We’ve now seen two atheist bloggers, Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman, hacked to death by Muslim extremists in Bangladesh in the last few weeks. A report in the Independent based on interviews with other Bengali bloggers suggests that this is just the beginning.
“Words cannot be killed”. This is the Facebook cover page of Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman. It’s a statement of solidarity with Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi-American atheist blogger who was murdered last month in the capital of Dhaka by religious extremists.
On Monday morning, Rahman suffered a similar fate to Roy’s. He was surrounded and stabbed to death by suspected extremists while on his way to work, in the middle of a busy street. He was 27 years old.
Far from just being two random murders, these attacks are the methodical work of vigilante extremists working through a list of atheist bloggers. The list was drawn up last year when 100,000 protesters called on the government to introduce the death penalty for blasphemy. The government refused to introduce death penalty, but it did begin a crack down on the country’s free-thinking blog community. It shut down some of its most popular sites, and imprisoned bloggers accused of “offending religious feelings”. Once known as the only place where non-religious Bangladeshis could gather safely, the internet suddenly became unsafe for atheists wanting to air their views…
Roy was an atheist, but his focus was really on the importance of science and rational thought. He was careful to build consensus, and avoided criticising the Prophet Mohammad directly. Few people believed he was in immediate danger. His murder last month, also in broad daylight, sent the message to Bangladeshi atheists that no-one who challenged fundamentalism was safe…
For the blogger I spoke to, who is also on this hit-list of atheist bloggers, this all makes for a stark state of affairs. “It is very simple and clear now. I cannot put myself and my family in that risk. I cannot write”.
I’d like to see the atheist community in America come together to raise the money to get as many of these people to safety as well. Is there the will to do that?