So, you are the government of an aspiring middle-income Asian nation. There are, of course, many in the world like you, who have struggled to come where you have. For one, you wear your history like a badge of honour. You find yourself overburdened by a population that is next to impossible to control. You have poverty and sickness. You’re putting all your efforts into digitising your nation. You have NGOs galore and a penchant for filling the role of a small fish in a big pond with much aplomb.
You, unfortunately, in this age of Islamophobia, find yourself with a majority Muslim population. As such, due to various factors, factors that have become increasingly contentious both in their very nature and in the very attempt of trying to understand them, you suddenly find yourself with a growing militancy cum terrorism problem.
So what do you do? Here are three easy steps you can follow to get rid of terrorism in your country.
First, deny that your terrorism has international influences. Gone are the days when terrorism comprised lone-wolf vigilantes with psychological issues.
Gone are the days when you could pass these off as isolated incidents that are not reflective of the nation’s consciousness at all (much like the way the West continues to do with “terrorist” attacks perpetrated by white men).
But you have to try. This is despite the fact that, in an era of increasing globalisation, with the advent of groups like IS and al-Qaeda that have far-reaching networks throughout the world and who provide a certain class of people with a false sense of redemption, it is inevitable that international links and influences are part and parcel of the terrorist mindset.
Though this may seem futile and insipid, you are clearly overestimating your population. You do not try without reason and, remember, this is only the first step. The benefits of these are two-fold.
As initially mentioned, your population, mostly because it finds itself bursting at the seams, cannot afford food or proper education and are prone to believing whatever narrative you spin them.
Secondly, it might be of some help if your opposition party has extremist connections, so linking them with the recent spate of terrorism goes a long way in ensuring your perennial time at the helm to fight terrorism better.
You will, at least, fight terrorism. God knows what will happen if they, with their mollahs, come to power. That’s what the public are thinking now, anyway.
The second step, as you continue to push for home-grown terrorism, you start tracking these terrorists down.
They seem to fit a certain profile: Young, middle-class, educated. They are holed up in these apartments and making plans and bombs.
So you deploy the best you got: The army, the police, your most lethal crime-fighting forces. They go in, seeking (of course) to capture these terrorists. Because you need them alive, right? So you can interrogate them further and get more information to try and understand why so many of your young population are fighting the bad fight.
But no, they fight back. They want to die for their god, their cause, their faith. So you mow them down and kill them but at least, it’s a win-win situation because the entire country thinks you’re fighting terrorism with full force. Dead bodies (unseen) make for good pro-government publicity.
And the fact that you have no inkling as to what is causing the radicalisation of your youth? That doesn’t matter.
What is crucial at this juncture is to provide an illusion of your knowledge of the situation or, rather, of you having the situation under control.
The final step is also the most important one. After you’ve realised that much of it is not under your control because terrorism doesn’t come out of a vacuum, but out of a generation that has been neglected psychologically, has grown up under the auspices of your corrupt practices, and within an extremist culture that has been allowed to fester due to the reasons mentioned above, you ban social media.
What is crucial at this juncture is to provide an illusion of your knowledge of the situation or, rather, of you having the situation under control
Why? Because that’s what young terrorists do, of course! They go on Facebook, or Twitter, or Whatsapp, and then they are recruited by other terrorists from all across the world. Banning these sites will inevitably lead to them losing their one and only means of communication.
As we all know, terrorists do not know how to use proxy websites, or are completely unaware of other applications which pretty much serve the same purpose. You can just imagine the scene: A bearded veteran terrorist in his hole somewhere outside the capital, unable to spread his message because he can’t use Viber instead of Whatsapp, or Instagram instead of Facebook, or Skype, or Link, or Telegram, or Tumblr.
But, it’s difficult. So much of the population is dependent on social media, and crave it with such fervour (you, being of a certain age, fail to understand the reasons because of the ever-widening generation gap). So you start by merely “proposing” that it be banned for certain hours at night.
When the public has been scared and jarred enough by even the possibility of such a ridiculous notion, and they’ve gotten used to it (after all, your population has accepted all of your other flaws with such incredible apathy), you actually implement the ban. You’ve done it before.
You start from six hours, to 12, to 18, to altogether, until you’re China-like in your rule over the people. (But what happened to your dreams of digitisation? Never mind, no one will notice the hypocrisy). You spin a web that covers more and more until you finally achieve the apex of governmental bliss: A police state.
Once that is done, you’re in the clear. If you’ve followed these steps, your ride into the future will eventually lead to absolute control over the minds and wills of the people.
Oh, and that terrorism thing? That will be all but forgotten. Can you even remember what you were worried about in the first place?
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @snrasul.