Bangladesh Church officials wary of Taliban links

Bangladesh Church officials wary of Taliban links

Government ties with the Taliban might encourage local religious extremists, church officials say

UCA News reporter
Published: August 17, 2021 09:40 AM GMT
Bangladesh Church officials wary of Taliban links
Police detain a couple over suspected links to Islamist extremists in Chittagong on March 15, 2017, after suspected extremists threw grenades at Bangladeshi police officers. (Photo: AFP)

Catholic Church officials in Muslim-majority Bangladesh have expressed caution over any possible government ties with the Taliban following their takeover of Afghanistan, fearing it might encourage and embolden fanatic elements in the country.

The reaction comes as the government said it will welcome any government in Afghanistan if it is formed by people of that country.

“If the Taliban form a government which is of the people, our door will remain open for sure for them,” Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told reporters in capital Dhaka on Aug. 16.

Catholic officials say the Church has always supported democracy and elected governments but ties with a religious extremist group like the Taliban are not acceptable.

“Bangladesh has struggled against religious extremism and militancy, which came from mujahidins and the Taliban of Afghanistan. Now, the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Bangladesh government’s support for a Taliban regime have potential for a major boost and rise in militancy in Bangladesh again,” Holy Cross Father Liton H. Gomes, secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, told UCA News.

Father Gomes urged Bangladesh to be vigilant about the revival of militancy and to take a tougher stance against the Taliban’s retaking of Afghanistan.

Father Patrick Gomes, secretary of Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue Commission, also warned against accepting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

“Not only Catholics but no one should support any extremist government. Extremist government is not good for any society, any country,” Father Gomes told UCA News.

“I hope the Bangladesh government will not accept the Taliban government to prevent the rise of militancy in Bangladesh. The people of Afghanistan are fleeing to other places amid fears of Taliban oppression, so Bangladeshi authorities should not accept the Taliban government,” the priest added.

Security officials say law enforcement agencies are on alert to prevent any resurgence of militancy in Bangladesh.

Shafiqul Islam, the commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters on Aug. 16 that anyone having links with the Taliban or who visited Afghanistan at the behest on the Taliban would face arrest and legal action.

The police will remain on high alert and intelligence surveillance will continue, Islam said, as he urged guardians of youth, teachers and authorities to keep an eye on youths and to inform police if anyone goes missing.

Bangladesh, the world’s third largest Muslim-majority nation after Indonesia and Pakistan, has long been known as a moderate country based on a pluralistic culture despite being a fledgling democracy.

However, the country of more than 160 million has struggled against Islamic militancy for decades.

Since the 1990s, Bangladesh has seen three waves of Islamic militancy — former mujahidins of the Afghan war, Taliban fugitives and local jihadists formed them respectively, with the dream of establishing Bangladesh as an Islamic state like Pakistan, according to Ali Riaz, a Bangladesh-born, US-based political and security analyst.

In the latest bout of Islamic militancy since 2013, homegrown extremists pledging allegiance to global terror outfits Islamic State and al-Qaeda have murdered some 50 people including atheist bloggers, liberal writers, academics, LGBT activists, religious minorities and foreigners.

In the worst militant attack on July 1, 2016, five terrorists stormed a café in Gulshan, an upscale diplomatic area of Dhaka, and massacred 22 guests, most of them foreigners.

In response, the government launched a heavy-handed crackdown and security forces killed dozens of leaders and members of militant groups in a series of raids. Dozens of militant leaders and members have been arrested and put on trial, and some have been sentenced to death.

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