In the riverine landscape of Bangladesh, Islamic fundamentalism is steadily and diligently turning the society and politics of the country into a marshy quagmire. Unable to capture power through the democratic process, the “humanist face” of Islam is being morphed to make way for a new political & profit making Islam. Given the limited electoral base that leading Islamic parties like the Jamat-e- Islami and Islamic Oikya Jote enjoy (they won a pitiable number of 18 and 2 seats respectively in the 2001 election), their moves have surreptitiously shifted to the flourishing finances of terrorism and fundamentalism. The plaint government, which easily bends to their beats, has been more than accommodating to their calls. Given the important geo-strategic location that Bangladesh enjoys vis-à-vis its porous borders with India, as well as its proximity to South East Asian countries, these institutionalised frameworks can dangerously work towards making it an exporter of terrorism in the region.
Having an economics of their own, the fundamentalist operatives have created a state within a state and an economy within an economy. Ranging from micro to macro level, this ‘efficient enterprise’ has spread its tentacles beyond the mosques and madarssas, to innumerable establishments like financial institutions, local level NGOs, news media and country level trading enterprises. These fundamentalist outfits are estimated to rake in an annual profit of $200 million; and 10% of the same is estimated to be spent on training and salaries of about 500,000 cadres. The booming sector averages a growth of 9% now, as compared to a 5% growth registered in the national economy.
In a country which has high inequality and 45% population living below the poverty line, this extreme version of religion falsely aims at uniting people, warning them about invisible enemies. Those enemies, in the case of Bangladesh, happen to be, one, their minority community, and two, the giant neighbour next door - India. The product of this economy is indeed lethal.