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A Bangladeshi Ex-Muslim on Avijit Roy’s Death

I’ve more or less stepped away from online activism of any sort for a few years now but this is absolutely breaking my heart and I don’t how else to cope.

Three days ago, an American blogger and author of Bangladeshi origin was leaving a book fair in Dhaka when he was pulled out of a rickshaw and hacked to death on a sidewalk with machetes by several attackers. His wife was also attacked, and remains under critical condition. Avijit Roy was a prominent secularist who maintained a well known blog “Mukto Mona”. He wrote against religious violence/Islamization, and tried to introduce Bengali readers to general liberal values like GLBT/minority rights. He lived in the US with his wife and daughter, where he worked as an engineer. He was extremely pleasant, well read, encouraging, and mild mannered. He was never too busy to engage someone, no matter how unimportant or insignificant the person was. He tried to engage people and spread tolerant, liberal values within his homeland.

Just process that for a second. A mild mannered man and his wife were hacked with cleavers, over some blog posts and books he published online. THIS is what we talk about when we talk about things like “liberty” and “free speech”.

He was a friend, but the reaction to his plight shines a light much more on Bangladesh as a society than anything else.

I’ve blacked out several of the photos in the photo I’ve posted (I’m sure the press didn’t ask his family’s permission to publish the gory images and Bangladeshi people in general tend to have no boundaries when it comes to taking/posting photos of the deceased), but people need to see what they did to him and what the absolute animals are saying in the comments section because I am absolutely done with Bangladesh as a society. There is absolutely no charitable way to interpret this. No cultural subjectivity or moral relativism. This isn’t about poverty, this isn’t about colonialism. It’s just a sick, sick, festering culture that will only get worse with time: Original source 10914947_10153645257597538_902233723048912657_o[1]

Don’t read Bengali? I’ll translate a few samples:

-Sanjid Akter আলহামদু লিল্লাহ, একটা কুকুর কে জাহান্নামে পাঠানো হলো।
(Praise to Allah, a dog has been sent to hell)

-Faysal Mahammod একটা জিনিস বুঝতে পারতেছিনা। অভিজিৎ রায় ও রাফিদা আহমেদ যদি স্বামী স্ত্রি হয়। তাহলে ত তারা জিনাহ করতেছে। আর জিনাহ কারিদের শাস্তি মৃত্যু। ঠিক কাজই করেছে।
(I’m struggling to understand something. If Avijit Roy [an obvious Hindu name] and Rafida Ahmed [an obvious Muslim name] were married then they were committing zinah [adultery]. And zinah is punishable by death. The punishment was justified)

-Salim Reza এক জন নাসতিক ও বাচঁতে পাড়বেনা,,,,,,,,সব নাসতিক কে কুপিয়ে হত্যা কর,,,,,,
(even a nonbeliever won’t be able to escape – hack all nonbelievers to death)

-Mukbirul Islam আলহামদুলিল্লাহ (praise be to Allah)

-Md Hamid নাস্তিকদের মরন এভাবেই হয়। ( Non believers are bound to die this way)

And my absolutely favorite:

-Nischup Ovimani অভিজিৎ রে কেউ কুপাইছে, তার রক্ত বের হইছে…….
সবাই তা দেখতাছে। কিন্তু অভি যে এতদিন ইসলামের বিরুদ্ধে লেখালেখি করে মুসলমানদের অন্তরকে রক্তাক্ত করেছে তা দেখার কেও নাই। (Ovijit Rai has been murdered, so his blood has been spilled and everyone is seeing that. But he has written stuff against Islam and bled the hearts of Muslims and no one is seeing that)

I’ve lived in the US since I was 8 but I’ve always been fiercely proud of my Bangladeshi heritage. I moved back there last year in an attempt to feel closer to my roots and even considered living there for a few years. But the thing is, you can’t live in a country of animals if you are not an animal. If the bell curve is dominated by the animals and only a few people on the margins are speaking out against this or condemning this then it IS a country of animals. I realize how loaded the term “animal” is. I do. But at the end of the day, this is what the society has become.

Sure, one can live in a gilded cage in the Gulshan-Banani areas. You can discuss liberal values with liberal, Western educated friends and talk about how the country is going to the dogs. Everyone is nice. Everyone is “modern”. Everyone is tolerant, accepting, and smart. As long as you are in the bubble, you are fine. You never have to deal with the types of people who are gleeful at Avijit Roy’s death or carried it out. But that’s not really living is it? If you’re fine with just sitting there, carrying on your inherited wealth and status, and socializing with similar people from the same circles who all know each other. Bangladesh is great for making ridiculous amounts of money right now, and now you can even get imported tampons and cognac there! That’s not really success though. That’s not really growth. If you are afraid to express any controversial opinions that go against the pulse of the majority because someone might randomly murder you, its still the Middle Ages.

I don’t know how Avijit’s family will ever come to terms with this. I don’t know how the people he served as a role model to will ever continue on with their work (already multiple freethinkers have expressed their fears of publishing online and Mukto Mona has been taken down). All I know is that when it really comes down to it, without freedom of speech in the basic culture, living in Bangladesh equates a slow, suffocating intellectual death.

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