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Who Supports Suicide Terrorism in Bangladesh? What the Data Say

  • C. Christine Fair (a1), Ali Hamza (a1) and Rebecca Heller (a1)

Bangladesh, one of the world's largest Muslim countries, is generally viewed as a success story with a strong tradition of secular democracy. Unfortunately, this assertion rests on a weak empirical foundation. Since becoming independent from Pakistan in 1971, democracy and secularism have been consistently undermined. Moreover, since 2000 Bangladesh has experienced more than 100 incidents of Islamist terrorism. More recently, the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent have assaulted religious and ethnic minorities as well as secular and liberal activists. While these turns of events are alarming, Islamist militancy in Bangladesh remains understudied. In this article, we address this lacuna by undertaking regression analysis of recent Pew Research Center survey data to exposit the determinants of popular support of Islamist terrorism. With this study, we hope other scholars will be motivated to turn their attention to this increasingly important state.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: C. Christine Fair, Georgetown University, Security Studies Program in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, 202 Mortara Building, 37th and O Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20057. E-mail:
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We are very grateful to Rebecca Littman, Elizabeth Nugent, Jacob N. Shapiro, and Neil Malhotra whose collaborations on Pakistan-related projects yielded important insights for this paper. We are also thankful to Ali Riaz and Alyssa Ayres for their comments on an early draft of this essay as well as the trenchant criticisms offered by the various anonymous reviewers. Despite the efforts and interventions of these varied persons, we alone are responsible for any errors of fact or interpretation. Finally, this project could not be possible with the support of the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which sponsored the work of Ms. Heller, or the unstinting support of the Security Studies Program, which supported the work of Mr. Hamza.

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