Showing posts with label bangladesh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bangladesh. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Joint Letter to PM: Refugee Status For Bangladesh Secular Blogger & Petition You Can Sign


Awhile ago, I posted about the violent attacks on Bangladeshi secular bloggers in Dhaka on Halloween day. One of the bloggers, who's head was hacked, is Tareq Rahim. His wife, Monika Mistry is right here in Montreal. She is a Canadian citizen who is now in agony wondering if she will ever see her husband again alive.
Mistry had spoken with her husband just four hours before a friend in London, England called her in the middle of the night to let her know about the attack.

She said she feels powerless to be on the other side of the world while her husband is fighting for his life. Mistry, a Bangladeshi who came to Canada in 2006 and now lives in Montreal with her daughter from a previous marriage, said she can’t afford to go back to Bangladesh to be with Rahim.

“I can’t be there. I can’t see him, I can’t touch him, I can’t hear from him,” the 37-year-old woman said, struggling to keep her composure.
Tareq comes from a Muslim family, Monika from a Hindu one. As far as I can tell, neither were atheists - both are people who believe in secularism, like the readers of this blog. Now Tareq is asking for refugee status in Canada. He obviously requires this because who knows who's outside the hospital waiting.

The very first thing you can do is sign this petition and share it!


CFI Canada is calling on the government to take action and offer asylum to Tareq. The fact is that Tareq was in the process of obtaining legal entrance into Canada when the attack occurred  because he understood his life was at risk.
The Centre for Inquiry (CFI) Canada, a non-profit education organization, is leading calls for the newly elected Trudeau government to intervene in the case.

“CFI Canada is making an appeal to the Canadian government, and certainly Justin Trudeau, to ask for some compassionate support for someone who would have likely been coming to Canada if they hadn’t been attacked by terrorists before getting a chance to do that,” said Executive Director Eric Adriaans.
A letter has been written and signed on by 17 groups and individuals. You can find the full press release over at CFI Canada. I'm including the full text of the letter to Justin Trudeau and others in the text box below:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

November 13, 2015

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

Re : Joint Statement Calling on the Canadian Government to Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Secularists in Bangladesh

We, the undersigned organizations and concerned supporters, urgently call on the Canadian government to act on behalf of one of its citizens, Monika Mistry, to help her Bangladeshi husband recover in safety from a brutal attack he suffered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

On October 31, 2015, Tareq Rahim, an intellectual, poet and blogger, was attacked with two of his colleagues by a group of suspected Islamists wielding machetes and cleavers. Just hours later a secular publisher, Faisal Arefin Dipan, was hacked to death in his Dhaka office; he is the fifth secularist to be killed in Bangladesh this year. Ansar al-Islam (Ansarullah Bangla Team), a local affiliate of al-Qaeda, has taken credit for the attacks.

Tareq and Monika have a mixed-faith relationship and had plans to enjoy their marriage here in Canada once they were able to complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork. We implore the Canadian government to assist Tareq and Monika to expedite this process on appropriate grounds and expedite the necessary processes to bring Tareq to Canada to recover from this brutal attack in safety.

Currently, Tareq remains in hospital with a bullet lodged in his abdomen that doctors have been unable to remove. Even in the hospital, Tareq has minimal security and we fear his attackers will return to repeat their attack. While there is some security in the hospital, once Tareq is discharged he will be at a very high risk of continued attempts on his life and likely faces assassination.

The attacks on October 31 are just the latest incidents of faith-based violence committed against the vulnerable religious minority, secularists, in Bangladesh this year. Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Neel and Faisal Arefin Dipan were all secular writers, publishers and activists who spoke out against religious extremism and had repeatedly received death threats for their writings. They were associated with a “hit-list” of 84 atheist bloggers submitted to the Bangladeshi government that was subsequently leaked in 2013 prior to their murders by members of Islamic groups in Bangladesh. Since then, two new global hit-lists have been published by Ansarullah Bangla Team, a group of Bangladeshi Islamic extremists that targets Bangladeshi secularists both in country and around the world. Currently, 20 or more secularists and humanists have been forced to flee into exile out of fear for their lives, but the global hit-list ensures that the threats against them are not restricted to Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh’s current political climate, these gruesome, faith-based crimes continue with no end in sight and impunity increases for those already committed. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina and the ruling Awami League party, which claim to be secular, have done little to speak out for justice in these crimes and have taken no steps to protect this targeted group.

Diplomatic relations between Canada and Bangladesh were built upon shared values of democracy and pluralism, placing Canada in a unique position to remind the Bangladeshi government of its duty to protect all of its citizens. We urge the Canadian government to convince Prime Minister Hasina and the Awami League party that turning a blind eye to the gruesome, hacking deaths of its own citizens for political expediency only strengthens religious extremism. The Bangladeshi government must not allow political interests to trump the rule of law.

Before these latest attacks on October 31, over 300 human rights organizations, civil society organizations and supporters, and concerned members of blogging and activist communities in Bangladesh and internationally had already protested in the strongest possible terms the institutional attack on Bangladeshi citizens who profess humanist, atheist or secularist views.

In Canada, we have already reached out individually to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; The Honorable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; The Honorable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Robert McDougall, High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh; Honorable Frank Baylis, Member of Parliament Pierrefonds-Dollars; and Mr. Andrew Bennett, Ambassador for Religious Freedom. 

The undersigned Canadian and supportive international organizations and individuals are now standing in unity and adding their voices to the outcry. However, it is even more important for the Canadian government to show compassion for its citizen, Monika Mistry, by helping her injured husband and by working to end tolerance of faith-based violence in Bangladesh.

Canadians are privileged to enjoy a peaceful, tolerant and culturally diverse society and we are proud of our country’s history in accepting people of all faiths – and those without a faith – and those who are fleeing persecution. Canada must take its place as a global leader in providing protection for persecuted religious minorities around the world.

We implore the Canadian government to continue to stand up for traditional Canadian values and to make Canada a safe destination for those facing persecution for their views. Please help us to expeditiously reunite Tareq Rahim with his wife while he recovers from this brutal assault of faith-based terrorism.

Signed, Eric Adriaans, National Executive Director – Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC)
Kevin Smith, Board Chair – CFIC Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director – British Columbia Humanist Association
Brendan de Caires, Programs & Communications Director – PEN Canada 
Eric Thomas, President – Humanist Canada 
Michel Virard, Association humaniste du Québec
Sean McGuire, atheist Writer & Editor My Secret Atheist Blog
Veronica Abbass, Editor Canadian Atheist
Andrew Copson, President – International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
Richard Thain, Canadian secularist activist and citizen
Randy Bowes, Board Chair – West Hill United Church
Board of Directors – Humanists Atheists Agnostics of Manitoba
David Rand – Libres penseurs athées – Atheist Freethinkers
Rafida Ahmed Bonya & Administrators of the Mukto Mona Blog Site 
Center For Inquiry U.S.
Christine Shellska – President – Atheist Alliance International
Progressive Atheists Inc (Australia)
Canadian Humanist Publications

Cc
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition
The Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Citizenship Immigration and Refugees
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Member of Parliament Sturgeon River – Parkland
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Member of Parliament Outremont
The Honourable Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament Saanich-Gulf Islands
The Honourable Frank Baylis, Member of Parliament Pierrefonds-Dollard

You'll find another simpler sample letter at a previous post I did about Tareq's situation along with ways to contact your politicians.

(Image source)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Wife of Hacked Bangladeshi Blogger is Canadian & Needs Your Help

Tareq Rahim and Monika Mistry
On May 30th, Bangladeshi secular blogger Tareq Rahim married Canadian citizen Monika Mistry. Because of the long history of brutal attacks on secular bloggers and their associates in this secular democracy, Monika feared for Tareq's life. On Saturday, her worst fears were confirmed. Tareq was slashed and left to bleed to death in a locked office by a pack of raving religious extremists.

CFI Canada has released a statement about Tareq and Monika - neither actual atheists, but rather secularists - imploring us to contact our government, to help Tareq somehow survive a country where even the police seem to drag their feet to protect anyone on the terrorists' hit list.
Monika Mistry is a Canadian citizen who was in contact with CFIC on the day of her spouse’s brutal victimization by people who can only be considered faith-based terrorists.  During a heart-wrenching conversation full of desperate concern and worry, Monika Mistry told us about the couple’s May 30th, 2015 marriage in Bangladesh.  Mistry and Rahim are a mixed-faith marriage – one of the couple being Muslim and the other Hindu. Although here in Canada such mixes are honoured and respected for their ability to spread diversity and tolerance, it is a situation that is often looked down-upon by the community and families in Bangladesh.

With their marriage so recent, Mistry was reluctant to see Rahim remain in unstable and dangerous Bangladesh, but their plan was to make-do until they could complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork that would enable the couple to reunite in Canada. Unfortunately the terrorists found Rahim first.

Mistry has told CFIC, “I am so frightened for Tareq. I am most afraid that when he is released from hospital that there are people waiting in the street to attack him again.”  In the hospital, Tareq Rahim has a modicum of security. On the streets and even in his home, protection is not available.  We know from the murder of Avijit Roy and the brutal assault on Rafida Bonya Ahmed that police and thousands of people will stand by as machete-wielding fanatics kill a target.  We also know from the murder of Niloy Neel that attackers will enter a person’s home to carry out their threats.
The most recent reports I can find, from sources I'm rather uncertain of, say that Rahim is still in critical condition and may lose an arm.

Through all of this, I am stunned at the relative media silence I've come across here in Canada - either in French or English. Meanwhile, we're seeing a protest in London by the Bangladesh Community Blog Alliance.

Publishers in Bangladesh are burning books in protest urging an apparently lethargic government and police force to take real action to prosecute and protect.
Rallies were also held in other cities and towns to demand more protection for publishers, bloggers and writers, some of whom have fled the country or gone into hiding.

“The people who have so far fallen victim to the attacks are thinking people, those who believe in freedom of expression, and those who believe in secular values. A series of killings have taken place but now the focus is on publishers ... I feel absolutely traumatised,” said Mohiuddin Ahmed, a publisher in Dhaka.
What can we do as Canadians? We can write our government and prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau. Remember that it's always better to use your own words, but a letter is always better than no letter, so CFI Canada has provided the following sample letter:
To the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

It has come to my attention that one of the victims of the October 31, 2015 attacks by faith-based terrorists in Dhaka, Bangladesh is the spouse of a Canadian citizen.  Mr. Tareq Rahim, an intellectual and blogger, was attacked for exercising what Canadians enjoy every day – the right to freedom of expression in an open, tolerant and secular society.

Tareq Rahim is married to Canadian citizen and resident, Monika Mistry; they have a mixed-faith marriage and had plans to enjoy their tolerant and diversity-inspired marriage here in Canada once they were able to complete Immigration Canada’s paperwork.  Unfortunately terrorists found Rahim first with an attempt to take his life.  I urge the Canadian government to assist Tareq Rahim and Monika Mistry to expedite this process and bring Tareq to Canada and his family to recover from this brutal attack.

I further ask you to answer the question put to CFI Canada by one of our Bangladeshi friends, “Is it really so hard for a country to provide protection for 40-50 people” targeted by known faith-based terrorists?  Is it really so hard to extend protection to intellectuals, secularists, humanists, atheists who have been strategically targeted to separate a country’s population from its secular foundations?

Prime Minister, let the first days of your new government include an act of compassion and concern for Canadians such as Monika Mistry whose greatest ambition is to enjoy Canada’s diversity, freedom and welcoming community.  Help us to reunite Tareq Rahim with his wife while he recovers from this brutal assault of faith-based terrorism.

Yours Truly,
You'll want to address it:
Justin Trudeau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
His constituency information is also on that page. It's also likely you could leave him a message or fax it.
Telephone: 613-995-8872
Fax: 613-995-9926
Remember that Justin is plugged in to the Internet, unlike older politicians. So you can also probably send him the letter at justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca or tweet him at https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau.

You can also send a letter to your MP. Just check here.

The blog where many of the victims of these brutal attacks posted, Mukto-Mona, has even reprinted the CFI statement. Their eyes are on Canada and as Canadians, we should take the lead and fight for freedom of expression in Bangladesh. We need to make a counter example - that our country believes in the principles of human rights and is willing to stand up against murderous religiously motivated terrorists.

(Image source)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Bangladeshi Islamist Terrorists Hack Atheist Bloggers & Publishers

Slain publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan
Details are still a bit confusing, but it appears as if barbarous religiously motivated murderers have attacked two secular bloggers and two publishers in Bangladesh. All of this happened earlier today, virtually at the same time - which suggests a well orchestrated attack.

Here's what I've been able to figure out so far.

Faisal Arefin Dipan

Faisal was the publisher of Avijit Roy,  who was hacked to death by lunatics in February.  Faisal was cut down today by assailants who have obvious contempt for freedom of speech in his office.
Faisal Arefin Dipan, who ran 'Jagriti Prokashony', was hacked to death in his office on the second floor of Aziz Supermarket at Shahbagh on Saturday, blogger and online activist Mahmudul Haque Munshi told bdnews24.com.
He died at the hospital of his wounds.
'Jagriti Prokashony' manager Md Alauddin told bdnews24.com: " When I entered the office around 5:30pm , Dipan was lying in a pool of blood. There were deep cuts on his neck and upper shoulder."

Ahmedur Rashid Tutul 

Just hours before Dipan was murdered, another publisher, and friend of Avijit Roy, was killed. Two bloggers were with him at the time. All three were locked in the office from the outside and police had to break the lock to recover them.
Witnesses told bdnews24.com that the assailants hacked Tutul before locking up him and a few others in the office from outside.

Ahmedur Rashid Tutul (File Photo) Ahmedur Rashid Tutul (File Photo) Police rushed to spot and rescued three people from the spot and took them to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, Mohammadpur police OC Jamal Uddin Mir told bdnews24.com.
bdnews24.com’s Liton Haider reported from the spot that bloodstains were found in room. Residents of the building told him they had also heard sounds of firing.

Tutul had filed a complaint with police after being threatened with death on the Facebook following the attack on Roy and his wife earlier this year.
Word on the street is that the Bangladesh police and suspiciously ineffective in protecting these bloggers and publishers, who are clearly at risk.
Some secular groups also blamed the government for failing to provide protection.

Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker said these attacks prove the "law enforcing agencies have totally failed".

"It is also not possible to carry out these attacks without connivance of some in the government," Sarker told reporters at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Last word I've found is that Tutul's condition is critical.

Ranadipam Basu

Blogger Ranadipam Basu was with Rashid Tutul in the office at the time of the attack. He was also badly hacked and posted a grim status update on his Facebook while he, Dipan and another writer were locked in the office, bleeding to death.


“Kubaise ami Tutul bhai ar Tareq” [They hacked us – Tutul, Tareq and me].
Last word I've found on Basu is he's undergoing treatment in the hospital for serious injuries.

Tareque Rahim

Rahim was the second blogger in the office with Tuhul. He was also seriously injured and was brought to hospital. Last word I have on him is he's still in hospital and his condition, like the now deceased Tuhul - is grave.
They all were hacked on the head, said Sentu Das, an assistant sub-inspector of the hospital’s police camp. Among them, the condition of Tutul and Tareque was said to be grave.
It's urgent that these bloggers and their publishers be saved from Bangladesh and brought to safer lands (note: I say safer not safe).

I don't have any more words for this yet, other than that freedom of speech, expression and religion (or lack thereof) in Bangladesh is now being hacked to death by religious zealots and the government there seems completely unable or completely disinterested in saving it.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Guest Post from Veronica Abbass: We Will Fight!


The following is a short guest post from fellow blogger Veronica Abbass, who writes over at Canadian Atheist.

I write this in a safe place: my own house, in my city and in my country. Other bloggers are not so fortunate:
In the past two years, about 10 secular bloggers and their supporters have been killed by religious extremists in Bangladesh because of their writings criticizing religious extremism.

In response to the threats and violence, some have moved abroad.
However, despite the "hitlist of secular bloggers, writers and activists around the world" issued by the Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamic militant group in Bangladesh, the secular bloggers are determined to fight against the threat to their lives. Ajanta Deb Roy, a London-based activist with Bangladesh’s Gonojagoron Mancho or National Awakening Platform, has promised,
'We will fight'
“They want us to move away from the path of activism. None of our fellow activists, many of whom are bloggers, will come out from our way of activism. Until our last breath, we will fight for the sake of secularism, freethinking, human rights and religious tolerance."
In a July 1 post on this website, Sean McGuire reflected, how lucky I am to live in a country where it's (still) possible to safely blog about atheism,  the dangers of religion and state-church separation issues. If we were not so lucky, would we be so brave as Bangladeshi blogger Ananya Azad, now living in Germany?
“They want me to stop writing. But I am dead sure that in no situation I can stop writing. With my secular and rationalist belief I shall keep on writing as long as I am alive."

I honestly don't know.

Veronica Abbass is a self-described atheist activist who blogs at Canadian Atheist.

(Image source)

Friday, 25 September 2015

Bangladeshi Terrorists Release New Hit List Targeting International Atheist Bloggers Including One In Canada

Murdered blogger Ananta Bijoy Das
According to the Guardian, a group of insane and barbaric religiously motivated terrorists and murderers, the Islamic militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team - blamed for the killing of at least four atheist bloggers - has publicly released a new hit list of international atheist bloggers they plan on slaughtering.
An Islamic militant group in Bangladesh has issued a hitlist of secular bloggers, writers and activists around the world, saying they will be killed if its demands are not met.

The list will raise fears that Islamic militant violence within the unstable south Asian country could take on an international dimension.

The targets in the list include nine bloggers based in the UK, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in Canada and one in Sweden. Some are Bangladeshi citizens living overseas. Others are dual nationals or citizens of the western nations.
My sense is that these are bloggers who write in Bangla. The following statement seems to support this.
The new list is accompanied by an incoherent demand to strip bloggers of their citizenship. It appears to be addressed to the government of Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina, though many of those on the hitlist have dual nationality or are citizens of Britain, the US or European nations.

“Cancel the Bangladeshi citizenship of enemies of Islam and [Muslim religious] education, atheists, apostates, unbelievers, anti-Islamic ... bloggers, agents of India ... otherwise they will be killed wherever they can be found in the Almighty’s world,” said the statement.
Now apparently it's not good enough to get the bloggers out of Bangladesh - a country where the government and police force appear to only be reluctantly going through the motions to capture and prosecute the terrorists. Now the bloggers appear to be unsafe no matter where they are.

Still, there is some serious question about whether this list is actually authentically from the Bangladeshi group at all. The Guardian even questions its authenticity and they have been unable to get any confirmation from Bangladeshi officials either - so it's still too early to say.

The sad thing is it may not even matter where the list came from. It may still be sufficient for some lunatic or group of lunatics to carry out the work anyway.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Huge IHEU Join Open Letter to Bangladeshi PM & President


I'm proud to have had the opportunity to add my name to an excellent open letter addressed to the Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

This is in the wake of months of apparent Bangladeshi police bungling and apathy when it comes to properly investigating the brutal murder of five atheist bloggers in the past two years. In fact, just days after atheist blogger Niloy Neel had his head and hands hacked off by religious lunatics, the country's highest level policeman - in an action worthy of an asshole of the year prize - advised living atheist bloggers to stop writing against religion, or else face trouble with the law. This behaviour is disgusting and has prompted a petition demanding the police chief's resignation.

The letter itself covers this:
Following the murder of Niladri Chatterjee on 7 August, the Inspector General of Police engaged in victim-blaming, called for self-censorship, and threatened bloggers — the very people who are being murdered — with legal action under the current quasi-blasphemy law. Meanwhile, despite some counter-terrorism operations, the police have comprehensively failed to disrupt the networks that are ordering or carrying out these cowardly attacks. Even with two of the killers caught at the scene (after the murder of Washiqur Rahman) and claims of responsibility made openly on social media and via news outlets, still the attacks go on, and the extremists behind the killings remain at large. Instead of calling for vigilance and evidence against the murderers from the general public, police have instead encouraged the public to report alleged atheistic writings.
Indeed, how can bloggers expect their human rights and safety to be protected if their own government apparently holds them in contempt?
Furthermore, your Cabinet Committee for Law and Order, headed by Minister of Industries Amir Hossain Amu, on their 9 August 2015 meeting decided “to declare Atheist authors as criminals”, thereby making them subject to prosecution, and intelligence agencies have been asked to monitor blogs to find those atheist writers. Even under the current law, such a mass arrest of people who profess non-religious views in their online communications would represent a grave violation of the international human rights obligations to which Bangladesh is committed. The Home Minister in a separate speech was seen repeating the same warning message.
The letter goes on to implore that the president
  • ensure the safety and security of those individuals whose lives are threatened by Islamist extremists, including the witnesses and family members
  • instruct the police to find the killers, not to harass or blame the victims
  • disassociate yourself publicly from those who call for death penalties against non-religious Bangladeshis, and ensure using your executive authority that individuals within your party membership maintain the same standard of respect for freedom of conscience and expression
  • work decisively for legal reform to repeal Section 295A of the Penal Code and section 57 of the ICT Act of 2006, in order to bring the legal system of Bangladesh in line with the  spirit and values of freedom of expression and ‘of conscience’ as enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh, and as per obligations under the international human rights instruments to which Bangladesh is party.

Fellow blogger Veronica Abbass is also on the list of supporters. She points out the Canadian contribution on a recent post over at Canadian Atheist and I'm proud to be on that list.

The full list of supporters is at the bottom of the Bangla version of the letter.

Veronica also points out that things aren't exactly perfect here in Canada either. She points out a post I recently made about the proposed Bill 59 here in Quebec which could threaten our ability as atheist bloggers to question, criticize and otherwise despise religion. More on that in future posts.

(Image source)

Monday, 10 August 2015

Days After Neel's Beheading, Bangladeshi Police Advise Bloggers to 'Stop Hurting Religious Feelings'

Niloy Neel
Just a few days after the fourth atheist blogger this year was murdered by religious lunatics - the blood not yet dry - Bangladeshi police have started up nice round of victim blaming.
Terming hurting one's religious sentiment as crime, Inspector General of Police (IGP) has advised the free thinkers not to hurt religious sentiment in their writings.

IGP AKM Shahidul Haque said: “According to laws if any one hurts one's feelings, he will be punished by the law.”

Advising the free thinkers, IGP said: “None should cross the limit.”
Basically, the eighty or so bloggers on the hit list - who are being killed off methodically - are screwed if they cannot get out a country where their own police force is either deliberated ineffective or completely incompetent.
 Asked about the prior list of the bloggers who might be under threat, he said they had no such list.
The terrorists who suppress freedom of speech and murder atheists need not do anything more - the police have just taken up their cause and have advised bloggers to shut up if they know what's good for themselves.
Before he was murdered on Friday, Niloy wrote in a facebook post that police didn't help him when he sought protection after he suspected that several people were following him.   
This is what the police did. They do not actually seem to help the bloggers, but rather let them get killed off. Then they do a pathetic job investigating the crimes. Now, just days after a blogger had his head chopped off, they are threatening the very ones most at risk with jail time if they speak their minds online.

Law enforcement appears to be either complicit or completely taken hostage.
According to Penal Code and ICT Act, hurting one's religious sentiment is a crime and according to the law one might be punished for 14 years for such offense, said the police chief.  
That just about settles it. Freedom from religion and free expression in Bangladesh are both apparently extinct. The bloggers need to be brought out of that country. Otherwise, we shall watch them be gruesomely murdered, one by one.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Another Atheist Blogger Hacked to Death in Bangladesh

Niloy Neel
It sickens me to write that yet another - the fourth this year - atheist blogger was hacked to death - decapitated by a bunch of insane and inhuman religious nuts.
Niloy Chowdhury Neel, an online activist and secularist protester, has been found dead in his home, according to early reports. He was decapitated and his hands had been cut off. The four or five assailants had apparently gained access to his building by posing as a tenant, shortly after Juma prayers this afternoon.
It's really that easy for people to get away with murder in Bangladesh - when the victim is an atheist, at least. This is the fourth since the year has begun and there are over 80 bloggers on a list of blasphemers which was presented to the government previously.
All four men killed were on a list of 84 "atheist bloggers" drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.

It was originally submitted to the government with the aim of having the bloggers arrested and tried for blasphemy. The groups which wanted bloggers arrested told us they have no knowledge of who is behind the killings.
The BBC article quoted above points out that not all of the 84 are actually atheist. Some are religious secularists. However, it's this branding as an atheist that apparently makes it okay to be butchered to death in the street or your home.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Canada needs to work to get these people OUT of Bangladesh or they will all be murdered.

It's only a matter of time, and Bangladeshi society is apparently already trivializing this brutal act in the media. Bob Churchill, Director of Communications at IHEU:
Already some Bangla media is downplaying this killing, in some cases not linking it to the spate of gruesome machete murders of atheist bloggers, writers, and secularist activists that has killed three men already this year.
We need our Office of Religious Freedom and Department of Foreign Affairs to not only strongly condemn this barbarism but also offer amnesty for all of these bloggers. Then, we all need to work with organizations interested in human rights to get these people out of Bangladesh.

This is a horrendous tragedy and my heart goes out to Neel's family and friends.

I hope other bloggers can get out in time.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Bangladeshi Politician Jailed For Hurting Religious Sentiment, Branded 'Atheist' & Life Threatened

Abdul Latif Siddiqui
Atheist bloggers aren't the only ones in Bangladesh who need to be very careful about what they say. Politicians also risk being murdered for expressing any opinion which could inflame the rage of Islamic terrorists.
“He will be killed wherever he is found. No atheist has been spared since the independence of Bangladesh,” the Dhaka Tribune quoted Maulana Junayed Al Habib as saying at an Iftar gathering at Jamia Madania Madrassa in Dhaka.
Apparently, Al Habib is a representative of an organization which represents some 70,000 religious schools - Islamic madrassas. The fact that he has the gall to speak this threat in public and that he's not immediately hauled off to jail for it, says a lot about the current state of human rights in Bangladesh.

In fact, Bangladesh is an excellent study case of what happens to a so-called secular nation in which religion has assumed such primacy that it has now effectively become a terrifying theocracy.
Slandering religion and “hurting religious sentiment” are illegal in Bangladesh. Vigilantes have also taken the law into their own hands. This year alone, suspected fundamentalists have killed three secular bloggers in separate machete attacks.
Murdering politicians who happened to say something impious is perfectly okay, though.

Siddiqui was fired by the Prime Minister while he was abroad in New York. He made the fatal mistake of pointing out that perhaps the Muslim Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the Hajj, might be a bit of a waste of money.
“It is sheer waste of manpower. Some 20 lakh [two million] people have gone to Saudi Arabia. They have no work to do. It is deduction, rather than production. They are spending and consuming. They are taking the country’s money to Saudi Arabia,” he said in alleged footage of the event posted on YouTube. 
They are taking the money of a rather poor country and transferring it en masse to Saudi Arabia - a mind-numbingly rich human rights abuser.

For this comment, he got seven months in prison. He is now on bail. Apparently, he lives in a secular country. His lawyer had this to say.
“Atheism is not illegal in our country and we do not have Sharia Law to demand [the] death sentence [for] atheists. The government should take stern action against all irrespective of their political or other identities in such cases,” Barua told the Dhaka Tribune. 
Keep repeating this and perhaps someone might believe you. It's been clearly demonstrated that atheism will get you murdered in Bangladesh by mouth frothing, machete wielding religious lunatics. The government appears to be taking stern action by apparently being scared shitless of the terrorists and making mealy mouthed excuses.
They say “it is a sensitive matter” and that they plan to persuade the groups not to stage confrontations during the holy month.

“The government is monitoring the situation carefully and nobody would be allowed to create any law and order situation during Ramadan,” a minister told BenarNews, requesting anonymity.
Sounds like they're handling this situation like a boss! Laying down the law in Bangladesh!

Meanwhile, protesters appear to still be in need of some delicate persuasion not to slice this politician - who is not even necessarily an atheist - to ribbons.
Members of Islami Oikyo Jote – also a part of Hefazat – marched in Dhaka’s Lalbagh area on Tuesday to protest his release.

“The atrocious atheists and murtads (infidel) are being patronized by granting Latif Siddiqui bail. They will not be allowed to live in this country,” Mufti Faizullah, secretary general of the Jote, said, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
Why are the authorities not throwing this man into jail? I guess jail time might further offend his delicate religious sensitivities. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

DW Story On Daily Threats to Bangladeshi Blogger

Still from video shows friend advising Azad to leave Bangladesh after death threat. (source)
Today, on Canada Day, I get to reflect on how lucky I am to live in a country where it's (still) possible to safely blog about atheism, the dangers of religion and state-church separation issues. This is patently not the case in Bangladesh, where atheist bloggers like me are being hacked to death with machetes in the streets.

Here's an excellent and disturbing look by DW television at the life of one such atheist blogger in Bangladesh, Ananya Azad. He's on an Islamic terrorist hit list with other bloggers and gets frequent death threats. So far, he has not found any way out of the country to safety abroad. With all of this, he continues to blog.

Cannot embed the video. So here's the link:

Monday, 22 June 2015

Government Subcommittee Condemns Murder of Bangladeshi Atheist Bloggers


Eric Adriaans from Centre for Inquiry Canada sent me a link to a recent Canadian Government press release condemning human rights violations in Bangladesh. It's a statement from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development -- most of the document seems to be taken up just by the name of the committee. I'm rather mystified about what this committee can actually do other than occasionally make statements which most people -- including Bangladeshi leadership -- are likely to ignore, but why not give it a look?
For a number of years, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (the Subcommittee) has paid close attention to the plight of religious minorities in different parts of the world. In February and March 2015, the Subcommittee received testimony about the human rights situation in Bangladesh, focusing specifically on the situation of religious minorities in that country. These meetings left the Subcommittee deeply concerned about ongoing violations and abuses of freedom of religion and other internationally protected human rights in Bangladesh.

The Subcommittee notes that the Constitution of Bangladesh recognizes the right of Bangladeshi citizens to profess, practice and propagate any religion and prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. The Government of Bangladesh is also party to international human rights treaties guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief. Nevertheless, the Subcommittee has observed that the country’s religious minorities are unable to fully enjoy their human rights.

The Subcommittee was dismayed to receive reports that religious minority groups in Bangladesh continue to face discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of both state and non-state actors. Some minority religious communities have been victims of mob violence, such as the attacks against Hindu and Buddhist temples, shops and homes near Chittagong in 2012 and 2013. Witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee also spoke of violent attacks and land grabs perpetrated against indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, implicating both the Bangladeshi army and ethnic Bengali settlers in these acts.

The Subcommittee is also alarmed at the murder of three atheist bloggers known for speaking out against religious extremism in Bangladesh. The Subcommittee notes that Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Dr. Andrew Bennett, has condemned these murders. Moreover, the Subcommittee is troubled by reports that women and girls have been abducted, raped and subject to forced marriages, as well as indications that adherents of minority religions are at risk of forced conversion to Islam, and that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has training camps in Bangladesh.
The Subcommittee strongly believes that all Bangladeshis have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Members of religious minority communities, like all others in Bangladesh, also have the right to freedom of expression and the right to live free from discrimination. The Subcommittee also notes that a lack of respect for these rights negatively impacts the enjoyment of many other internationally protected human rights.

Therefore, the Subcommittee:

Condemns all discrimination, harassment and attacks against minority communities in Bangladesh, including indigenous groups and religious minorities.

Further condemns the brutal murder of atheist bloggers Avijit Roy, Ananta Bijoy Das and Oyashiqur Rahman and extends its condolences to their family members.
Calls upon the Government of Bangladesh to uphold the rights of all individuals to espouse their beliefs in peace and security, free from violent attack.

Insists that the Government of Bangladesh must effectively protect the places of worship, icons and religious property of minority religious communities, as well as the freedom of persons of all faiths to manifest their religion in public or private, individually or with other members of their community and without discrimination.

Urges the Bangladeshi authorities to conduct independent and effective investigations of violent incidents that undermine freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression in Bangladesh, and to bring those responsible to justice.
Condemns all forced religious conversions in Bangladesh.

Further condemns all forms of child, early and forced marriage in Bangladesh.

Supports the Government of Canada’s efforts to end child, early and forced early and childhood marriage in Bangladesh.

Encourages Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom to continue to monitor respect for religious freedom in Bangladesh.
This is all pretty good! I just have a couple of nits to pick.

Firstly, it wouldn't be such a stretch -- and I do see it as one -- for these sorts of statements to include atheists suffering at the hands of religious groups or governments, if the committee were concerned with human rights rather than the rather narrow scope of religious freedom.

Secondly, take another look at this portion about the killed atheist bloggers:
The Subcommittee is also alarmed at the murder of three atheist bloggers known for speaking out against religious extremism in Bangladesh. The Subcommittee notes that Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Dr. Andrew Bennett, has condemned these murders. Moreover, the Subcommittee is troubled by reports that women and girls have been abducted, raped and subject to forced marriages, as well as indications that adherents of minority religions are at risk of forced conversion to Islam, and that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has training camps in Bangladesh.
I wonder if they were only speaking out against only religious extremism in their blog or if they were simply questioning religion in general and discussing topics which upset religious people and compel lunatics (extremists) to violent action?

A recent story in the Glob and Mail, talks about the Mukto Mona's editor, who is in Toronto and concerned for his life and the life of bloggers in his home country of Bangladesh. This is the blog for which several of the murdered bloggers wrote.
Speaking at his Toronto home, Mr. Ahmed is pensive. He is getting messages from Mukto Mona writers in hiding. “Somebody will get killed within a short time,” he said with certainty.

The death threats extend to those beyond Mukto Mona, including intellectuals, academics and secular bloggers for other sites. Mr. Ahmed shared a message on his phone that someone sent to a contact inside Bangladesh: “We have already prepared your visa to hell,” it read.
The stated purpose of the blog:
The goal of Mukto Mona is not about “bashing” any one particular religion like Islam, but critiquing all religions, explained Mr. Ahmed.

“We don’t want people to become atheists all of a sudden. But we want people to think [in a] rational way,” he said. Another major theme is promoting scientific thought.
Furhermore:
For Mr. Ahmed and his wife Afroja, any return to Bangladesh is virtually impossible. His own writings for Mukto Mona have focused on “safe” subjects like literature and history – and largely steered clear of science and religion, which are not his areas of expertise, he explained.

“But right now, everyone knows I’m running Mukto Mona,” said Mr. Ahmed. “That’s enough to kill me.”
For sure there must have been criticism of religious extremism, but it seems like even discussing controversial topics openly -- eg. freethought -- is enough to get one killed.

I just got the feeling reading this statement that they added the extremism as a means to somehow mask or distance the reader from the reality that merely being an atheist and questioning religion in Bangladesh will get you dead.

I don't know for sure. That's just how the language strikes me. Still, a release like this is better than no release.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Militant Islamic Group Promises Not to Kill Non-Muslims if Sharia Law is Imposed!

Militant group is totally down with freedom of expression unless it challenges their religion. (source)
What a relief! Militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam -- which considers itself a brother with Al Qaeda -- made a press release in the wake of those Bangladesh coldblooded broad daylight barbaric slaughterings of atheist bloggers, just to remind us that atheists are A-Okay, with some caveats.

They're totally cool with atheists and bloggers. Hey! You can blog all you like! However, blogging and atheism at the same time is probably not so cool. Just don't question Islam or Allah, you know - shut the fuck up or die, okay?
"We have no problem with the atheists bloggers, atheism or with other religions or belief but we will not tolerate anyone insulting our Prophet Muhammad. We are targeting those who are insulting our Prophet Muhammad in the name of atheism, the Ansar says.
I'll be looking forward to reading a whole new generation of Bangladeshi atheist blogs where people don't critique religion, God or anything, just to see how they'll get around having no content whatsoever.

Take comfort though, atheists. Because even if you are a Muslim, if you present Islam in a wrong manner through your writings or preach Islam the wrong way, you're also probably going to get hacked to death.
Those who present Islam in a wrong manner through his or her writings will be targeted. We will also target those who try and preach Islam the wrong way. You may be a well known writer or a poet. You have the right to think what you want, but you have no right to preach against Islam, the warning states. 
I know my favourite kind of poetry is self-censored religious fundamentalist terrorist group approved poetry. Yes, that's so inspiring.

This might sound like double speak bordering on the ridiculous. Or like some sort of completely psychotic threat...
The Ansar says that the targets are not the non-Muslims. Every non-Muslim has a right to live and think the way he or she wants. Being a non-Muslim does not make you our target, the Ansar says.

However if anyone is trying to advocate against Islam or trying to change the mind of the people, they will be targeted for sure, the Ansar has further warned.
Hey, you can go right ahead and say whatever you like. Just be aware that if you express your beliefs in public, we'll have to kill you.

Well, that makes me feel much better. Thanks for the reassuring message!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Canada Office of Religious Freedom Condemns Murders of Bangladeshi Atheist Bloggers

Andrew Bennett (source)
Although I strongly protested the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom and I still would rather see the whole thing replaced with a secular human rights organization, it still does good things sometimes.

Now either I missed this or else nobody really pays a whole lot of attention to the office these days. Bennett's office did the right thing almost two weeks ago and released a statement condemning the fatal attack on Bangladeshi atheist blogger Ananta Bijoy Das as well as condemning the earlier murders of atheist bloggers Avijit Roy and Oyashiqur Rahman.

Here's the timely release on the office's press release page:
May 14, 2015 - Ottawa, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today issued the following statement:
“I am deeply troubled by the recent targeted killing of atheist blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in Bangladesh. Canada condemns this murder and calls on authorities to protect the rights and the lives of all Bangladeshis.

“This is the latest in a series of attacks on advocates for freedom of expression and freedom of religion over the past several months. Avijit Roy and Oyashiqur Rahman, both vocal defenders of freedom of expression, were also killed earlier this year.

“Ananta Bijoy Das reportedly contributed to the blog started by Avijit Roy.

“Canada has welcomed Bangladesh’s commitment to pluralism and religious freedom, and we encourage further efforts by the government and all parties to uphold the right of all individuals to espouse their beliefs in peace and security, free from violent attack.”
This is only a couple of days after my own post on the attack -- a great improvement over the months and months of silence regarding persecution of atheists and others by religious governments and groups in the past.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Canadian Editor of Bangladeshi Freethought Blog Concerned After Murder of Bloggers

Farid Ahmed is justifiably concerned for the safety of fellow bloggers and his family.
On February 26th, Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death. On May 12th, blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was butchered. Both were freethinkers, atheists. Both blogged at the Bangladeshi English language freethought blog Mukto-Mona

The Globe and Mail has an stark story on Toronto editor of the blog, Fahrid Ahmed, who is justifiably concerned for friends, himself and family.
From his home, Mr. Ahmed is steering the Bengali- and English-language blog Mukto Mona – which translates as “free thinking” – through a difficult chapter as its writers are struck down.

The blog’s founder and a friend of Mr. Ahmed’s, Bangladeshi-American Avijit Roy, was hacked to death while leaving a book fair in the capital Dhaka in February. Dr. Roy’s wife, Rafida Ahmed, sustained serious head injuries and the loss of her thumb in the machete attack carried out by suspected religious militants.
The blog Ahmed runs from the relative safety of Canada is the largest of its kind in Bangladesh and acts as an umbrella -- a major meeting place of people in that country's freethought, secular and atheist community. This blog seems to be target number one for murderous militant Islamic groups who seem hellbent to continue slaughtering bloggers until it is silenced.
For Mr. Ahmed, the blog that he helped build has become a matter of life and death – as its writers inside Bangladesh fear for their lives and look to him for answers. From the safety of Canada, he realizes there are no easy solutions.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said.
I wish I knew what to do. I've seen positive outcomes, like Bangladeshi blogger Sharif Ahmed (no relation to Farid) who successfully got refuge in Canada after suffering torture for his atheism in his own country.

However, I also see Raif Badawi rotting still in his jail cell in Saudi Arabia for doing essentially the same thing. Our federal government doing precious little to help his cause. So what can we do?
Speaking at his Toronto home, Mr. Ahmed is pensive. He is getting messages from Mukto Mona writers in hiding. “Somebody will get killed within a short time,” he said with certainty.
The site itself has some 300 contributors and 35 core writers. The threats pour in.

Ahmed himself recognizes he can never set foot in his home country again. Although he has concentrated on subjects not directly related with religion or atheism, Like Avijit Roy, in Bangladesh, he would be a marked man.

I believe every effort should be made to get as many of these bloggers out of the country. I wish I knew exactly what that is though. If anyone reading these words knows what that is -- please let me know.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Another Atheist Blogger Hacked to Death by Religious Fanatics in Bangladesh

Ananta Bijoy Das
It's happened again. Another atheist blogger has been brutally murdered in the street, in broad daylight in Bangladesh: Ananta Bijoy Das.
Witnesses said four attackers killed Mr Das in broad daylight near his home as he headed to work at a local bank.

Local police officer Mohammad Rahamatullah told Reuters that Mr Das "came out of his house and what we came to know from the local people who are witnesses, was that four miscreants chased him and killed him near his house".

The attackers fled. Mr Das was taken to hospital but declared dead on arrival.
Here's what needs to happen. Every country that believes in freedom of speech needs to open their borders and offer refuge for bloggers like Das and Avijit Roy who was cut down the same way in February. Any country that does not make this reasonable offer -- given the plain to see evidence of imminent threat against secular bloggers in Bangladesh -- has blood on its hands.
Sweden has confirmed it turned down a visa request from Mr Das in April.

He had been invited to attend a press freedom event by the Swedish Pen writers organisation but officials in the country's embassy in Dhaka refused the request, citing a risk he might not return home.

Swedish Pen told the BBC they were in the process of submitting an appeal when they heard of Mr Das's murder. The group has demanded an explanation from their government, the BBC's John McManus reports.
No fucking wonder they believed he might not return home -- because even they knew of the immense danger he was in, all in the name of a so-called Swedish value... freedom of speech. Shame on Sweden, now he's dead.

Every country needs people like Das to speak out and call out injustices and false thinking everywhere -- especially a place like Bangladesh. In order to be effective, these people must not be dead. If countries like Canada believe in human rights, they need to help bloggers get out of danger so they may continue publishing from safe refuges.

With this third killing, my sadness and shock have turned into anger and frustration. As a fellow blogger, I am stunned at the bravery of these people but feel a sense of deep hopelessness for their future in a place where atheists are seen as sub human by many -- likely also the authorities.

From an IHEU article about another slain blogger, Washiqur Rahman.
Arifur Rahman, another fellow Bangladeshi atheist blogger, saw Washiqur recently at a social meetup. Washiqur was “a soft spoken personality,” says Arifur, and “his writing was very good. He was… careful, but that did not save him… The culture of impunity that has spread over the last few years clearly has very damning results. It is now the consensus inside Bangladesh, be it silent or spoken, that ‘if you drop an atheist in the open street, nothing will happen to you, you will be treated as a hero.’ The word ‘Nastik’ (atheist) has been vilified in Bangladesh (and the rest of the Muslim world); they are seen as sub-human, it is OK to kill them.”
I'm shocked and sad for Mr. Das' friends, family and country this morning. If you are an atheist blogger in Bangladesh, you must escape. You have to get out.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility For Murdering Avijit Roy & Other Atheist Bloggers

Al Qaeda branch leader Asim Umar, who apparently believes his god is too weak to fend for himself.
Although I had been covering other cases of abused or murdered bloggers in Bangladesh, I failed to cover the barbaric murder of Avijit Roy. I really thought I had nothing much more to add to what was already in-depth coverage in the atheist blogosphere.

Then there was the horrible murder of atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman only weeks after that of Roy. I just didn't have words to express it.

Well, today the news is that Al Qaeda is taking credit for murders of atheist bloggers, including Avijit Roy.
In a nine-minute video posted on jihadist forums on Saturday, the leader of the branch, Asim Umar, said followers of his group were responsible for the killing of several people he called blasphemers: Mohammad Shakil Auj, an Islamic scholar fatally shot in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2014; Aniqa Naz, a Pakistani blogger; Rajib Haider, a blogger killed in a machete attack in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, in 2013; and Mr. Roy.
They've also put the word out to their locally situated religious lunatics to murder as many atheist bloggers they can get their hands on.
He went on to urge his followers to carry out more attacks, saying, “Where are those who would kill these blasphemers, wherever they may be found, even if it has to be done using a dagger or a knife, and by doing so record their names on the Day of Judgment among the devotees of the prophet?”
Blogging here in Canada, I do not feel the same sort of immediate threat as the brave bloggers in these regions must.

How weak and sad someone's faith must be if they feel the need to murder anyone who questions it. How feeble and inept their god must be if he requires them to mow people down with machetes in his name.

Saudi Arabia declared all atheists terrorists. Yet it seems like the real terrorists here are actually murdering innocent atheists.

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Man Who Would Have The Bangladeshi Atheist Bloggers Killed

Shah Ahmad Shafi and his radical group has a
set of thirteen demands' for the government.
So awhile back, four atheist bloggers in Bangladesh got arrested and thrown in jail. One of them got cut up really bad and nearly died. And they were recently indicted and could face 14 years in prison.

You'd think that would be bad enough trouble for these bloggers who only wanted to express themselves online. Well, there is one particularly unpleasant fellow who would like to see all atheists be killed. He's Shah Ahmad Shafi, who is the head of the radical Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam.

Pass blasphemy law: Shafi : Ahmed Shafi also demanded fulfilling their “pro-Islamic” 13-point demands

If this group gets its way, the atheist bloggers won't necessarily need to worry about spending 14 years in prison. They'll need to worry about execution.
Radical Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam on Thursday said the government still had time to amend the constitution to enact an anti-blasphemy law to hand down death penalty for atheists.
Great. Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse. Oh, and this same fellow isn't exactly the friend of women either. He's had a few choice things so say about them:
The Quran says: You [women] should stay at your home…Your duty is to stay at the husband’s house and safeguard property. Your primary duty is to stay home and look after your family and children only. Do not go out even for shopping.
And...
Why are you sending your daughters to work in garment factories?... She goes to work after Fajr at 7/8:00am and does not come back even at 8/10/12 at night... You do not know which man she is hanging out with. You do not know how much zina [unlawful sexual activity] she is getting involved in. Through zina, she is earning money, which does not bring prosperity [Barkat]. 
Yeah, what a real winner here.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Bangladeshi Atheist Blogger: "They liked me, but they have to kill me some day."

Asif's back after a January attack that nearly left him dead.
Note the stitches. (image: IHEU)
There was an excellent article in Religion Dispatches yesterday that provided a gripping and somber interview with Bangladeshi atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin. He was nearly killed by a mob of religious zealots and then thrown into jail.

It was written by Austin Dacey, a representative to the United Nations for the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Bangladesh's Atheist Blogger Still Wants to Talk

What I found particularly fascinating was that Asif was actually put into a cell next to one of the assailants who nearly murdered him! It turns out they have carried out several chats and get along quite well - other than the fact the youth feels the religious obligation to murder him any chance he gets!
What Asif learned is that his would-be murderer, ten years his junior, did not want anything from him in particular, declining even a neighborly offer of food between the bars. Kamal and the other young incarcerated members of Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir—or Shibir, the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamist political party in the country—seemed genuinely to enjoy their captive colloquies, seemed to like Asif “as a human being.” 
It was nothing personal. But as an atheist, he would have to be killed.
Later in the article he mentions more about his would be killer. About how the assailants have nothing personal against him - it's just that their religion tells them they must kill.
“He thinks that Allah will love him if he can kill an atheist, that this is the shortest way to heaven. He told me he will try again if he gets out of there because that is their religious duty. They liked me, but they have to kill me some day.” 
I know they don't have any idea about me or my thoughts. They have no personal problem with me. They just have been told to do so, in the name of religion or Allah. I just have to criticize the root, not them—they will understand later. They are just following their duties. And I have to go to their roots.”
The story also goes on to explain how the prosecution twisted his own words against him and misrepresented what he had written to trump up false evidence against him.

Go check it out! It's a fascinating and sad read. Truly shows the worst possible face of religion.


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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Bangladesh Court Throws Atheist Blogger Back Into Jail For No Apparent Reason

Asif Mohiuddin
So atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin was thrown back into prison this past Monday.

The judge decided that his continued health problems - after nearly being murdered - were insufficient grounds for him to remain on bail. Meanwhile, the other bloggers who were arrested for the very same crime remain on bail.

Asif is in no condition to withstand the imminent threats to his life in prison. Perhaps this is the hidden motive of the presiding judge.

A short editorial piece in the Dhaka Tribune puts it like this:
The recent decision made by a Dhaka court to refuse blogger Asif Mohiuddin’s bail petition seems unnecessary and illogical at best, vindictive and punitive at worst.
... 
While we do not opine here on the charges against the bloggers, and that is an issue best left to the courts, the motivation behind rejecting his bail petition is unclear to us.
From the Reporters Without Borders website: “UNJUSTIFIABLE” DECISION TO SEND BLOGGER BACK TO PRISON
“It is up to the judicial system to prove that it is absolutely necessary to keep Mohiuddin in detention. He has been suffering from major injuries ever since a knife attack in January and, although he received treatment during the month he was free, he has still not recovered. Sending him back to prison will just make his condition worse.”
I'm not sure why he stayed in Bangladesh - if he was in any position to be able to flee like fellow blogger Sharif Ahmed. But I wouldn't have held it against him in any way. If it was his decision to stay then he's very brave indeed. In any case, Canada should be doing something. It should at the very least denounce this persecution and offer some kind of asylum to Asif.

Just to put things into context here, a fellow atheist blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was found hacked to death in the streets of Dhaka.
“We also point out that bloggers are in danger in prison, that they are exposed to death threats from fellow inmates who are members of Islamist organizations such as Jamaat-e-Islami, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Hefazat-e-Islam.” (source)
Okay. I need to get off my lazy butt and contact Andrew Bennett over at the Office of Religious Freedom and ask him who I should be writing about this situation. Because his office is doing nothing but observing the situation. I know it is unlikely to do anything, considering: the president of Secular Connextion already wrote Bennett to no avail; secular groups protested in several cities on behalf of the Bangladeshi bloggers; and the CFI personally requested that the ORF speak out against the plight of Bangladeshi bloggers.

Yes, I know it won't do much good, but I got to do something!




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Friday, 26 July 2013

Office of Religious Freedom Ambassador Responds to Secular Connexion President

Atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin face covered with blood.
Atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin after being nearly stabbed to death.
So Bangladeshi atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin got stabbed and nearly died just for expressing his non-belief in gods or religion - exercising his freedom of conscience.

"We operated on him for more than three hours. He is improving but still not out of danger. He has six deep cuts including two grave ones in the shoulder," Haridas Saha, a surgeon at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, told AFP.

Then he was thrown in jail for nearly three months where he became gravely ill.

You see, he was nearly murdered and then imprisoned for "hurting religious beliefs." Which is pretty much the same reason Egyptian Alber Saber was imprisoned. Both men were physically attacked and nearly killed just for expressing their honest disbelief in a god.

The IHEU published an English translation of one of Asif's final blog posts. I was written by Asif just after he was nearly stabbed to death and just prior to him being thrown into jail for hurting religious sensibilities. It's a gruesome and riveting read: "Speak, for the cup of hemlock is not yet on your lips" by jailed atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin.

Then, just last month, Asif was released on bail.  And how did he get this bail?  Did the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom ride in on white horses with Andrew Bennett at the lead?  Was there a press release made expressing Canada's outrage at this stifling of free speech and abuse of human rights?



No, I guess not. Too bad he wasn't a priest.  Lots of condemnation there, but nothing for Asif or any other atheist.

Nope, It turns out Asif was near the point of death and was so sick they had to release him right away.  I suppose they didn't want him to die before being properly convicted of the crime of blasphemy.  He's required to attend a hearing on August 25th concerning the blasphemy charges against him.  Who knows what will happen then. All the while his life is now in very real danger.

I have serious questions for Ambassador Bennett and have said I'd write him a letter about them.  Well it turns out that Doug Thomas, President of the Secular Connexion has beat me to it and has recently released his e-mail correspondences with Bennett to his organization's members.

On July 10th he wrote this, rather more kindly-worded letter than I would have sent, to Bennett.
Dear Ambassador Bennett: 
On the "Media Room" page of the Office of Religious Freedom site, there are many references to speeches and articles by Minister John Baird in reaction to persecution of religious people around the world. 
The titles use such strong words as "condemns"in reference to statements making it clear that he has consistently spoken out against persecution of religious people. 
Is the Office of Religious Freedom taking a similar, strong stand in response to the persecution of atheists in similar situations as exemplified by articles on the home page of The International Humanist and Ethical Union Website (iheu.org)? 
I have attached a pdf copy of one of the articles for your convenience. 
I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter 
Doug Thomas
I've posted about this "Media Room" page before and even included colourful pie charts breaking down affected religious groups who's rights the Office is standing up for.  I don't mean to keep score here or anything, but the total number of persecuted secular and atheist groups the Office is standing up for is ZERO. You know, short of actively condemning the secular groups, the Office really cannot do any worse.

Here's Bennett's response to Thomas.
Dear Mr. Thomas, 
Thank you for your email of 10 July 2013 regarding the persecution of atheists.  I have noted your concerns and I have made reference to the concerns of atheists in my public statements.  For example, in a speech in Washington, D.C. on 18 April 2013 I said that, '...religious freedom does not just mean freedom to worship. It also means freedom to study one's faith; freedom to preach it; freedom to engage in missionary activity; freedom to change one's faith and- yes-freedom to hold no religious beliefs.' 
The Government of Canada established the Office of Religious Freedom on February 19, 2013, to promote and protect freedom of religion or belief as a Canadian foreign policy priority.  As a country made up of many cultures and faiths, Canada is uniquely placed to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief worldwide.  Canada has been a strong and committed supporter of individuals' right to freedom of religion or belief. This is addressed in Section 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which explicitly states that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion". 
In my public statements, I draw attention to the full range of rights associated with freedom of religion or belief.  Please see the following link for a list of statements dealing with the plight of various communities: http://www.international.gc.ca/religious_freedom-liberte_de_religion/media-room_salle-presse.aspx. 
I can assure you that the Office of Religious Freedom will continue to monitor the situation of atheist groups around the world and will take appropriate measures to promote their rights. 
Sincerely, 
Andrew P.W. Bennett, PhD
Bennett has noted our concerns and he's defended the human rights of atheists sort of like this.  I paraphrase.

"Religious freedom doesn't just mean freedom to worship (God)."

"You should also be able to study your religion."

"And preach it."

"And engage in missionary activity. "

"And to change from one faith to another faith...."

"Oh... and yeah... right... okay... sure..."

"... you should be able to hold no religious belief as well."

At least that's how it came off to me.

And he didn't bother writing any of this down anywhere. Perhaps this noble sentiment was either too self-obvious or lofty to descend upon the pages of a newspaper opinion piece or stoop to the level of an official Office of Religious Freedom statement to the media.  I mean, why demean such an idea by formalizing it into an official statement of Canada's revulsion, concern or condemnation? Best to just keep it amongst us Canadians or at dinner speeches or polite conversation with intellectuals.

The letter then launches into some kind of boiler plate response. Through the magic of cut and paste, we get the sickeningly ironic situation of the ambassador referring Thomas back to the "full range of rights associated with freedom of religion or belief." Which is to say, he refers Thomas back to the very same press release page Thomas pointed out to him. A page that contains nothing but support for the freedom of religion or belief and no support whatsoever for atheists having their human rights trampled by governments or groups under the aegis of religion. Well played, Mr. Bennett.

Then, much like a letter I received from Baird, Bennett assures that he will continue to monitor the situation of atheist groups around the world. Sorry, Mr Bennett, that post is already filled by other atheist and human rights groups around the world. I certainly hope you will take appropriate measures to promote their rights that don't involve doing nothing whatsoever or else, I dare say, the Office really isn't really all that useful at all.

Later, Thomas responded to Bennett's letter.
Dear Ambassador Bennett, 
Thank you for your in-depth reply to my email of July 10. Your references to the idea that freedom of religion includes the freedom to hold no religion are reassuring as is your statement of assurance that your office "will continue to monitor the situation with atheist groups around the world and take appropriate measures to promote their rights." 
I do have a concern with the notion of monitoring the situation of atheist groups. Since atheism is repressed in much of the world to some degree or another, and illegal in eleven countries, atheist groups are often non-existent, or difficult to contact. Individual atheists are the targets of theist regimes and religious extremists who are supported, tacitly or otherwise, by those regimes. Individual cases may be the appropriate targets in this environment. 
In this, I am reassured that in your April 18, Washington statement, you included the freedom to "engage in missionary activity." Given your assurances that protection of non-belief is included in your mandate and intent, I look forward to your comments on the case of Asif Mohiuddin, imprisoned in Bangladesh on April 3rd for writing an openly atheist blog after he was viciously attacked with a machete by Islamist extremists. Such a blog is the atheist equivalent of "missionary work" and as such should be a part of your office's mandate. 
Details of Asif's arrested and detainment, including a copy of his final blog are available at the International Humanist and Ethical Union website http://iheu.org/article-categories/general-news and other case information is available at http://iheu.org/article-categories/action-alert. 
I hope this information is useful to you in your continued work on behalf of inclusive human rights and look forward to any action you can take on behalf of atheists in peril. 
Sincerely, 
Doug Thomas
Well, it's a noble attempt. I hope Bennett will respond with something a little more substantive than his last answer.  I'm not holding my breath.

And I'm not assured by Bennett monitoring the situation at all. For me it's no more than code word for doing nothing at all. (This is already being done free of taxpayer money by other organizations.)

Surely, it's the ones monitoring the situation with the tools and resources to do something who are the most guilty when they do nothing at all.

Here's what Bennett and his Office should do. I'd be one proud Canadian if they did.
  1. Declare unambiguously that, like religious belief, holding no religious belief is a universal human right.
  2. Publicly and officially condemn any government, group or individual who persecutes other individuals or groups because of their lack of religious faith.
  3. Urge the Canadian government to offer asylum and refugee status in Canada to all those like Asif Mohiuddin (and their spouses and any children) who are under immediate physical threat.
Of course this will never happen.

Perhaps Asif Mohiuddin would be wise to flee his country like fellow Bangladeshi blogger Sharif Ahmed did. He is now hoping to receive refugee status in Canada. Both men were nearly killed for being openly atheist.

As for the Office of Religious Freedom. I think that by its very nature it is flawed. Its mission parameters are so narrow that it cannot do anything but protect religious interests around the globe. It is not a truly human rights oriented organization but rather a religious (right?) rights organization that strives to defend and promote religion and the religious.  When it comes to the non-religious being persecuted and killed in the name of religion, it will be forever mute because it is simply not set up to hold the interests of both the religious and non-religious in the same hand.

The only equivalent for secular agency was Rights and Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development), which was scrapped by John Baird's government only to be replaced by the ORF this year by: John Baird's government.

Rights and Democracy was an independent organization that tried to advance human rights in general. The official government story is that it tore itself apart due to in-fighting and controversy. But the opposition believes it was deliberately scuttled like so many other progressive programs. Anyway, whatever happened, the government seemed pretty keen on throwing it in the trash bin rather than attempting to fix it.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Dominic LeBlanc sums up the closure of Rights and Democracy like this:
"This Conservative government has tried to use Rights and Democracy to advance its own ideological agenda. When that failed, they drove the organization into trouble and then killed it off as a 'cost-cutting' measure," he said in a print statement. 
"The Conservatives will now use the newly created Office of Religious Freedom, inside the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to advance a narrower agenda," LeBlanc's statement continued. "This office will not be arm's length."
Sadly, I don't think you'll see the Office of Religious Freedom standing up for atheists any time soon. Perhaps if the government changes.

I'll still get those e-mails out to Bennett soon.

I'd like to thank Doug Thomas over at the Secular Connexion for releasing the letter and Veronica Abbass at the Canadian Atheist for drawing my attention to them.



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