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by Salah Choudhury


Greetings from Dhaka!

All of my friends are aware that in 2003 I clearly mentioned in my writings and speeches that Islamist radicals were using mosques and madrassas as safe shelter, wherefrom they were operating. I would like to just remind some of my previous notes:

On October 19, 2003 I wrote an article titled "Incubating Ultra-Radicalism" in Middle East Web. In that article, I wrote:

... In recent years there has been a strong upsurge in activities of religious extremist groups in a number of countries, including Bangladesh. Recently, law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have captured members of quite a number of such groups in various parts of the country. These were operating under the umbrella of "Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas" or madrassas financed by Afro-Arab organizations. Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas are supposed to be innocent institutions where young boys learn the elements of Islamic faith, but these madrassas have a different program.

In the capital city of Dhaka, even now such organizations are quite in evidence and have large memberships. Promoters of these organizations hire huge buildings in posh areas and target boys from the semi-affluent middle class. Previously, madrassa education was mostly confined to lower income and less affluent groups. However, following the emergence of these so-called Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas in Bangladesh, the students are drawn from richer segments, and even include boys of the richest class...

... According to records of police intelligence in Bangladesh, members of this organization use the kindergarten madrassa as camouflage. They regularly communicate with various underground armed groups in the country and even recruit locals and send them to Palestine as guerilla fighters. Each recruit gets US$ 1500-2000 as an up front payment for their 'new job'. Later family members or legal representatives or spouses of these guerilla fighters will receive US$ 150-200 per month as salary. If any of the are killed during the war, their family would get US$ 5,000 as compensation.

According to the police report, Al-Haramine Institution maintains a secret training camp inside the compound of its kindergarten madrassa. The recruits are given theoretical and practical training for seven weeks before they proceed to their destination. During training, they are given an elementary idea of their responsibilities and a practical knowledge about some of the weapons used by Palestinian fighters and other extremist groups.

Al-Haramine Institute is gradually spreading its wings in other parts of Bangladesh too. Recently they have established their offices in eastern and southern Bangladesh. One of the main objectives of this organization is to sell the idea of jihad (in the sense of violent holy war) to the masses. The organization maintains very good relations with some extremist news dailies including Inqilab, Ittesal, Al-Mujadded, Sangram etc. Owners of these dailies are regularly compensated by this organization and in exchange, these newspapers give quite open support to its activities.

Al-Koran Academy is another such organization run by one Hafez Munirul Islam. He was a teacher in a local madrassa with the monthly salary of US$ 75 only. Just recently an office of Al-Koran Society has been established in Bangladesh with Hafez Munirul as its Executive Director in Bangladesh. Office of the organization is located at city's top most posh area costing US$ 2000 per month. Hafez Munirul also receives US$ 1000 as a monthly salary. This organization claims that its main activity is printing and distributing the Koran. However, in fact, Al-Koran Academy is mostly engaged in providing political coordinators for various mosques in Bangladesh. The local tax department raised questions about the sudden change in fortunes of this poor madrassa teacher, and investigated the sources of the funding. They found that most funding for this organization comes from the Middle East -- The entire article can be read at:

Then I said in my draft speech that I prepared for delivering at the symposium organized by Hebrew Writers Association in Israel in 2003 (the program was scheduled to be held on 1st of December 2003). In that speech I said:

... But even in Bangladesh -- and certainly elsewhere in the Moslem world--many of us have a blind spot, don't we? And I am ashamed to say that it is with regard to the Jewish people and Israel that too many conveniently ignore the nobler, and even essential, principles of Islam -- and of basic human decency, for G-d's sake! In contrast to the Christian missionaries are the Islamic missionaries who have taken root in Bangladesh recently. Funded by shadowy sources in the Middle East and Africa, they operate under charitable-sounding names like Islamic Hospital, Free Ambulance Service, and Kindergarten Madrassa. But charitable they are not. Whispered allegations -- for louder objections place you at considerable risk -- whispered allegations that Islamic Kindergarten Madrassas train students for guerilla war found support when many of their graduates went on to real battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq; and, yes, some even volunteered to fight alongside the PLO and other terrorist organizations right here.

"Repatriated Soldiers from Palestine," an organization in Bangladesh, cares for "soldiers" wounded in the fighting here, then recruits a fresh batch of terrorists to take their place. You might think these revelations would harm their agenda -- place them in a bad light among the people. If anything, it improves their standing in the eyes of, to my chagrin, many Bangladeshi citizens. That popularity has taken them to more affluent and influential neighborhoods, away from the lower-middle class and poverty-stricken areas that were once their exclusive location.

Children of prominent Bangladeshis now attend the Madrassas, where they learn Bangla (our vernacular), Arabic, Urdu, English, and in some places, French, as well as other advertised subjects. But they also learn the theory and practice of guerilla warfare. Old hates are taught as faith, and they learn to revere Bin Laden, Arafat, Saddam, and the shahids. Innocent Muslim children are lured towards Jihad, are taught to hate Christians and Jews, and are encouraged to kill them and destroy their property as a religious duty.

Glimpse the future leaders and elites of Bangladesh! It so distressed me to think of them taking positions of influence with the extremist attitudes, and hatred brainwashed into them by the Madrassas. These institutions surely are breeding thousands of Bin Ladens and Arafats for our children's futures.

Naturally, such education takes hold only because it finds support in other social institutions. I am sorry to confess that most mosques in Bangladesh and elsewhere have turned Friday Prayer into carefully orchestrated hate-fests. People are exhorted to hate Christians, and Jews especially. Fearing neither contradiction nor censure, Mullahs openly quote Hadit (verses from The Prophet) that any Muslim who befriends or has any relations with Jews or Christians will be cursed by Almighty G-d and sent to hell...

Government brought sedition charges against me for my comments about madrassas incubating radicals and extremists. I was arrested, tortured in remand and put inside bar for seventeen months. I was denied of all basic rights while I was in the prison. My entire family suffered mentally and well financially. Even today, the sedition charge hangs on my head. What was my 'crime'? I tried to expose the dirty and unholy conspiracy of the Islamist radicals, who got fund and planning fregardrom Afro-Arab sources to stage so-called holy war in Bangladesh. Law enforcing agencies always rejected my claim that Islamist radicals were being trained and sheltered in mosques and madrassas.

But now it comes from the horse's mouth! During interrogation by Task Force Intelligence (TFI), arrested kingpins of Islamist radical groups in Bangladesh told that mosques and madrassas are used by them as training centers.

On March 25, 2005, this news item was published in the leading English daily in Dhaka -- The Independent. It's called "Mosques, madrashas used as JMB training centres."

The Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) members received training on use of fire arms, manufacturing of bombs and exploding those at various mosques and madrasas across the country. Shaikh Abdur Rahman chief of JMB and his second-in-command Bangla Bhai, disclosed it to the Task Force Intelligence (TFI) personnel, a highly placed intelligence source told The Independent yesterday.

Both the top leaders of the JMB confessed to TFI that they used mosques and madrasas as training camps so that it would not arouse suspicion among people and the administration, the source added.

The training camps are mostly located in the southwestern region and adjoining areas of the six divisional cities in the country. The districts where most of the training camps were located are Jamalpur, Tangail, Mymensingh, Netrokana, Rajshahi, Naogaon, Bogra, Khulna, Bagherhat, Satkhira, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Comilla, Brahmanbaria and the three hill districts -- Chittagong, Kahgrachhari, Rangamati, Sylhet, Hobiganj and Gopalganj, sources said.

Intelligence agencies have detected more than seven hundred madrasas and over a hundred mosques, which were used as training camps by the JMB cadres, sources said. A good number of mosques and madrasas, used as JMB training camps, were built through financial assistance of a foreign Islamic NGO based in Kuwait.

Most of the other arrested militants also disclosed that they got training on how to handle sophisticated arms and producing bombs from different madrasas and mosques during their interrogation.

Quoting Shaikh Rahman and Bangla Bhai the intelligence source said that those who had got arms training in Afghanistan several years ago, trained a good number of JMB cadres in the country in using arms and producing bombs. But they could not confirm the exact number of JMB members who got such training from them, the intelligence sources added.

Both Shaikh and Bangla Bhai extensively visited different areas in the country and supervised the whole operation of arms training.

The Shaikh had earlier denied that there was any foreigner involved in imparting training to his cadres on the use of firearms, manufacturing and exploding bombs.

"No foreign trainer had come to Bangladesh to train the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh armed cadres on how to handle sophisticated arms and produce bombs," Shaikh Rahman told the Task Force Intelligence (TFI) during intensive interrogation since his dramatic but peaceful surrender in the besieged hideout in Sylhet, a TFI source said yesterday.

After the August 17 cross-country bombings last year the law enforcing agencies prepared a list of over 8,500 activists, including suicide squad members and district and divisional level commanders of JMB. Over six hundred of them were arrested so far by law enforcers from different parts of the country.

Some 229 cases have been filed till now with different police stations across the country in connection with serial bomb attacks. Of the cases, 52 were filed against Shaikh Abdur Rahman, 48 against Bangla Bhai and 28 against Ataur Rahman Sunny. Some 22 of the accused persons were awarded death penalty by speedy trial tribunals so far.

A high official of intelligence agencies said that Shaikh Abdur Rahman was being interrogated face to face with his second in command Bangla Bhai, who was captured wounded during a pre-surrender bomb blast and exchange of gun shots with RAB at Muktagacha in Mymensingh district on March 6.

The TFI personnel are also trying to trace their sources of fund and supply of arms and explosives at home and abroad, location of the fugitive leaders and stock of explosives of the JMB.

TFI personnel continue to grill Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai. Since Monday Shaikh and Bangla Bhai are being interrogated face to face.

During the interrogation Bangla Bhai gave vital information about his godfathers who provided him shelter in carrying out his activities at Baghmara, Raninanar and Atrai.

Bangla Bhai told the interrogators that he along with his bahini (force) gave death penalty to 22 people as per rule of Islami Shariah Ain (Islamic Shariah Law) in a bid to establish what they called the rule of Allah. Some stalwarts of the BNP Jamaat alliance government and the then local administration supported his activities and patronized him, sources said.

Both Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai have admitted that JMB had launched the countrywide serial blasts on August 17 last year in a planned way. Earlier the JMB also carried out bomb blasts in three cinema halls in Mymensingh and also at the mazars of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA) in Sylhet and Failla in Tangail. They also launched bomb attacks on Jatra pandals in Bogra.

On the basis of the statements made by the JMB leaders, crackdown on different hideouts across the country by the elite force was continuing.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a journalist, columnist, author and political analyst. He is Editor and Publisher of Weekly Blitz; Chief Editor, Weekly Jamjamat; Chief Editor, Daily Frontline. Contact him at his websites: and Or email him at


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