Avijit Roy Assassinated: Avijit Stands For Humanity
March 2, 2015
Avijit Roy, a humanist author, an advocate of free expression, scientific ideas and secularism, and a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger known for speaking out against religious extremism was hacked to death in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. The assassination was carried out on the night of February 26, 2015.
Thousands of people including authors, teachers, students, cultural activists, political activists and leaders and ordinary people joined in mourning and protest rallies on Friday and Saturday near the site of the attack. They carried banners reading “We want justice” and “Down with fundamentalism”. They asked the government to move hard against militancy and communalism. Protest rallies and processions were also held in other cities. Scores of organizations across the country condemned the attack.
A BBC report said:
After his death tributes were paid to Avijit Roy from around the world. The US-based Center for Inquiry said it was heartbroken by his brutal murder, describing him as "an eloquent defender of reason, science, and free expression in a country where those values have been under heavy attack".
A Bangladeshi friend in the US told the BBC that Mr.. Roy would be remembered for his courage and warmth.
"He was a wonderful man who through his website encouraged many free-thinking Bangladeshis to challenge conventional religious orthodoxy," the friend said.
"His death shows just how dangerous it is for anybody in the country to speak out without being targeted by the hardliners."
Reports by scores of international media including AP, BBC, CNN, and newspapers and news portals in Bangladesh, France, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K., U.S.A. including The Guardian, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, Irish Independent, Irish Times and Herald Sun said:
The attack on Avijit Roy occurred on a crowded sidewalk as he and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University. Ahmed, also a blogger, was critically injured.
At least two of the attackers hit the couple with meat cleavers. They were on a rickshaw returning from the Amar Ekushey Book Fair when two attackers stopped the rickshaw, dragged them onto the footpath and started hacking them. Dropping their weapons, the attackers ran away, disappearing into the crowds.
They were rushed to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared Avijit dead during an emergency surgery.
Avijit had suffered three deep gashes on his head, one on the upper part of shoulder, one on eye during the assault, and Bonya lost a finger and suffered deep cut on head and hand.
The assassination, latest in a series of attacks on secular writers in Bangladesh in recent years, occurred in the backdrop of on-going political disturbance carried by the opponents of Sheikh Hasina government as her government publicly announced its policy of zero-tolerance to religious extremism, and is strong handedly trying to weed out the religious extremists. There have been a series of similar attacks in recent years blamed on the Islamic militants. There is an increasingly visible divide between the secular forces and conservative Islamic groups, which are often covertly connected with Islamist parties. The secularists are urging authorities to ban religion-based politics. Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly said she will not give in to religious extremism, and is carrying out trial of the war criminals for genocide and crimes against humanity. Roy’s killing comes amid a crackdown on hardline Islamist groups, which have increased activities in recent years in the South Asian nation. In 2013, religious militants targeted several secular bloggers who had demanded capital punishment for Islamist leaders convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh's war for independence.
Citing a police official a Dhaka-datelined AP report said:
A previously unknown militant group, Ansar Bangla 7, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Roy, 42, “was the target because of his crime against Islam,” the group said on Twitter.
Roy, a prominent voice against religious intolerance, had been threatened for his writings.
Citing a police official the AP report added:
Roy, an engineer by training, had founded a popular Bengali-language blog Mukto-mona or Free Mind, which featured articles on scientific reasoning and religion.
The blogger's father, Ajay Roy, a retired professor of physics at the Dhaka University, told Avijit had received threatening messages over email and on social media from individuals who were unhappy with his writing. Anujit Roy, his younger brother, said Roy had returned to the country earlier this month from the US and was planning to go back in March. His was living in Georgia.
A BBC report said:
Avijit’s writings on religion angered Islamist hardliners.
Mukto-mona website on Friday bore the message in Bengali "we are grieving but we shall overcome" against a black background.
Ajay Roy said "This Bangladesh which was built by the blood-sacrifice of the martyrs has now turned into a den of militants," he said.
Avijit earlier said he received threats from Islamist hardliners in Bangladesh last year when his book, The Virus of Faith, was released at a book fair.
"The death threats started flowing to my e-mail inbox on a regular basis," he wrote.
"I suddenly found myself a target of militant Islamists and terrorists. A well-known extremist... openly issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook entries.
"In one widely circulated status, he writes, 'Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back.'"
The killing in early 2013 of another secular blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, which was blamed on religious hardliners, sparked protests from free-speech supporters and counter-protests from Islamists.
The police say the attack on Mr. Roy was similar to the 2013 murder.
Death threats against atheist writers and bloggers are nothing new in Bangladesh.
Prominent writer Taslima Nasreen had to leave Bangladesh after she received death threats from hard-line Islamists in the mid-1990s.
She wrote on her blog: "Avijit Roy has been killed the way other free thinker writers were killed in Bangladesh. No free thinker is safe in Bangladesh.
"Islamic terrorists can do whatever they like. They can kill people with no qualms whatsoever."
Roy rose to prominence though his prolific writing on his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona - an internet gathering of mostly South Asia free-thinkers, ratio-nalists, skeptics and humanists founded in 2000. Around a dozen books by Avijit, mostly about science, philosophy and materialism, have so far been published.
Some of the last books Avijit wrote, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief) and Biswasher Virus (The Virus of Faith), were critically well received around the world.
In the Virus of Faith he argues that "faith-based terrorism will wreak havoc on society in epidemic proportions".
In one of his last published articles in the Free Inquiry magazine, Avijit wrote: "To me, religious extremism is like a highly contagious virus. My own recent experiences in this regard verify the horrific reality that such religious extremism is a virus of faith."
He said in the article that a book he published last year "hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists" and led to him being targeted by militant Islamists and terrorists.
It also led, he said, to a man openly issuing death threats against him on Facebook.
"Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now," Mr. Roy quoted one threat against him as saying, "but he will be murdered when he gets back."
Born in 1972, Avijit Roy studied microbiology as a graduate and post-graduate at Dhaka University before emigrating to the US city of Atlanta where he was employed as an engineer.
Roy told the Daily Star, Dhaka in February 2007 that the aim of Mukto-mona was to build a society which will not be "bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy - but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science".
In the interview, he identified illiteracy as an obstacle to "free thinking" in the sub-continent: "South Asia has a major problem of illiteracy, which makes it easy for fundamentalists from outside the region to spread hatred and false propaganda," he said.
"When people cannot read critical texts questioning this propaganda they are more easily deluded by preachers of hatred."
Two of his recent titles had been launched at the ongoing Ekushey Book Fair.
His writing and blogging had evoked the ire of fanatics and he had been regularly threatened.
Thursday’s attack bore a striking similarity to the one on legendary writer and professor at the Dhaka University Humayun Azad in February 2004.
Azad was also returning to home from the Ekushey Book Fair when he was hacked with machetes by radical militants. He later died in Germany while undergoing treatment.
Militants also hacked blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider to death in a similar attack near his home at Dhaka’s Mirpur in February 2013.
That was barely 10 days after the secular platform Ganajagaran Mancha started its Shahbagh-based agitation.
Islamist radicals had attacked other secular bloggers like Ashraful Alam and Asif Mohiuddin after the Shahbagh agitation polarized opinions in Bangladesh.
They were demanding capital punishment for war criminals and a ban on communal parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami.
A bdnews24.com report [published: 2015-03-01 updated: 2015-03-01] said:
“After paying tributes to the blogger, a friend of Avijit’s father, writer-journalist Shahriar Kabir, blamed militants for the murder and feared Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina might be killed by them. ‘Sheikh Hasina is on the top of their (hit) list. Mukto-Mona bloggers and I follow her in the list. If they (militants) are not identified, Sheikh Hasina will be murdered one day,’ he said.”
Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, publisher of most of the blogger’s books, had also received threats two days after Avijit was murdered.
A Reuters report said:
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Bangladesh’s anti-terrorism unit, arrested on Monday Farabi Shafiur Rahman, the main suspect in the killing of Avijit Roy. Farabi Shafiur Rahman was previously jailed for his ties to the extremist Hizbut Tahrir Islamist group.
A RAB spokesman said Farabi had confessed to threatening to kill blogger Avijit Roy.
Last year, Farabi posted on Facebook: "It's a holy duty of Bangalee Muslims to kill Avijit".
The United Nations, the United States, and the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned the attack.
The U.N. has condemned the attack on Avijit and demanded a fast trial of the killers.
The U.S. has termed the incident as “a cowardly assault” and offered assistance in the investigation. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described it as an assault on Bangladesh’s proud tradition of free intellectual and religious speech.
In 2013, Islamist groups called for the execution of bloggers they said had committed blasphemy, according to news reports quoted by CPJ.
Avijit had reported receiving death threats from Islamists to his friends and family and to the UK-based human rights organisation, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, CPJ said.
A bdnews24.com report (“Threat takes book out of list”, 2014-03-16) said:
An online outlet has ‘taken a book off its list’ after a fundamentalist blogger threatened to attack its office on Saturday.
The office of rokomari.com will be attacked if ‘Bishwaser Virus’ authored by Avijit is not taken off its selling list, says Blogger Farabi Shafiur Rahman.
‘Allah’ and His ‘Rasul’ (Prophet Muhammad) had been sarcastically treated in the book, says Farabi, who had been detained for threatening the Imam of Shahbagh movement activist Ahmed Rajib Haider’s funeral prayers.
The rokomari.com does not keep any book of Syed Abul Moksud and Faruk Wasif on the home page, but it does keep Roy’s books including ‘Bishwaser Virus’ (Virus of Belief), Farabi added.
Answering back, rokomari.com’s Chief Executive Officer Mahmudul Hasan Sohagh says Farabi had better rate the book and give his opinion in a review.
As Farabi could not be appeased with this, Avijit’s books were kept on the website as ‘out of print’.
Protesting rokomari.com’s move, Avijit Roy says in a facebook post, “rokomari.com should be unwavering in keeping writers’ liberty. My books have not been banned by the State or the Court.”
“Rather, Farabi faces a lawsuit, in which charges have been pressed against him (over issuing a threat to the Imam, who administered Rajib’s namaz-e-janaza),” he said. Farabi is out on bail since Aug 21 last year.
“We do not ask for taking any religion-based book from the book list. Many books on religions, jihad, written by razakars, are available at the rokomari.com.”
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