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The Rise of Extremism in Bangladesh

Who Is Responsible For The Killings?

People attend a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organising demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka, February 2013.  Andrew Biraj / Reuters

A wave of targeted murders in Bangladesh since 2013 has given observers reason to believe that the country might be the next victim of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). In a little over two years, Islamist extremists have killed dozens of bloggers, secular activists, members of minority Muslim sects, Hindus, and even a Buddhist monk in Bangladesh. The victims are tied together by their diversity and their subsequent existential challenge to monolithic, orthodox visions of political Islam.

Western governments fear that these attacks mark the spread of ISIS to Bangladesh, with one well-known local Islamist terrorist group having coalesced around the Islamic State’s flag. But William B. Milam, a former U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and Pakistan, argued in May in The New York Times that “the recent string of vicious killings in Bangladesh is less a terrorism issue than a governance issue: It is the ruling Awami

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