Showing posts with label islamism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label islamism. 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

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 or tweet him at

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
He died at the hospital of his wounds.
'Jagriti Prokashony' manager Md Alauddin told " 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 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’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.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Saudi Foreign Minister: We Have Right Not to Follow Any (LGBT Rights) Agenda That Runs "Counter to Islamic Law"

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir
Well now that the UN has elected Saudi ambassador Faisal Trad to chair the UN Human Rights Council panel, they had better get right on the terrible human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and perhaps speak up against Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al-Jubeir:
Saudi Arabia has protested any references to homosexuality in a new UN development program, saying it is "counter to Islamic law." Punishments for those engaging in same-sex relationships in the absolute monarchy are brutal, such as being stoned to death.

The protest was made by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who told the UN General Assembly that "mentioning sex in the text, to us, means exactly male and female. Mentioning family means consisting of a married man and woman,” AP reported.

He stated that Saudi Arabia had the right not to follow any agenda that runs "counter to Islamic law."
Well there you go. I wonder what Faisal Trad's panel's recommendations could be regarding the situation in Saudi Arabia and their obvious lack of any respect whatsoever for basic human rights or international law?

Well, I'm certain this will all play out perfectly fine.

(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.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Judge in VIA Rail Terrorism Trial: Psychiatrists 'Too Secular' to Diagnose Religious Man

Chiheb Esseghaier (source)
There's been a disturbing turn of events with the ongoing Chiheb Esseghaier case. Remember, he's one of two convicted terrorists who plotted to blow up a New York bound passenger train and assassinate public figures.

He's repeatedly refused any representation in court in his defence because he will not settle to be judged by secular law - just Quranic law. Now news has come out that he's convinced he'll die and be brought off to Heaven on December 25th, 2014... and that he believes this date hasn't happened yet.
“You are lying,” he told Klassen. “Which delusion, which schizophrenia and which mental illness? We are before December 2014, because I am alive. If you say it’s a delusion then the Qur’an is a delusion.”

Esseghaier has said in court before that he believes he will die and his soul will be taken up to heaven on Dec. 25, 2014. Because that has not yet happened, he said he doesn’t believe it is currently September 2015.
In fact, two psychiatrists believe he is schizophrenic. He's also spit at his defence lawyer to the point of being kicked out of the courtroom.

So he should be treated for this, right? I mean this is the humane thing to do. The disturbing thing here is that the judge wasn't satisfied with the first psych assessment and ordered the second only to disagree with the spirit of that one too.

The judge Michael Code seems convinced that the psychiatrists don't get it because they're too secular, or something, to recognize the influence of religion on people -- or something. Esseghaier's representation, Russell Silverstein, was rather shocked when the judge refused to get his client proper treatment for his psychosis.
Silverstein asked Code to have Esseghaier hospitalized, where he would likely be forcibly treated with anti-psychotic medication, before sentencing. The goal, in Silverstein’s view, was to puzzle out the core unanswered question in the case.

Esseghaier’s descent into mental illness appeared to coincide with his increased religiosity and eventual radicalism. If the mental illness caused the radicalism, then it could be argued he was not responsible, or at the very least less responsible, for what he did.

But when Silverstein rose to make that argument, Code interrupted him at every turn. He disputed the idea Esseghaier was necessarily mentally ill, or at least as mentally ill as the two doctors made him out to be. He expressed concern with the fact two “secular” psychiatrists had come to such conclusions about an obviously religious man. And he repeatedly scoffed at Silverstein’s interpretation of the evidence.

The lawyer appeared by turns frustrated and baffled by Code. He wasn’t asking the judge to let Esseghaier off. He said he didn’t know what role the man’s illness played in his crimes, but treating him was one way to potentially find out.
Listen, it's a grey line between extreme religiosity and psychosis - the two go hand in hand and are often rather indistinguishable. One could argue that religion might be some form of delusion. However, symptoms of psychosis should be treated - whether they be laced with some mythology or not. The judge's own bias seems to muddy an already screwed up case even more.

Religion can drive people to do insane things. It can definitely be used as a framework to legitimize all sorts of actions - and in the mind of someone already suffering from mental illness, it can be extremely dangerous. However, it is not up to a judge to overrule the diagnoses of trained mental professionals.

The judgement has been delayed until the 22nd of September. I hope this man gets treated for whatever psychosis he has developed - religious or not.

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)

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.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Who Frames the Secular Charter? Why Can't We Work Together?

So there was a bit of a scuffle here in Montreal on Sunday between people who claimed to be pro Secular Charter vs those who claim to be anti-racist. I grow weary of the sort of framing secularists get in the English media here in Canada -- I don't think it helps anyone, even moderate religious people.
Anti-Muslim radicalization and anti-racism protesters clashed outside of a Montreal post-secondary institution on Sunday afternoon, leading to one arrest.

Duelling demonstrations by a small group of secular charter supporters and a group of anti-racism protesters turned violent after a man was attacked with picket-sign sticks. 
The anti-radicalization marchers were there to protest Collège de Maisonneuve allowing Adil Charkaoui to resume teaching his Arabic and Quran course after two of his students were linked with six youth who ran off to join ISIL in Syria. Four of the six attended the college.

As far as I know, there is insufficient evidence to implicate Charkaoui into any sort of ISIL recruiting or direct radicalization of youth. So I wonder why these secularists and anti-racist protesters cannot work together to find a solution to the broader question of radicalization? Am I naive? Surely both sides do not wish anyone's children to run off to Syria.

I would think that there could be no person more noble than an anti-racist person who is also against Muslim radicalization and is strongly in support of a secular state. So what went wrong here?

I keep asking the questions, then in the same article, perhaps I find a clue.
A couple of dozen people who said they supported Quebec's failed secular charter — a proposed bill that would have imposed rules on head coverings in Quebec — ultimately showed up at the school. About 50 people from the anti-racism camp were there to denounce them. 
This is the tragedy of the charter that keeps disappointing me. A noble idea that everyone should be able to get behind boiled down to the pettiest and most irrational of suggestions possible. Yet this is how I see the original charter framed, time after time -- dumbed down to nothing more than apparently xenophobic wardrobe fascism.

Don't get me wrong, a proper secular charter would include some limitation to religious wardrobe. It would be fine for a woman to take her citizenship oath or appear in court wearing a chador or less -- the same as as a Catholic nun, for example. This is for practical purposes -- for identification. Otherwise, they may wear their niqab wherever they like.

But this would be a minor aspect of a proper charter. Bigger fish to fry would be the eradication of tax breaks for the clergy, churches and religious institutions. Private religious schools would no longer receive a per head government subsidy either. Religious symbols -- mostly Catholic -- would be removed from city halls and other government buildings, including the National Assembly. Prayer before government meetings would be eradicated completely.

I personally do not have a problem with government workers wearing religious symbols or hijabs, so long as the do their duties and do not discriminate. Although I tend to flip-flop on this one from time to time -- I still see this as being their own personal expression and do not assume that it is an expression of the government itself just the same as I do not consider the hue of lipstick they are wearing to be an expression of government endorsed cosmetic.

Even that last point -- being the most contentious and probably best left out of any Charter if we want to have any charter at all -- need not stand in the way of reasonable people -- religious or not -- working together to fight radicalization and promote a democratic secular state that allows us all freedom to exist and express ourselves.

Why can't we work together?

Really, this debate is much more nuanced than this -- and I think we all would actually agree on a lot more if we stopped and listened to each other.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Muslim Group Demanding Bahrain Government Ban Entry of Feminist Atheist Lebanese Poet

Joumana Haddad (source)
I'm sort of ashamed to say that I've never heard of Lebanese poet and feminist activist Joumana Haddad (@joumana333). Not until Bahrain Salafist Muslim groups started waving their arms around screaming that they'll not have that atheist pornographer in their country!
Several people, mainly Islamists, led by Al Asalah, the expression of Salafism in Bahrain, had vehemently opposed the poetry recital by Joumana, accusing her of promoting atheism and of targeting Islamic values.
Yes, it's those Islamists again. They're really threatened by a single woman who writes poems, speaks out for the rights of women, and publishes a magazine containing the occasional nude photograph.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the disrespect by the Baca of the feelings of more than one billion Muslims and its challenge to the beliefs of the Bahraini people by inviting an atheist who advocates pornography and adultery to Bahrain to spread her sick mentality at an event of the Spring of Culture,” Al Asalah said in a statement.
We cannot have people's beliefs challenged now can we? That might cause people to question the assumptions they've had drilled into their heads since they were infants.

Of course, Joumana will be entering into the country on the back of a mighty steed, fully-armoured, with thousands of foot soldiers. No doubt she will overwhelm the local army and authorities, take over all radio, television and print media and force all citizens into forced atheist pornographic feminist re-education camps. Minds will be assaulted by the dulcet strains of her lyrical propaganda! No wait, that's the government that's doing all that! They score 87/100 for the least free press in the world.

Joumana's was just going to attend a freaking banquet!
Joumana was scheduled to present “a banquet of poetry and music” on April 6 as part of the Spring of Culture Festival organised annually by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca), headed by Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa.
I know, Islamic groups! Why not give the banquet a miss! I'm betting you were never on the guest list to begin with.

Her pornographic magazine deals with issues of sexuality and art -- from the point of view of a feminist activist. These are parts of humanity and touch deep into our collective humanity humanity. Usually the only force which cuts into and diverts a healthy sexuality and appreciation of art is a sort of extreme religious fundamentalism. It appears that Bahrain has a significant strain of this godly prudism.

For the record, Haddad is indeed an atheist. So the local Islamists got that right, at least.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Brave Atheists Dare to Exist in a Hostile 'Secular' Turkey

In less than one year of existence, the Atheist Association of Turkey has gotten hundreds of death threats -- some gruesome ones from Islamist groups. Just take a look at these 'dangerous' people! Many would like to see them dead simply for not believing in God.
Here's one for Andrew Bennett and his Office of Religious Freedom to say something about. In secular Turkey, less than a year ago, atheists got together and formed the Atheist Association.

Since then they've gotten so many death threats -- hundreds -- that they've had to install three panic buttons wired directly to the police (who one hopes will be helpful) and three video cameras. They've got Islamist groups calling to have their president's hands cut off! Even their own president, emperor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has managed to get their site blocked and has accused them of trying to take down his government and identified them as a terrorist threat.

It's a rough time to be atheist in Turkey -- it's really bad.

They plan to march in the streets of Istanbul on their first year anniversary. That's pretty freaking brave!

Listen to this short and depressing report (audio only) about the situation of atheists in Turkey and then why not tweet to Mr. Bennett (@freedomreligion) and ask him to express a little concern on their behalf.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Thursday, 8 January 2015

We Must All Be Charlie

It's so very difficult to write about what happened today at Charlie Hebdo Paris office. It's tragic and I cannot help but feel angry, sad and intensely confused at how people could be possessed to sink to such levels because of hurt feelings. Two masked gunmen executed 12 defenseless people in cold blood because they're feelings were hurt by some cartoons.

These brutes apparently believed their imaginary god was unable to take care of himself, so they took offense on his impotent behalf attacked cartoonists armed with nothing but pens and any bystanders who would get in the way.
Cartoonist Corinne Rey reported that two armed and hooded men, speaking perfect French, threatened the life of her toddler daughter whom she had picked up from daycare, and forced her to type in the code to open the door to the building. The men then moved up to an office on the second floor, where the staff were in an editorial meeting, with approximately 15 members in attendance. The entire shooting lasted between five and ten minutes. Witnesses reported that the gunmen sought out members of the staff by name before executing them with single shots to the head.
They yelled out "Allahu Akbar" and "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!" You see, they had nothing intelligent to respond with -- no rational counter arguments -- so like trapped animals or thugs, they turned into violent thugs.

People around the world are now rallying behind the hashtag #jesuischarlie. So far, they are not sinking to the terrorists' level. Cartoonists are releasing images of support. There were enormous vigils across the world (some 35,000 in Paris).

Here in Montreal, there were two vigils; one at city hall and one at the French consulate. The JE SUIS CHARLIE banner was hung atop the city hall and will remain there for three days along with all flags half mast. A general disdain for religion was voiced by some in the crowd while Montreal mayor Denis Coderre was speaking.
Shouts of “Religion! Finished!” and loud boos were heard in the crowd of about 200 people as Mayor Denis Coderre called for respect and tolerance among Montrealers of every faith.

“Terrorism is the act of individuals,” he said, prompting more boos and shouts of “no!”

At the back of the crowd, someone yelled, “What are you afraid of?”
One might also ask what journalists at the New York Daily News were afraid of. Take a look at this screen capture I took from their coverage. Just read the text above and below the censored image and think about just how much solidarity this news organization has with Stéphane Charbonnier and Charlie Hebdo. It makes my stomach turn.

Twitter user David Burge (@iowahawkblog) sums up well the apparent cowardice of the Telegraph as well today:

We surrender, indeed. I later checked that part of the coverage and the Telegraph had removed the picture altogether.

I'll try to unpack more of how I'm feeling in later posts. As an atheist blogger myself, this hits home. I just hope that this event doesn't scare too many cartoonists and journalists into some kind of silent submission. If we are to guard our most precious freedom of speech, for our children, we all need to be Charlie Hebdo.

Search This Blog