American author and atheist activist Avijit Roy (below) was murdered this past February during a visit to Bangladesh. His wife, who was also attacked, escaped with her life. Since then, many other atheists (and those with connections to atheists) have died in the country at the hands of Muslim extremists.
In the latest New Yorker, Samanth Subramanian looks at the details of Roy’s death, the 84-person hit list that included his name, and the government’s pathetic response to all of it:
When the list of eighty-four bloggers began circulating in newspapers and on social media, [writer] Kowshik [Ahmed] discovered that his name was on it. The list wasn’t well thought out, he found. It included [Ahmed Rajib] Haider’s name, even though he was dead, and many duplications, mentioning bloggers by their names and again by their handles. But its provenance was the bigger mystery. Newspaper reports were unable to determine whether it was compiled by [conservative group, Hefazat-e-Islam], as part of the demand for the executions of the bloggers, or by the government, in an initiative to prosecute bloggers who were critical of Islam. No one has yet claimed authorship of the list.
I asked [Hasanul Haq Inu, Bangladesh’s information minister] if the government had drawn up the list of bloggers. “The official position is that there is no such official list,” he said, but he admitted that security agencies might keep a roster of provocative writers. He also denied that the Hefazat-e-Islam had given the government the list, as part of a demand for the execution of atheists. “Our position vis-à-vis Hefazat is very tough,” he said. “There is no official dialogue with Hefazat.” At the same time, he said, the state had a duty to prosecute those who offended the sentiments of the faithful. Some bloggers were guilty “of using very filthy language against Prophet Muhammad.”
You know there’s a problem when a government official offers the same condemnation of critics of religion as he does the people who murder them.
For those who have been following news reports of these murders, the article fills in a few additional details of just how hopeless the situation seems to be. But for others who are unfamiliar with any of these killings, let’s hope it opens up their eyes to just how perilous it is to be a public, vocal atheist in a nation where Islam is king.