Bangladesh’s Half-Paved Road to Normalizing Relations With Israel

by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Islamist forces, sadly with the apparent aid of Western powers, look to curb Bangladesh’s move toward Israel and regional peace.

Extreme Islamists Hefazat-e-Islam confronting Bangladesh police.
Extreme Islamists Hefazat-e-Islam confronting Bangladesh police. Photo: Maruf Rahman/Pixabay

Editor’s note: Israel Today is especially attuned to gestures of reconciliation coming from any Muslim-majority nation. What many of us may not have realized is that several Asian nations contain the biggest Muslim populations, more than the ethnically Arab states. With a population of 165 million, made up of around 90% Muslims, Bangladesh houses the 4th largest population of Muslims in the world – after Indonesia, Pakistan and India. (Bangladesh is located just east of India.) Salah Shoaib is a pro-Israel journalist from Bangladesh. He is continually checking the pulse of his country’s stance toward Israel, as well as monitoring and advocating against Islamic violence. Let’s join him as he gives a quick update.

 


 

As a gesture toward “thawing” relations with the Jewish state, last year the Bangladesh government removed the travel restriction “Except Israel” from its passport.

Predictably, the Palestinian envoy in Dhaka expressed annoyance and even demanded clarification from the government.

For years Bangladesh had been maintaining a total ban on Israel, and Islamist politicians in the mainstream political parties were portraying Israel as an “enemy nation,” despite the fact that Israel had extended support during Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971 and was amongst the first four nations to recognize the newly-born country in December of that year. But unfortunately at that time, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed, was a supporter of the Palestinians and a friend of Yasser Arafat. He outrightly rejected Israel’s recognition at the advice of his Pakistani masters1.

During the past five decades, although there have been many political ups and downs while the country came under two cruel military dictatorships, there has never been any change in Bangladesh’s policy toward Israel; despite the fact that the Bangladesh constitution clearly states “Friendship to all, malice to none” as the core principle of its foreign policy.

Though committed to fighting religious extremism and Islamist militancy, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government are still hesitant to normalize relations with Israel, fearing adverse reaction from the Islamist forces in the country.

 

A fresh breeze of normalization with Israel

Some key policymakers in the government are in favor of normalizing relations with Jerusalem, as there is a fresh breeze of peace between Israel and Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia.

Recently, Indonesia and Pakistan sent secret delegations to Jerusalem, which clearly shows signs of additional normalization with Asian Muslim nations. At this august junction, where there finally is a prospect of normalizing relations between Dhaka and Jerusalem, Bangladesh is heading toward another general election, which is scheduled to take place in January 2024.

However, Islamist political forces, such as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami are clearly seeking help from the US, EU and British authorities in helping them oust the present secularist government and return to power through manipulated elections held under these international powers.

According to media reports, additional Islamic political parties are also aiming to emerge as a major factor in the next parliament (such as the Bangladesh Islami Front, Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Zeker Party, Jamiyat-e-Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh, etc)

Meanwhile, pro-Caliphate [!] Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) which has a strong constituency among Muslim madrassa teachers and students is also holding secret negotiations with several Islamic parties with the aim of filing its own candidates in a large number of constituencies. It may be mentioned here that they have connections with militant outfits such as Al Qaeda franchise Ansar Al Islam.

HeI and most of the Islamic parties in Bangladesh want to replace democracy with sharia rule or a caliphate in Bangladesh; and all of these Islamic parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, are notoriously antisemitic and anti-Israel.

 

US and the West show clear bias in favor of Islamist party!

In a complex and disturbing scenario, Western nations, particularly the US, are visibly in favor of helping the pro-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party in returning to power, as the Biden administration is signaling a direct intervention in the January 2024 general elections with clear bias on behalf of this Islamist party!

This decision can only be compared with America’s blunder of trusting the Taliban mullahs in Afghanistan and abrupt withdrawal from the country, thus leaving Afghans at the mercy of these rogue Islamists.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami have been spending millions of dollars paying lobbyists in the US for years, and it was reported in the media that countries like Pakistan, Qatar and Turkey are providing much of the funds.

Additionally, Turkish ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has provided significant funds to BNP’s leader Mahmudur Rahman who already launched a Bengali daily news service from London, as a vessel of propaganda in favor of Islamic forces in Bangladesh.

For a secularist country like Bangladesh, the January 2024 general elections are extremely crucial in deciding whether this country continues to be governed by the secularist government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, or gets hijacked by radical Islamic forces.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib

 


  1. Ironically, during the war of independence of Bangladesh, Yasser Arafat and Palestinian mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini were actively lobbying AGAINST Bangladesh independence and in favor of Pakistan rule, even branding Bengali freedom fighters terrorists and enemies of Allah. They also called Bangladesh’s liberation war an “unholy war between Muslims [Pakistanis] and infidels [Bengalis].” ↩︎

 

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