World terrorism has so far seen four distinct waves, according to the Global Terrorism Index. Beginning with the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the world witnessed the most violent period of terrorism in the third wave during 2011 to 2014 with the emergence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Holey Artisan attack in July 2016 in Bangladesh, however, unfolded at a time when global terrorism entered its fourth wave, marking a gradual decline.
After ISIS began to lose its grounds in Iraq and Syria, the group launched sporadic attacks in various parts of the world in a bid to spread Jihadi terrorism globally. But as we stand at the eve of the fourth wave of global terrorism now –despite many attempts from this terrorist group –Jihadi terrorism is experiencing a significant low since it had peaked in 2014 courtesy of ISIS.
In a bid to expand their brand of terrorism, the ISIS, like any other terrorist organisation, emerged within the Muslim communities primarily across the Middle East where US intervention unseated the local hegemons in the name of democracy. As for ISIS and its formation, it adopted a distorted version of religion, which encouraged hatred against the other, fomented intolerance, thereby leading to rapes and mass murders.
The Holey Artisan attack in Dhaka came packed with the same kind of hatred that gripped the world at war zones, where extreme partisanism appeared between faiths, races and ethnicities. The terrorists on the fateful night of July 1, 2016, Holey Artisan Bakery declared that the "true" Muslims among the hostages would be left unharmed while they would murder the non-Muslims and the foreigners.
The hatred for the other that now seems to be spreading across the globe like a new social malady is not necessarily the forte of the ISIS alone, nor is it a phenomenon that ISIS was solely responsible for. The so-called Islamic outfit only brought to this hatred some irrational dimensions that seem to resonate with the dark ages. Social conflicts that take human hatred to an all new level, however, continue today to soar all over the world, including the West and Asia.
According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), in 2019, the West has witnessed 320 per cent rise in far-right terrorism.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the word "terrorism" had been used exclusively to incriminate the terrorists who belong to the Islamic faith and it became a way to denounce the Muslims. Muslims and terrorism became synonymous, thanks to the global media.
The Christchurch attacks in New Zealand followed by the El Paso shooting in Texas, United States, however, largely changed that point of view since after these massacres the world attention was drawn to the dangerous character of white supremacist terrorism.
The global decline of Jihadi terrorism doesn't forecast its end, not just yet. Because this type of terrorism has always gone through a complex pattern of rise and fall.
Following the violent rise in terrorism after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, terrorists groups were weakened during the phase between 2008 and 2011 only to have spiralled into a fierce third wave with the emergence of the ISIS.
What followed afterword, following the death of the IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the most vicious group is now seem to have been weakened from within. But in the absence of organisational strength of the terrorist groups, many of the terrorist attacks are now being perpetrated by "lone actors" and "self-radicalised" terrorists, thanks to the "digitalisation" of terrorism.
Like any other countries, the digital terrorism poses a greater risk of self-radicalised terrorist activities in Bangladesh. In the era of "broken" internet, when radical propagandas are so easily accessible, Jihadi and white supremacist terrorism march hand in hand to encroach on more areas – virtual and real – than ever before.
Whereas in 2004, some 39 countries reported at least of a single death incident because of terrorism, in 2016, at least 79 countries reported of similar deaths. With the digitalisation of Jihadism in the Muslim majority countries and the rise of far-right violence in the west, lone actors and self-radicalised terrorists ¬(for example the Christchurch and El Paso shooters) thus emerged as a dangerous threat.
The way Bangladesh addressed terrorism following the Holey Artisan attack, Jihadi terrorism in Bangladesh has so far remained under control. Now the Holey Artisan verdict sends a strong message from Bangladesh against such terrorism, believes former Inspector General of Police of Bangladesh Muhammad Nurul Huda.
The former IGP, however, cautions that the overall actions from the government and this verdict alone may not be enough to root out terrorism from Bangladesh. Nurul Huda recommends a "holistic approach" from various stakeholders, including law enforcing agencies, civil society and the clerics to work together so that terrorists cannot brainwash people through their distorted presentation of religion.
It requires serious observation as to how far the existing polarised social sphere in Bangladesh along with curbed civil rights, including the lack of freedom of speech and a transparent democratic system, may help the country to achieve sustainable security.
At the same time, the temporary decline in the global terrorism may lead to some form of lull in terrorist activities, but as long as the world fails to address the key issues that contribute to the rise of terrorism in the first place, the possibility of emergence of the same in cruder forms remains. As long as the helpless Palestinian youth continue to throw rocks aimed at the Israeli army to fight against apartheid, as long as the fossil fuel-oriented civilisations continue to create its own fallout zones and destroy lives for more profit, the world may remain a dangerous place.