The New York Times reports that the Indian branch of Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the murder of Dr. Avijit Roy and at least two other atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, which they said was in retaliation for those bloggers’ “blasphemy” toward Islam.
The leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent has published a video claiming responsibility for the death of Avijit Roy, an atheist Bangladeshi-American blogger who was killed by a group of men with machetes on Feb. 26 as he was leaving a book fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In a nine-minute video posted on jihadist forums on Saturday, the leader of the branch, Asim Umar, said followers of his group were responsible for the killing of several people he called blasphemers: Mohammad Shakil Auj, an Islamic scholar fatally shot in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2014; Aniqa Naz, a Pakistani blogger; Rajib Haider, a blogger killed in a machete attack in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, in 2013; and Mr. Roy.
“They have taught a lesson to blasphemers in France, Denmark, Pakistan and now in Bangladesh,” Mr. Umar said in the video, which was translated and published by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online.
He went on to urge his followers to carry out more attacks, saying, “Where are those who would kill these blasphemers, wherever they may be found, even if it has to be done using a dagger or a knife, and by doing so record their names on the Day of Judgment among the devotees of the prophet?”
“If Al Qaeda is indeed responsible for the death of my friend Avjit and of these other brave writers, they were capable of such atrocities in part because of the hostile environment for free expression created and fostered by the governments of states such as Bangladesh and Pakistan,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s representative to the UN and director of public policy. “By forming policy and taking actions designed to placate Islamic extremists — for example, making ‘blasphemy’ a crime punishable by prison or death, and arresting critics of religion and tradition — they not only crush valuable dissent that could lessen extremism in the name of religion, but also perpetuate the lie that religious criticism is impermissible, thus emboldening violent extremists.”
“While whoever is ultimately responsible for these killings must face justice, so must governments make fundamental changes in their approach to Islamic extremism, and allow free expression to flourish.” said De Dora.
Exactly right. It is the job of the government — any government — to protect the rights of the individual by keeping them safe from violent reprisals. No government can pretend to do that while committing violence themselves against “blasphemers” by imprisoning them.