The second secularist blogger in less than a month was hacked to death in the streets of the capital, made it clear that people having secular ideals are not safe in Bangladesh.
A 25 year old blogger, Ananya Azad, said that “Anytime they can hit me or my like-minded friends,” he has written pieces that were critical of Islamic fundamentalism and politics driven by religion. He quit his job as a newspaper columnist and stopped writing blogs in recent months after receiving numerous threats, but still posts critical comments on Facebook.
In two months or so two bloggers were slayed while Ananya says he’s thinking about fleeing the country and spends much of his time indoors these days. “They don’t hesitate to kill in the name of their beliefs,” he said. “I’m an easy target for the fanatics.”
In many ways, the divide is clear- The bloggers want authorities to ban religion—based politics, while the Islamists are pressing for blasphemy laws so that nobody can undermine Islam’s holy book, the prophet or basic pillars of being a Muslim.
Islam is Bangladesh’s state religion, but the country is governed by secular laws based on British common law. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly said she will not give in to religious extremism.
The past few weeks have seen a spike in radical attacks.
First, a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer, Avijit Roy, was hacked to death by unidentified attackers in late February while he was walking with his wife. Roy bled to death while his wife, also a blogger, was critically injured.
Roy was an atheist who promoted secularism through his blog, books and newspaper articles. A previously unknown Muslim militant group, Ansar Bangla 7, claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Monday, 27-year-old Oyasiqur Rahman Babu was attacked in daylight as he left his house. Unlike Roy, who had been on the radar of radical Islamists and had regularly received death threats, Babu was a low-profile online activist.
Two of the three men believed to have attacked Babu were caught by passers-by and handed over to the police. A third man fled the scene. The two captured men, students at local madrasas, told police they neither knew Babu nor were familiar with his writings.
Instead, they said a fourth man had showed them Babu’s photographs and some of his writings, and then asked them to kill him. They followed the instructions, they said, because they believed it was their duty as Muslims, according to police.
While on the other hand Islamist political parties have denied any involvement in the killings. Writing has never been a particularly safe profession in Bangladesh. Bangladesh ranks 146 out of 180 countries on the press freedom index of the group “Reporters without Borders”.
Media reports say radical Muslim groups have compiled lists of bloggers and writers they view as anti-Islam.
Many of those under threat, including fearful Ananya, demand the banning of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party and a key ally of the Nationalists. Ananya is also among those who called for a senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader to be executed for his role in war crimes during Bangladesh’s bloody war of independence in 1971.
The radicals has ruined the image of Islam and if someone talks against their religion, rather than having a debate on it they use weapons to suppress their voices. The assassinations in Bangladesh made all seculars alerted about their security and people like Ananya want to leave their hometown. Fleeing from their country cannot save them because many new seculars will arise, radicals cannot stop brains to think and hands to write.
Originally published in The Hindu