Guest post by Leo Igwe.
The murder of a secular blogger in Bangladesh, Ananta Bijoy Das, is yet another demonstration of the growing threat of Islam-based phobia in the contemporary world. This is a stark reminder of the dangers which freethinking, atheist, secular writers and critics of religion face not only in Bangladesh, but in many countries around the globe.
Ananta is the third blogger linked to a freethought blog site Mukto Mona to be killed in Bangladesh in the past four months. Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi born US writer, was murdered in February. He was attacked along with his wife who sustained serious injuries.
Washiqur Rahman was murdered in March. Islamic militants are suspected to be behind these horrific attacks and killings. An extremist group, Ansar al-Islam , has claimed responsibility for the murder of Ananta. The police have arrested two men identified as students of the Madrassas in connection with the murder of Rahman.
These bloggers were reportedly targeted and killed because they have in their writings taken on religious extremism, particularly Islamic fundamentalism in their country.
My question is: What is wrong in challenging religious fundamentalism in Bangladesh? Is it not important that we tackle Islamic fanaticism before it consumes us? Why should people be killed for criticizing Islam? Is Islam now more valuable than human life? Why should some Muslims deem it justified to take the lives of other people just because they wrote or drew something which they found offensive or objectionable? Writing or drawing something does not kill, does it? Do Muslim extremists and their sympathisers think they can live in a world where they are not offended by what some people write, draw or say?
If we are to rid the world of Islam-based phobia and abuses then Islamic religious practices must be criticized, Islamic teachings must be questioned. The Quran must be critically examined. If we are to achieve the much needed intellectual awakening in Islamic societies, if we are to realize a new enlightenment in the ‘Islamic world’ then Islamic texts and doctrines have to be critically analysed.
The Madrassas school project must be revised to reflect 21st century educational values, so that these ‘schools’ begin to produce and graduate students with cutting edge ideas of how to make the world a better and more peaceful place to live for all humans, both those who confess and those who criticisize Islam, not a breeding ground for extremists and jihadists, of merchants of death and destruction in the name of Allah.
Today a lot of atrocities are being committed in the name of Islam, in the name of Mohammad; should we allow them to continue? Should those issues not be critiqued and evaluated in the light of reason, science and freedom of inquiry? Like the Christian Bible, the Quran and the Hadith contain provisions that sanctify violence and murder of those adjudged blasphemers or insulters of Islam, those categorized as unbelievers or apostates.
Is it not high time Muslims started disregarding these hateful passages for the sake of intellectual and moral progress of their societies and the world at large?
It is important to state that Islam like all other faiths is a human phenomenon. Islam is a product of human thought. Like every human creation, Islam has its shortcomings and limitations as a moral guide for human beings. Muslims should begin to see those who highlight these shortcomings and limitations, those who denounce the dark side of Islam, as champions of Islamic reformation, as ‘friends’ not enemies of Islam, who should be protected, not killed.
Yes, criticizing Islam should not be a form of death sentence in Bangladesh or anywhere in the world.