Following 9/11, Bangladesh surfaced as a destination for al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives fleeing Afghanistan. These concerns were bolstered by the October 2001 elections, in which the right-of-center Bangladesh National Party (BNP) came to power with the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Observers began untangling the ties among Bangladesh-based militants and those in India and Pakistan. Many analysts dismissed warnings of Islamist militancy, citing Bangladesh's development advances (especially among females), economic accomplishments, strong Sufi traditions, staunchly secular and nationalist independence movement, and bona fides as a successful Muslim democracy. Dhaka outright denied that Islamist militant groups existed, a claim that was obviated in August 2005, when two militant groups detonated more than 450 bombs across the country in less than an hour. The state and the international community were forced to reckon with the facts.

Ali Riaz's scholarship has carefully detailed the predictable rise of Islamism and Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. Riaz's most...

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