For the fifth time this year, I’ve woken to news that another person associated with the tiny atheist community in Bangladesh has been brutally murdered via machete.
In February it was author and atheist blogger Dr Avijit Roy, who was murdered in the street in a machete attack. Then on 30 March atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman (27) was murdered in another machete attack in the street outside his home. Next, on 12 May, was Ananta Bijoy Das. Das contributed to an atheist blog originally set up by Dr Roy, and was also killed in a machete attack in the street. On 6 August, Niloy Chatterjee (40), an organizer of the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India, was found in his home with his hands and head cut off.
This time it’s a publisher of Dr Avijit Roy’s books, 43-year-old Faisal Arefin Dipon head of the Jagriti Prakashani publishing house. His body was found in the company offices by his father, the writer Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq. According to the AFP reports he said:
“I saw him lying upside down and in a massive pool of blood. They slaughtered his neck. He is dead.”
Earlier the same day three secular bloggers were injured in an attack. One of the men, Ranidipam Basu appears to have suffered only minor injuries. There is a picture of him in a BBC article lying on a stretcher with his eyes closed. However, the IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) says he was personally confirming his survival on Facebook soon afterwards. The other two were Tareq Rahim, who was also a poet, and Ahmed Rashid Tutul, who was also a publisher and had published Dr Roy’s work in the past. Rahim and Tutul are in hospital and, according to the IHEU, in a critical condition. The BBC reports that “at least one” is in a critical condition.
In what has become typical of attacks on atheists in Bangladesh, all four men were attacked using machetes.
Tutul’s publishing house is called Shuddho-Shor (শুদ্ধস্বর), which means “Pure Voice”. The IHEU says it, “… is popular among progressive, secular writers and readers, and has continued to publish despite receiving numerous direct threats against the lives of those working there.”
From the IHEU website:
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has repeatedly criticised police and officials’ handling of the string of attacks, and in August organised alongside a number of secular Bangladeshi writers and academics a mass joint letter of protest to the Bangladesh Government.
IHEU Director of Communications, Bob Churchill, comments: “We know what comes next because we’ve seen it before. In a few weeks or months, police and media will perform a merry dance, arresting and parading a few different groups or individuals detained in connection with the latest attack. They’ll parade someone for the cameras. Then there will be no trial, no true justice. And the same thing will happen again and again.
“How many more times must we see these bloody and callous acts of hatred before the authorities wake up to the true problem. Officials must stop threatening to arrest, and stop blaming atheists themselves for writing books and blogs. To victim-blame them will continue to empower the fundamentalist killers and undermine the very basis of secular democracy itself.
“Though there are many similarities with earlier outrages, today’s coordinated attacks may represent a significant emboldening and an up-step in the campaign to terrorize and silence the voices of humanists, atheists and secularists. The Bangaldeshi authorities must now accept that their failure to achieve justice and the appeasement of fundamentalist violence is not working, and is costing life after life.”
I can only agree. I’ve written before about the reactions of many in Bangladesh to the brutal murder of secularists in that country. Victim-blaming is the norm. Given that atheists are speaking out via blogs and books, which no-one is obliged to read, and they’re breaking no laws (Bangladesh is a secular democracy), I can’t for the life of me see that atheists are the ones at fault here.
The solution in their opinion is for atheists to not antagonize others. Twice before I’ve quoted the appalling words of Dr Rupak Bhattacharjee, and I’m going to repeat them again:
The young bloggers are also required to guard against recklessness and any radical interpretation of people’s faith in a traditional society like Bangladesh as that may only end up arousing raw emotion and disturbing social harmony.
Personally, I think the attitude of someone calling for the death sentence because of a person’s failure to believe in their god is far more egregious. The Islamist groups in Bangladesh publish the names and addresses of the people they think should be killed as enemies of Islam, and openly call for their murder. They genuinely believe they are doing what is right, to please their god. This is why secular society that promotes the values of freedom of speech and freedom of religion (or no religion) is so important. Those values are in the Bangladesh constitution, but the government all too often caves to Islamist extremists in order to retain political power. The complaints that the IHEU raises about the Bangladesh government are completely valid. The problem is, the situation is likely to be worse if the main opposition regains power, as they are less committed to secularism. In the past they allowed Islam to be named the national religion of the country, in opposition to the constitution.