Influential ‘The Guardian’ newspaper ran a report on the rise of religious extremists in Bangladesh and the role of those returning home from Europe and the US in fuelling radicalism.
The Guardian journalists Simon Tisdall and Anna Ridout spoke to the Bangladesh leader, some other politicians, campaigners against Islamic radicalism and security experts for the report.
It quotes Bangladesh security and intelligence experts to say British jihadis are backing an Islamist revival in Bangladesh by training a new generation of young religious radicals sympathetic to ISIS.
“Recruiters and extremist funding from Britain’s Bengali diaspora communities are encouraging locals to join the cause of international jihad, and the number of Bangladeshis involved in salafi groups is rising,” says the report, quoting experts.
In an interview to the paper, Hasina warned the British government that it needed to take more steps on the ground.
“Jamaat has a strong influence in east London. That’s true. They are collecting money, they are sending money.”
The warnings follow the arrest of Bangladeshi-origin British citizen Touhidur Rahman in Dhaka last month on charges of masterminding the murders of secular bloggers Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das.
Links between people from Britain with Bengali roots and extremist groups in Bangladesh and elsewhere, including Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), recently also came to light.
In the most recent instance reported, ISIS recruits Ruhul Amin and Reyaad Khan, killed by British and US drone strikes in Syria last month, were of Bangladeshi origin.
The Guardian said security analysts, intelligence specialists and former officials in Dhaka warned that Bangladesh was 'increasingly ripe for radicalisation'.
It quoted a former army intelligence specialist, who sought to be anonymous, as saying that "up to 30 Bangladeshis went to Syria and Iraq to fight for the ISIS".
"Bangladesh is becoming a transit route to Isis from India. We also have growing numbers of Bangladeshi diaspora guys coming here from Britain to recruit,” he told the paper.
A director of an NGO specialising in security issues, who like others sought anonymity, said there were "very large numbers of young men who don’t have a job or any prospects".
Touhidur Rahman, first from left, a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was held with two others on charges of masterminding murders of secular bloggers Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das.
"Their only experience is the madrasa and the mosque… These people want to be used, so they are very easily manipulated," he told The Guardian.
"When Bengalis from the UK come in, they are very easy to lead," he explained.
"These kids will do whatever they’re told. Nobody asks any questions of religious leaders. If the leaders say ‘do it’, they do it,” he added.
He blamed the "lack of government services" and Jamaat's "political exclusion for creating space for the fundamentalists".
Jamaat could not contest the last general election after the High Court cancelled its registration with the Election Commission as a political party.
Two of its top leaders have been executed for war crimes and most others are awaiting trial.
There is also a growing demand to ban the party that opposed independence from Pakistan.
Jamaat’s influence on the Bangladeshi community in east London and other cities is so well-established that the East London mosque states on its website that it is “not affiliated to or controlled by Jamaat”. But it does admit that it hosted Jamaat speakers in the past.
They include Jamaat Nayeb-e-Amir and war criminal Delwar Hossain Sayedee, who had been sentenced to death by a tribunal for his atrocities during the war.
The sentence was commuted to life in prison later.
Referring to the Jewish-Muslim interfaith organisation, StandForPeace, The Guardian reported: “the East London mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe are both leading Jamaat organisers in Britain".
It added: "Both institutions heavily promote the writings of Syed Maududi, the founder of Jamaat Islamism, whose book, Let Us Be Muslims, tells followers: “You must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule.”
Britain and the US are backing the hardline stance that the Hasina government has taken on counterterrorism.
But, ‘The Guardian’ that interviewed insiders in Dhaka says these countries are "missing the bigger picture: the below-the-radar, large-scale radicalisation of younger generations".
Hasina defended her zero-tolerance approach to terrorism, which has provoked fierce criticism from human rights groups for its negative impact on civil liberties.
She, in the interview to the daily, insisted the security situation in Bangladesh was under control.
“[The fundamentalist groups] are trying, no doubt about it, and there are some people trying to encourage them, but we have controlled the situation,” she was quoted as saying.
The prime minister also stressed the need of closer international cooperation to stop the spread of radical ideas from the West to Bangladesh.
“Certainly we want cooperation from all other countries so that they should be very careful that no illegal money or arms or terrorists should take any chance to create any problem to any other country,” she told the British paper.