The Chittagong Hill Tracts rarely make the Western news, unless they’re being invaded by wave after wave of hungry rodents. But there is a great deal of conflict in that remote corner of southeastern Bangladesh, an area traditionally inhabited by tribes that are ethnically distinct from the nation’s Bengali majority. As settlers have moved into the Tracts, violent clashes have ensued.
So why should Joe Sixpack care? Because the Muslim settlers who’ve been frustrated in their efforts to incur on tribal territory have been forced into resettlement camps. And those camps, aside from being terribly squalid, could be stirring up extremism:
The people in the camps have no social ties, are often divided along regional lines and have very little cultural and recreational activities. The only thing that has a fast growth is the population. The number of children running around in any camp draws one’s attention; most families have 5-6 children. More children means more ration, thus, the system encourages population growth rather than curbing it. There are hardly any schools, but there has been a proliferation of Quomi Madrassas and mosques financed by Islamic charities from around the world.
Keep in mind that Bangladesh is the third largest Muslim nation in the world, with a population of roughly 162 million souls. And at the moment, it is teetering between two future developmental paths—that taken by Indonesia, and that taken by Pakistan. It should go without saying which path would be more beneficial to global stability.