Dhaka, December 4, 2016 (Alochonaa): Like many countries in the world Bangladesh has been facing the challenge of violent extremism for more than a decade now. The strategy to counter violent extremism has been mainly reactive policing based on application of force. Such strategy has been significantly successful to weaken the terrorist networks but did not manage to uproot the recruitment of new members and formation of new terror networks.
The recent events of terrorism in the country justify the need for adopting long term strategies for countering violent extremism in all forms. The Youth are the most vulnerable group to be recruited for violent extremism. Therefore, it is imperative that the strategy to counter violent extremism must be youth centric. The rethinking of our strategy to fight and counter violent extremism must be based on clearer understanding of psycho social position of youth in Bangladesh. At present 47.8% of our population is aged between 0-24 years. This simple demographic indicator represents a country with a very young population with the potential to have more young people in near future.
Probably one of the biggest questions faced by the researchers and policy makers of Counter Violent extremism is why the Youth in Bangladesh get radicalized.
To explore this issue it is important to acknowledge that Youth is full of energy and enthusiasm which needs to be channeled in a constructive manner. Young minds look for change in life and society and they seek opportunities to get involved in nation building works. They also seek recognition for their contributions to society. Seeking such opportunities and recognition is part of human behavioral pattern which is true to every society and country.
In our country there is little opportunity for young people to get involved in politics and to be heard. In the overall Global Youth Development Index Bangladesh ranks 146 out of 183 countries. The most striking feature of the GYDI is that Bangladesh ranks 177 out of 183 countries in terms of creating opportunities to be involved in the political process. That means we have reduced the opportunities and space for our biggest demographic segment to play significant role in political process and progress forward through the political establishment.
Moreover, young people look for icons to follow in their lives. In Bangladesh if we look around us then it is very difficult to identify any iconic figure that the youth can follow en mass. In the field of literature and philosophy we also lack writings which can cross the boundary of time and influence the minds of the younger generation. In this vacuum of political, literary and philosophical iconic figures and time tested writings the obvious contender is religion to fill in that vacuum. The geo political factors for global terrorism and violent extremism have added fuel to the fire.
We need to design our national narratives to counter violent extremism on the basis of our own set of factors. The set of push and pull factors for violent extremism may vary regionally or nationally. These factors of violent extremism in South East Asia may differ from South Asia. For example, in Indonesia military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq may have been a major push factor for violent extremism. On the other hand in Pakistan poor justice system, ethnic and religious marginalization and intolerance may be identified as push factors.
An assessment exercise to map out the push and pull factors for violent extremism in Bangladesh can be given due consideration as good starting point. Such an exercise will help to identify the relevant issues based on which we can prepare our narratives to counter violent extremism and identify the appropriate medium to disseminate the narratives among the youth. Capacity building of justice related institutions and involvement of various stakeholders will play an effective role to disseminate our counter narratives against violent extremism.
*Mr Sadat is an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is currently working as the Academic Coordinator at South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SAILS). Views Expressed here are authors own
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