London: Speakers at a seminar at the House of Lords in London on “Challenges to Parliamentary Democracy and Threats of Radicalisation in Bangladesh: Way Forward” on 25 October 2018 called upon the European governments to reassess their views of Jihadist groups and said, Europe needs to understand that the rise of radicalisation and religiously-motivated violence is not a localized phenomenon in Bangladesh and in the South Asian countries, it has serious ramifications for Europe too. They called for effective engagement with the Bangladesh authorities to combat fanatic indoctrination, terrorism and other forms of political violence.
Organised by European Bangladeshi diaspora organisation, European Bangladesh Forum (EBF) the seminar was hosted by Lord Paul Bew, Patron of EBF. The speakers at the seminar were: Jim Fitzpatrick, Member of the British Parliament and Vice Chairman of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh, Syed Badrul Ahsan, Chief Editor of The Asian Age, Bangladesh, Roberta Bonazzi, founder and President of the European Foundation for Democracy, Dr. Siegfried O Wolf, German political scientist and Director of South Asia Democratic Forum, Shahriar Kabir, President of Forum for Secular Bangladesh and Martin Frampton of Queen Mary University of London. Ansar Ahmed Ullah, President of EBF gave the welcome speech. The seminar was held at a time when Bangladesh is preparing for the next general elections in December this year amidst threats of boycott by one of the major political parties, BNP. BNP had earlier threatened to boycott the elections if they are not held under a non-elected, non-party caretaker government.
Speakers in the seminar said, secular politics is today in broad outlines restored in a significant way, but warned at the same time, the forces against secularism should not be underestimated or ignored, especially at a time when Bangladesh prepares for the next general elections end of the year. They hoped that there will be a free and fair elections where all can exercise their rights of franchise.
Dr. Siefgried Wolf said, western government should not allow parties supporting or patronising terrorism to use their territories and must stop granting them safe-haven, freedom of movement. Political parties that directly or indirectly associate – either through individual members or third entities (Muslim Charity and cultural organisations) – with violent Jihadist organisations must be considered as a part of the Jihadist movement, he opined.
Writer and journalist from Dhaka, Shahriar Kabir said, from 2001 to 2006 Bangladesh witnessed an unprecedented persecution of religious minorities, mostly the Hindus. In order to convert Bangladesh into a monolithic Muslim country he added, BNP-Jamat alliance forced more than a quarter million hapless Hindus to leave Bangladesh and take shelter in neighboring India. Despite protests the then BNP coalition government did not take any measure, on the contrary several secular civil society leaders were thrown behind the bar, he added.
Roberta Bonnazi said, radicalization is a global phenomenon and it has no boundary. That is why it needs multilevel cooperation among civil societies and also in the government levels. In this respect Bangladesh needs support and cooperation from European countries and at the same time Europe has a lot to learn from Bangladesh from its successful operation against militancy and religion-based extremism.
Earlier, Lord Paul Bew in his welcome address said,we have to look at the root of violent extremism and religion-based violence, which is not only the significant issue for Bangladesh, but also significant for the European countries including United Kingdom. Through the analysis of the European and global perspectives of the militancy and terrorism, we have to increase mutual understanding and cooperation to ensure the sustainable policy and strategy to fight against all sorts of extremist threats and violence. Among others, General Secretary of World Sindhi Congress Lakhu Luhana, Director of Humane First Ajanta Deb Roy and writer PriyajitDebsarkar spoke in the seminar.
In total 50 participants from Bangladeshi and European representatives from UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany took part in the seminar.
Meeting wth the Bangladesh community
Another meeting was held on the same issue by EBF in the evening at a local hotel in London. Chaired by President of EBF Ansar Ahmed Ullah the meeting was addressed among others by President of Secular Forum Shahriar Kabir, President of UK AwamiLeague Sultan Mahmud Sharif, Senior Journalist Syed Anas Pasha and President of Bangladesh National Human Rights Alliance Arun Barua and Bikash Chowdhury.