Dr. Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen from the Atlanta area, was murdered Friday while on a visit to his home country. The murderers justified their actions through their Islamic religion. It’s unfathomable to think, here in the US, that someone could be murdered for their religious dissent but it happens too much in places like Bangladesh. The best way to deal with people who want to murder others because they don’t have the same beliefs is more speech and more dissent.
Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizen, was an advocate of atheism and a prominent voice against religious intolerance in the Bengali community. On Friday, he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, who’s also a blogger, were attacked on the street with cleavers as they were returning from a book fair at Dakah University. Ahmad was also seriously injured in the attack.
A previously unknown militant group known as Ansar Bangla-7 claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter. The group said Roy was the target “because of his crime against Islam.”
Roy ran a popular Bengali blog, Mukto-mona, or Free Thought. On Friday, a message in Bengali posted against a black background read, “We are mourning, but we are not defeated.”
Condemnation of the murder has come all the freethought groups in the US and around the world. The Center for Inquiry also wrote about Dr. Roy:
“I cannot overstate how great a loss this is,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s chief UN representative and friend of Dr. Roy. “Avijit was brilliant, yes, and a devoted advocate of free expression and secularism, but also just a very good person. Avijit was an inspiration to countless other freethinkers, in Bangladesh and around the world, and he was an inspiration to me. I valued our friendship deeply, as I valued his contributions to our shared mission. I will miss him, and the global freethought community will feel the impact of his loss. His example will no doubt continue to shine.”
The Center for Inquiry urges the authorities of Dhaka and Bangladesh to thoroughly investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. While it is not known for certain what motivated this attack, surely this tragedy must spur a serious discussion among officials in Bangladesh about free expression, and the roots of the kind of violent extremism that would so brutally take away such a valued member of its society.
We extend our deepest condolences to Rafida Ahmed Bonna, and we sincerely hope she receives both justice and a quick and full recovery.
CFI’s statement also has links to some articles Dr. Roy wrote for them.
Unfortunately this isn’t the first murder for religious dissent:
Atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider 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.
“The pattern of the killing appeared to be the same as that of previous attack on a celebrated writer,” said Shiblee Noman, assistant commissioner of Dhaka police. “It seems it was carried out by a reactionary fundamentalist group.”
After Haider’s death, Bangladesh’s hardline Islamist groups started to protest against other campaigning bloggers, calling a series of nationwide strikes to demand their deaths, accusing them of blasphemy.
The secular government of the Bangladeshi prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, reacted by arresting some atheist bloggers.
The government also blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the furore over blasphemy, as well as stepping up security for the bloggers.
On Friday Sarker said: “Communal and militant groups have threatened the very spirit of our nation. Yet instead of crushing them, the government was keen on appeasing them by arresting secular bloggers.”
Atheists are also subject to death sentences by the legal system in many countries.
It’s clear that more speech and more dissent – not less – is needed to avenge these deaths.