Prominent atheist blogger butchered
Unidentified assailants with machetes yesterday hacked to death Avijit Roy, pictured above during a visit to Paris in 2012.
According to this report, Roy’s writings showed him to be a fierce critic of Islamic fundamentalism and was frequently threatened. On Twitter, Roy called himself a “prominent defender of the free-thought movement” in Bangladesh.
In December, Bangladesh News 24 reported that a man named Shafiur Rhaman Farabi had written a Facebook post that read:
Avijit Roy lives in American and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.
Farabi and other men who made similar threats against Roy were arrested, but it’s unclear if they were freed at the time of the stabbing of the famed writer.
Bangladesh News 24 reported that the killing had been done by two young men, that no arrests have been made, and that:
There is considerable traffic on the Net supporting the murder, with Islamist radicals posting laudatory messages and tweeting extensively.
Local police chief Sirajul Islam said:
He died as he was brought to the hospital. His wife was also seriously wounded. She has lost a finger.
Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona (Free-mind) blog site, which champions liberal secular writing in the Muslim-majority nation, was in Bangladesh to attend a book fair.
The couple were returning from the fair on a bicycle rickshaw when two assailants dragged them onto a sidewalk before hacking them with machetes.
Roy, said to be around 40, is the second Bangladeshi blogger murdered in two years and the fourth writer to be attacked since 2004.
Hard-line Islamist groups have long demanded the public execution of atheist bloggers and have sought new laws to combat writing critical of Islam.
Police have launched a probe and recovered the machetes used in the attack but could not confirm whether Islamists were behind the incident.
Roy’s father, Ajoy, said the writer was:
A secular humanist and has written about ten books including his most famous Biswasher Virus (Virus of Faith).
The Center for Inquiry, a US-based charity promoting free thought, said it was “shocked and heartbroken” by the brutal murder. It said in a statement:
Dr Roy was a true ally, a courageous and eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression, in a country where those values have been under heavy attack.
Roy’s killing also triggered strong condemnation from publishers and fellow writers, who lamented the growing religious conservatism and intolerance in Bangladesh.
Bob Churchill, Director of Communications for the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), said:
This loss is keenly felt by freethinkers and humanists in South Asia and around the world. He was a colleague in humanism and a friend to all who respect human rights, freedom, and the light of reason. Our thoughts are with his family, and his many friends, supporters, and admirers who will be deeply hurt by this senseless crime.
We cannot know the assailants who carried out tonight’s vicious murder. But we do know this: Those who have openly made the most serious and credible threats on Roy’s life have been allowed to do so with impunity and now he is dead. As Roy himself warned, Bangladesh is appeasing the most insidious and violent strains of Islamism, and he new his own life was under threat. That appeasement of theocratic demands and naked threats must end, now.
And Imran H Sarker, head of an association for bloggers in Bangladesh, said:
The attack on Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed is outrageous. We strongly protest this attack and are deeply concerned about the safety of writers.
Pinaki Bhattacharya, a fellow blogger and a friend of Roy’s, said one of the country’s largest online book retailers was being openly threatened for selling Roy’s books. He wrote on Facebook:
In Bangladesh the easiest target is an atheist. An atheist can be attacked and murdered.
Atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, above, was hacked to death in 2013 by members of a little-known Islamist militant group, triggering nationwide protests by tens of thousands of secular activists.
Seven students were charged with the murder, as well as an imam from a Dhaka mosque, who was accused of instigating the murder by allegedly preaching that it was legal to kill atheist bloggers who campaigned against Islam.
After Haider’s death, Bangladesh’s hard-line Islamist groups started to protest against other campaigning bloggers, calling a series of nationwide strikes to demand their execution, accusing them of blasphemy.
The secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reacted by arresting some atheist bloggers.
The government also blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to silence the furore over blasphemy, as well as stepping up security for the bloggers.
Bangladesh is the world’s fourth-largest Muslim majority nation, with Muslims making up some 90 percent of the country’s 160 million people.
Hat tip: Antony Niall, BarrieJohn and Angela K.