank and clear rhetoric.”

It claimed that Iran and Al Qaeda could overlook their differences and join forces when it came to confronting the US.

The US government’s 9/11 Commission has made similar allegations, saying Iranian officials met Al Qaeda leaders in Sudan in either 1991 or early 1992.

Last year, a New York court ordered Iran to pay $7.5 billion in damages to the families of the 9/11 victims.

The release of the files comes as US President Donald Trump’s administration seeks to ramp up pressure on Iran, refusing to certify a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

The Fars news agency, which is close to Iranian conservatives, said on Thursday that the selective publication of documents by the CIA related to Al Qaeda was part of efforts “to put pressure on Iran”. (IANS)

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Warning Signs of Radicalization : Understanding What Makes a Terrorist

The internet is an irrefutable aspect of modern life. But do you know what your child is doing online?

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Radicalization
What motivates children to join terrorist outfits and participate in extremist activities? Pixabay
  • Radicalization is the process by which young individuals are introduced to a blatantly ideological message that accompanies extreme views
  • Over 50 per cent of the radicalization operations carried out by terrorist organizations are conducted over the internet
  • Parents must observe any change in their child’s behavior to gauge potential radicalization

New Delhi, September 4, 2017 : Imagine looking at a video of adolescents in camouflage, wearing ISIS bandanas in a barren dessert, learning hand-to-hand combat. Imagine ISIS fighters wielding long daggers standing behind them, wearing black scarves that mask their faces.

Imagine watching these masked men address the government; they claim that the government is no longer fighting an insurgency but an entire army of young adolescent recruits- kids who should have stayed in school.

ISIS has made shocking progress in expanding its operations in recent times due to the upsurge in enthusiasm that would-be jihadist from all parts of the globe demonstrate to join their fight in Iraq and Syria.

However, one of the most frequently asked questions about terrorism traces the very root of the matter.

Why do children join terrorist outfits and participate in extremist activities?

The ISIS runs an elaborate operation that targets, manipulates and eventually recruits young people to believe and uphold their twisted ideologies- a process understood as radicalization.

 

What is radicalization?

According to a report published by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 2009, radicalization is understood as the process by which young individuals are introduced to a blatantly ideological message that accompanies extreme views.

While radicalization is not always negative, it becomes problematic when it culminates into acts of violence, a phenomenon common to organizations like ISIS, IRA and Al Qaeda.

Over 50 per cent of their radicalization operations are conducted over the internet- a space flocked and dominated by young, impressionist minds.

 

Online risk of radicalization

According to John Horgan, a psychologist at UMass- Lowell who specializes in terrorism, terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, and ISIS can be viewed as amateur psychologists, who are also adept marketers. They provide youngsters, usually very young people, with a ‘one time offer’ and encourage them to act fast.

These extremist organizations make use of internet and the social media to communicate and spread their messages, and recruit people to join their forces.

In an attempt to brainwash and lure young individuals to join forces, their messages usually present extremist vision as an exciting alternate to the ‘mainstream’.

ALSO READ Pakistani Militant Group Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) Now Targeting Women as New Jihad Recruits through their Magazine

Who are most vulnerable to radicalization?

Personal attributes or local factors can make an individual more susceptible to extremist influence. An absence of a positive, supportive force can additionally accelerate the process of radicalization.

  • Children struggling with independent identity

Some children can have a hard time accepting the culture they practice, which can make them question their place in the society. Young children tend to struggle establishing a sense of independent identity which often makes them vulnerable to extremist influence.

  • Personal circumstances

Instances in a child’s personal life such as fights within the family, or undergoing any trauma can increase their vulnerability to radicalization. Extremists prey on children with low-self esteem, who harbor feelings of injustice, such as those who believe they have been subjected to racial discrimination.

Additionally, kids who feel detested by their peers or abandoned by their family members are also at a greater risk of harboring feelings of vengeance that can motivate them to indulge in extremist behavior.

  • Emotional response

Kids who seek adventure and excitement tend to indulge in activities just for the adrenaline rush, without thinking about the consequences. Additionally, kids who yearn to dominate or control others and those who are comfortable with violence can also be an easy target for radicalization.

  • External factors

A child can also be influenced by what he experiences in the local community, country or when exposed to people who have joined any extremist group.

  • Criminal background

Individuals with a previous criminal background or those who find it difficult to integrate with the mainstream society after serving sentence in a jail, or a reprimand home may also be at a greater risk.

  • Exposure and indulgence with technology

Additionally, kids who spend increasing amount of time online, or have no supervision on their online interaction are at a greater risk.

Radicalization
FILE – Indonesian youths browse their social media accounts at an Internet cafe in Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA

Signs of Radicalization

There is no single route to radicalization- it can either occur quickly, or over a long period. Sometimes, there can be clear warning signs that can intimidate you when a child acts out of character. But, sometimes, these changes may not be very obvious,

  • Change in appearance and personal relationships

Young individuals may distance themselves from people, bring a significant change in their appearance and dressing style and refrain from activities that were previously a part of routine.

  • Change in political orientation

The children may exhibit sudden indulgence in a particular behavior or growing interest in politics especially relating to trouble areas. They may additionally become intolerant to those who do not share the same beliefs as them (other religions, races and ethnicity) and may begin to look down upon them.

ALSO READ How a young Astronomer from Turkey turned into an Islamic State Fighter

  • Change in online identity

A change in the online identity of the individual such as changing their username on various social media accounts or the profile picture. Alternately, the individual may make two parallel profiles- one being the ‘normal’ one and the other used for extremist purposes, more often than not with a pseudonym.

Spending long hours on the internet, being secretive and showing reluctance to divulge personal details and information about their whereabouts also comprise suspicious behavior.

  • Additional signs can also include a growing fondness, sympathy or justification for extremist ideologies, increasing interest in accessing more extremist material online, being in contact with extremist recruiters or jihadis, etc.

Exhibition of one of these signs does not necessarily mean that a child is being radicalized. They can also point out to other issues that a child might be facing, such as depression.

At the heart of it all is – COMMUNICATION.

Talking to children regularly and honestly is the best way to keep them safe. Making sure that the individual is safe online is also of equal importance.

An individual undergoes several changes during adolescence that can either make children react in different ways. As a parent, you should try and recognize these changes and trace their roots. Also, we would suggest addressing all issues, rather than simply ridiculing or ignoring them.

 


 

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