03/12/2021, 13.30
BANGLADESH
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Islamist groups recruiting among the transgender community

by Sumon Corraya

Two arrested militants have confessed to taking part in organising trans people by teaching them the Qurʼān. The campaign is promoted by the same groups that attack scientific communicators, bloggers and journalists. COVID-19 fundraisers have also become a means of Islamist propaganda.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Bangladeshi Islamist groups are looking to the transgender community as a new source for recruits.

Two Islamist militants recently arrested by police have said they had been trying to recruit transgender people (hijras) for their group.

They turned to them in the name of Islamic doctrine, but it is also relatively easy to convince them since members of the transgender community are often in need, poor and socially marginalised.

Local law enforcement agencies are very concerned about such activity.

Sources have revealed that Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami and other groups involved in attacks against scientific communicators, bloggers and journalists are leading the campaign.

The two arrested militants have confessed to being active in Islamist organising within the transgender communities by teaching the Qurʼān and trying to get them to become militant.

A Dhaka trans woman named Nur Jahan told AsiaNews that she was recently invited to participate in some Qurʼānic lessons.

“We transgender people are forgotten by family and society,” she said. “An organisation contacted me for a course that hasn't started yet.”

Jahan noted that she is aware of the activities by Islamists and does not approve of them, so she will not attend the course.

A police officer who requested anonymity told AsiaNews that Islamist groups are involved in many projects, including teaching the Qurʼān and fundraising for  COVID-19-related needs.

They also collect zakat  (alms) among  Bangladeshi emigrants in foreign countries, and use social media to urge people to make donations for their activities.

According to government estimates, Bangladesh is home to about 10,000 hijras, the name used for transgender people in South Asia. According to local NGOs, however, their number is much higher, in excess of 50,000.

The main goal of most Islamist groups in Bangladesh is to set up an Islamic state and govern the country according to Sharia (Islamic law). To this end, they have carried out attacks against the government and civil society groups.

The bloodiest incident was the Gulshan Café massacre on 1 July 2016, in which 29 people were killed, including nine Italians.

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