What drives young terrorists?

These are relatively young men who went into one of the most happening cafes in the country, and began what will usher in a new dark era for merciless executions in our country’s historical fabric.

It’s early to say with the whirlwind of information floating around, but these men weren’t from a wanting background. They were like us in many ways, at least as far as most that knew of them can remember.

Allegedly, they loved, laughed, lived good lives. They loved football, games, get-togethers, eating out, music, cartoons etc. They were socially active. They were just like other boys of the same age.

One even stated on his purported Facebook profile, as recently as late 2014, that he was against Saudi planes attacking other Muslims. At least two of the alleged attackers were young men with what seems to be very little, if any, outwards signs of such monstrosity lurking within.

According to some people who claimed to have known them, they simply didn’t seem to have a propensity towards violence or fit the profile of a would-be terrorist.

Shocking brutality

Yet, here we stand as a nation, at the beginning of July 2016, shell-shocked from the absolutely unfathomable level of barbarity they have committed. The innocent lives they took of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends. Some of these attackers had allegedly been missing since early 2016.

There is of course a pattern, which our law enforcement officers will have to spot and investigate rigorously.

That is by far the most vital work here, as we pick up the pieces going forward because we have to stop recruitment of young men like them. We have to stop the national pastime of finger-pointing too, and let the professionals do their jobs.

This is, however, a long process, and there is a lot we can do ourselves in the interim. We should start with not shying away from introspection.

We must address the causes that lead us to losing our own to those who would love to see us burn as a society. Those who would love to see our tradition of plurality, secularism, and tolerance destroyed.

Tough questions

We have to ask ourselves: what led to their radicalisation? Who recruited them, and how? We need to do that as a nation after the mourning has ended, so that we can spot young men and women like the attackers more successfully before they radicalise; so that we can spot better who are likely to want to abandon life itself, and take others out with them.

We must address the mental health, disenfranchisement, and discord of our youth more pro-actively, starting with those getting out of school.

Parents of young ones need to be extra vigilant to the changes within their children, and be more pro-active in talking to them, living as examples of the values they want to see in their children.

Kindness, love, and morality need to be taught by actions. This is the new war and we can no longer sit on the sidelines.

We must resist our own demons or our demons will ensure that it is our kids who take our rotten legacy forward. We all have a stake in it, and not just to the extent of expressing rage online.

This is not to say that paying attention prevents such radicalisation completely, but if nothing else can be done, you can help the relevant authorities from your own knowledge in perhaps reducing the likely fallout from it.

This is not in judgement of any parent who, despite being a good example and doing everything right, has lost their child to hate, mindless violence, and brutality.

Collective failure

The fact that a peaceful gathering of people in a serene corner of our town enjoying a night out with friends and loved ones were killed off in a flash, and with such swift planned barbarity, means we have already failed quite considerably as a society.

We haven’t just failed now, we have failed from when they started attacking us for the freedoms we love, and didn’t do anything about.

We failed when we forgot to value every life that was lost before this as a result of the senseless violence, and when we justified – in our discourse – lives being lost in other conflicts around the world.

We failed when we allowed our kids to fall out under the radar and walk away when we weren’t looking. We failed when we didn’t hear their concerns because we were busy with life. We failed when we didn’t stand up in front of them as examples of people that they would want to become.

We failed them as they failed us.

So, as sorry as we are, it is time for us to start fighting back for our country, our heritage by living as better and kinder human beings. Loudly.

Plural in our thoughts and actions. Proud of our diversity, history of inclusiveness and culture. Loving of our fellow man and his right to live free and without fear.

We need to imbue every moment with kindness that is designed to encourage others to follow. We need to change our education system to be more holistic in including morality again, stressing that getting a good living at the end of it is not the only goal but the goal is to be a good human being first.

This should happen in school, but more so when our kids are out of school.

We now need to be extra vigilant of the ever-present dangers, of the 21st-century boogeymen that are out to get our children.

They have a head start on us and they are turning us against each other at an alarming rate. So, we must come together now more than ever to push back on an individual level. The fate of Bangladesh’s very future hangs in the balance.

This article first appeared on the Dhaka Tribune website.