Paul Fidalgo and Michael De Dora wrote a piece for CNN the other day on the murders of atheists in Bangladesh. It’s good to see them on such a mainstream site.
An innocent young man is brutally hacked to death in the street by marauding thugs with machetes, and the government’s response is to effectively blame the victim. This is the outrageous and absurd situation in the supposed democratic state of Bangladesh, where a bloody campaign of terror is being waged against secularists and atheists who have criticized radical Islam. But rather than act to protect the rights and safety of its people, Bangladesh’s leaders are coddling the killers and chastising the dead.
One would expect in a civilized world to see the government stand up for the rights of its people and unify the country against this kind of violence based on religion. But that’s not what has happened. Rather than condemn the killers, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan scolded the victims, telling CNN: “The bloggers, they should control their writing. Our country is a secular state. … I want to say that people should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything — hurt any religion, any people’s beliefs, any religious leaders.”
This is only the latest shameful example of the Bangladesh government doing exactly what the terrorists want: to make people terrified that if they have something critical to say about religion, they could pay for it with their lives.
And lest we feel smug – the US and UK governments have done the same thing in the past, especially during the uproar over the Motoons. Both of them talked nonsense about respecting people’s cherished beliefs.
And now we have Nazimuddin Samad, a bright, promising young law student, brutally slaughtered in public for exercising his basic human rights to freedom of belief and expression. Appallingly, as Samad’s blood still stained the street, Home Minister Khan said that part of the investigation would be “to see whether he has written anything objectionable in his blogs.” This is not how a democratic state should respond to the killings of innocent civilians.Since the beginning of this emergency, our organization, the Center for Inquiry, has been working with the U.S. State Department, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and other nongovernmental organizations to find ways to protect or bring to safety at least some of the secularists who fear for their lives, and urge the Bangladesh government to stand strong for human rights. We have also worked to see pressure placed on Bangladesh by the United Nations, and supported a U.S. House resolution introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, that demands Bangladesh affirm its secular constitution, protect minorities, and prevent the growth of extremism.