IHEU condemns murder of yet another Bangladeshi atheist

IHEU condemns murder of yet another Bangladeshi atheist June 13, 2018

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has renewed calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to give better protection to non-believers after atheist publisher Shahzahan Bachchu was murdered on Monday, June 11.
Bachchu was known locally and within the secular Bangladeshi movement as an outspoken, sometimes fiery activist for secularism. He printed poetry and books related to humanism and freethought via his publishing house Bishaka Prakashani (Star Publishers).

He was also a political activist, serving as former general secretary of Munshiganj district unit of the Communist Party.
He was reportedly shot and killed near his village home at Kakaldi in Munshiganj district near the capital Dhaka.
According to reports, four men riding two motorcycles rushed the tea stall at Kakaldi where Shahzahan was sitting around 6:30pm local time, opening fire on him before fleeing away on the same vehicles. Shahzahan was killed on the spot. Police said:
We came to know that he was an online activist and free thinking writer and had a publishing house. We are yet to ascertain whether it was an extremist attack. But we have been investigating keeping all aspects in mind.
Shahzahan’s daughter, also an out atheist, said on her own Facebook page earlier:

My Father Shahzahan Bachchu is dead today. In our village. Two people have killed my father.

IHEU President Andrew Copson said:

We are devastated that the spectre of violence has returned to the freethinking community in Bangladesh. Every humanist writer and secular activist and freethinking publisher who has been killed in recent years has been a defender of the rights of others, a lover of humanity and reason and justice. Their murders stand against all these universal values.
We once again call on the government of Bangladesh to root out the Jihadi networks perpetrating these crimes, and on the international community to bring pressure to bear on Bangladesh to protect and defends its humanists and human rights defenders.

Shahzahan has been at risk for some years, with the Daily Observer reporting in 2015 that:

A phantom of death is haunting Bachchu Shahjahan [an alternative rendering of Shahzahan Bachchu] – a poet, publisher and freethinker, who is used to criticizing popular beliefs and faiths through his Facebook posts. He cannot sleep in his house and frequently changes hideouts to escape from the militants and fanatics who have issued numerous death threats against him through phone calls and messages.

The paper quotes Shahzahan himself as saying:

Initially I ignored the threats, thinking that it would be useless to go after unknown scoundrels. But after the killings of Washikur Rahman Babu and Ananta Bijoy, I took the matter seriously. Basically my family has become afraid …

These threats came in the context of several earlier attacks, sometimes fatal, on humanists and freethinkers in Bangladesh, which IHEU has reported and campaigned on extensively. As detailed in the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report chapter on Bangladesh, these attacks included in 2015 alone the murders of Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananto Bijoy Das, and Shahzahan’s friend Niloy Neel days before the threats to Shahzahan were published.
The murder of Shahzahan Bachchu is not even the first attack on secular publishers in the country. At the end of October 2015, there were two further coordinated attacks, this time on freethinking publishing houses in Dhaka. These attacks left publisher Faysal Arefin Dipon dead and publisher Ahmed Rashid Tutul seriously injured. Tutul has since left the country.
Other targets have included secular activists and LGBT publishers.
Various government official including the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have blamed the attacks on atheists criticising religion, and threatened prosecution under the ICT Act, which criminalises “hurting religious sentiments”.
IHEU has consistently called on the Bangladesh government to stop blaming the victims and to bring the perpetrators of the murders to justice.
In 2017 author K Anis Ahmed complained that attacks on and killings of liberal bloggers, academics and religious minorities, had been brought about by “a significant shift … in the past few decades” up to 2017 in attitudes towards religion in Bangladesh.

During my school years in the 1980s, religion was a matter of personal choice. No one batted an eyelid if you chose not to fast during Ramadan. Today, eat in public during the holiday and you may be chided by strangers. Thanks to shows on cable TV, social media and group meetings, Islamists have succeeded to an alarming degree in painting secularism as a threat to Islam.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

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  • AgentCormac

    ‘We are yet to ascertain whether it was an extremist attack. But we have been investigating keeping all aspects in mind.’
    They aren’t sure whether it was an extremist attack? I was about to comment that they must be having a laugh – but then it must be getting increasingly difficult to know what actually constitutes extremism with islam. Extreme has sadly become the norm in a lot of places around the world, and unfortunately the West is now reaping what it has sown. With poor buggers like Shahzahan Bachch often paying the ultimate price.
    And if you want a bloody good read on that particular subject, I would suggest you buy a copy of ‘The Silk Roads: A New History of the World’ by Peter Frankopan. It’s an astonishing read, one which makes you realise just how long the clash between Eastern and Western culture has been going on and has resulted in the violent mess we live with today.

  • 1859

    And the murderers and those who pay them believe they are doing their god’s will. What a sick piece of shit their god must be. What a sick disease is their religion. Religion seems to be becoming the last refuge of unbalanced fanatics. No longer can blatant fanatics go into politics or revolution. Much better to get involved with a religion, that way no one can touch you.

  • tonye

    I had never heard of this book. I have ordered it. It sounds like a great read. Cheers.

  • Tel

    If there is someone with a really good powerful and ultimately unstoppable idea that could undermine your power,power that you have invested in yourself through threats of violence and thuggery, either by invocation of godly covenant or by force of state security, then your first response will be to eliminate the “someone” by arranging someone else to do it for you. Someone like a lawless group of thugs who need very little incitement to murder, by drumming up some cooked up criminal charge with a capital punishment penalty or by instructing the secret police. Its the age old method of power retention. Simply kill those who have good ideas that can easily topple your authority. Islam does this, and indeed has done it throughout its existence. In fact it is written down in its “holy” book. Putin is doing it too. Blatantly, but then lying about his involvement. But rest assured, when you see this kind of behaviour, those that perpetrate it will fail in their ultimate aim. Their power will crumble and fail. But what come next is often more of the same with some new opportunist ruthless thug filling the vacuum. It was ever thus. The question is how to break that cycle. Any ideas?

  • AgentCormac

    Hope you enjoy it, I thought it was fascinating.

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    @Tel, what you said is exactly spot on. Unfortunately the victims themselves become perpetrators of abuse. A prime example of this is the state of Israel.
    Jews suffered a lot during the years leading to and in the Second World War (1939-45) but look what they are doing to the Palestinians? Power corrupts everyone.
    In my opinion, the only way to restore balance and sanity on this planet is to completely abolish the concept of money. No rich, middle or poor class. Everyone completely equal.
    Let people do whatever their heart desires. An exchange system where everyone would be assured of food, shelter and safety.
    People can choose their professions according to their personal likings. A Doctor will treat patients, a chef would cook, a cop would take care of the law and order etc.
    There shouldn’t be any place for 2 of the dirtiest and unwanted professions, priests and politicians.

  • barriejohn

    When you know that you cannot possibly compete in the arena of rational debate, you are left with only one alternative. This has always been the response of totalitarians, and it is “for the good of the people”.