11 months ago, there was a clash in Bangladesh over the writing of atheist bloggers that left at least two people dead, including blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. No one was charged with the crime.
The country’s 12 Islamic parties called the protests after Friday prayers in nearly half a million mosques nationwide, demanding the execution of bloggers whom they say blasphemed Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.
Tensions have risen in the Muslim-majority nation over allegedly anti-Islamic blog posts by Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was hacked to death last week near his home in Dhaka.
In recent weeks Haider and fellow bloggers had launched huge protests demanding a ban on the largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami, and the execution of its leaders for alleged war crimes in the 1971 independence conflict with Pakistan.
Since Haider’s death, Bangladeshi social media has been flooded with his alleged blog posts and with those by other bloggers mocking Islam, triggering protests by a number of Islamic groups and clerics.
Yesterday, we saw the first step toward some semblance of justice.
Bangladesh police on Tuesday charged seven students of an elite university and a cleric over the murder of an allegedly atheist blogger who was critical of Islam and Islamic groups.
The students are accused of hacking to death Ahmed Rajib Haider, 35, near his home in Dhaka in February last year, days after he helped launch a campaign against Islamist leaders accused of war crimes.
Police also charged an imam from a Dhaka mosque with instigating the murder by allegedly preaching that it was legal to kill atheist bloggers who campaigned against Islam.
“The students used to go to the Mohammadpur mosque to listen to the sermons of the imam. They were inspired by his sermons to carry out the attack on the blogger,” he said.
Makes you wonder what the hell sort of logic he was using to equate the religion of peace with violence against those who disagree…
Meanwhile, despite the charges, it’s still dangerous to be an outspoken atheist in Bangladesh. Asif Mohiuddin is another atheist from the country who was attacked by Muslim extremists. (He’s thankfully still alive.)
I’ve asked Asif what his thoughts are about the charges against the attackers. This is what he told me (via email; edited a bit for clarity):
When I was in jail, I met some of those who were charged with the murder of Ahmed Haidar. You should know something about the police interrogation procedure in Bangladesh: police often torture [the accused]. In fact, Bangladesh detective police have the world record of torturing people.
But no one touched them.
That was only because they were doing God’s job. I’m not a supporter of torturing people in police custody, but the reason of not touching them was religion, Islam! Both police and the murderers feel Ahmed Haider and other atheists should be killed as they were atheists.
The people who attacked me, I told police not to torture them, and not to file any case against them. But I think the family of Ahmed Haider should have the justice. His family is now suffering a lot because they are now ostracized from their community. And the family was supportive of the ruling party; his (Ahmed Haider’s) mother was the member of the party also, but government is not supporting them because her son was an atheist.
I don’t know what should I tell you. Many of our mosques [are run by] Imams [who] are now trying to save those killers, they’re told they are the “Shahid of Islam”, and the killers should be treated as national heroes.
The people who were charged with the murder told me in the jail that they have done God’s work, and they will try it again if they are out of the jail. They are not afraid of the punishment; they are not afraid of the police or law. They think they will go to heaven directly after death. So they are also the victims of religious fundamentalism. I feel they should have some mental treatment also.
They are clearly the murderers of Ahemd Haider, no doubt about that. But when the Judge, the police, and the government are also Muslims, and they think every atheist should be killed, I don’t think the murderers will be punished. Maybe one of them will be punished because he is poor and doesn’t have the money to bribe police.
That is the real scenario. An atheist can’t survive here, not even have the justice if he was killed.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)