Passport to heaven

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Passports to heaven are created and distributed by Islamists from a political party called Jaamat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. Islamists are known to make people fool. The passports inspire people to become terrorist killers and suicide bombers.
If you can brainwash people with lies about afterlife, you can make them to do everything for you. It is such a surreal world.

Freethought tour

Last week I had a great freethought tour. I visited the birthplace of the great American free thinker, anti slavery activist, humanist and feminist Robert Green Ingersoll on Dresden, and the house of the great American free thinker, anti slavery activist, feminist and the leader of suffrage movement Susan B. Anthony in Rochester.

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Dealing a body blow to bigotry

The time has come to give a severe blow to religious sentiments. There is no other way about it. For, we can no longer afford to keep society at a standstill and curb its growth. Those who do so by digging in their heels and sticking to their old, bigoted ways, will do that at their own peril.

Religious sentiments evoke the strongest of all reactions; people retaliate vehemently when their religion is at stake. Which is why religion has more people in its grasp than rationality ever will. These days, one gets to hear quite frequently that it is unethical to hurt religious sentiments of 1.5 billion people. What exactly does this mean? That it’s better to hurt the sentiments of a smaller faction than to take chances with a bigger one? If the numbers had come down to a few hundred or thousand, would it be okay, then?

There are many people protesting against the death of the Bangladeshi bloggers with the justification that these bloggers did nothing to hurt the religious sentiments of people. Do they, like the religious bigots, think that it is a cardinal sin to hurt religious sentiments? This is a grey area even among free thinkers and intellectuals who do not seem to grasp the fact that there is actually nothing wrong in hurting religious sentiments, either of a majority or a minority.

In fact, you will rarely come across anybody whose sentiments have not been hurt at some point of time or the other. People have varied individualistic ways of putting their point across and when we interact with each other, it is more than possible that our views could clash, leading to a certain discomfort on our part. Differences of opinion are a part and parcel of every civilised society, and crushing contrarian voices is hardly the way forward.

As said earlier, no other sentiments evoke as much reaction as ones with religious undertones. Most violent occurrences take place when people take offence on religious grounds, lashing out in the most unpleasant of ways. But then, why is it that we have to respect religious sentiments at all? Is it because that people love parables about their religion and would do anything to let it be the way it is? All other sentiments can be appeased and attended to but religious sentiments leave behind a sore spot. This bit of intolerance needs to come to an end.

This politics of agitating religious sentiments has been going on for a long time. A long drawn war is being waged with religious rigidity on one side, and science, women’s rights, equality and humanity on the other. Now, it is up to us to decide which side we take.

The symbiotic relationship of politics and religious agitation has taken a sinister turn these days. The solution to this problem is not to stop hurting religious sentiments, but just the opposite of it. Religious sentiments need to be hurt more strongly than before. Only after consistent attacks will people stop reacting blindly and take time to introspect. The so-called high bastions of religion have pedalled religious sentiments as an excuse for a long time, but there is still hope that it can be salvaged.

Nowhere in the world have women’s rights been established without causing offence to chauvinists. Democracy did not come into being without incurring the ire of dictatorship. Science found its footstep after being tumbled more than once by religion. In the same way, it is not possible to change religious bigotry without dealing strong and repeated blows to touchy religious sentiments.

If one chooses to take the side of the atheist bloggers, the defence should not be that they did not hurt religious sentiments. The statement should be that they did hurt religious sentiments, as it was needed. To the religious bigot, if the word “atheist” is anathema, then the term “believer” demands the same treatment from the non-believer.

Everyone is welcome to their share of verbal profanity but that doesn’t give them a right to violence. Ideology should be fought with ideology, not with senseless violence. Scientists do not take up arms against people who do not believe in science but in religion. There should be mass agitation against this violence, otherwise there will be no end to this. There will continue to be violence against scientists, free thinkers and anyone who dares to question rigid religious tenets.

Muslims are probably the only sect that have brought woe onto themselves by their own heinous acts, steeped as they are in their religious bigotry. It is time they gave free thought a chance.

Can’t change society without hurting feelings

The battle between science and religion is perennial. Scientists don’t hack people who refuse to believe their theories, but fundamentalists do.

Sentiments will always get hurt, especially religious ones. There is no other way. Society cannot just stand in one place. Nothing will progress in this way. People averse to the idea of progress will not accept it, and will raise questions.

People don’t act out in such barbaric ways when other sentiments are hurt, as they do when religious ones are hurt. Why are religious sentiments so important?

Some say this is because a large portion of the world is religious. I often hear that it is not right to hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion people.

People are giving too much importance to the number of people here. It seems like you can offend people in small numbers, but offending large numbers of people is a problem. Would it be okay if it was 150 or 1500 instead of 1.5 billion?

People who support the bloggers are saying that the bloggers did not hurt religious sentiments. So, do they also think that it is wrong to hurt religious sentiments? This is where the problem is. I have noticed that even the liberals seem to find it hard to accept that hurting religious sentiments is not a crime.

It is completely wrong to want to spend your entire life without an instance where your feelings might be hurt. It is normal to be offended by different things. There is not a single person in this world who has never been offended by something or other. People are bound to be offended multiple times every day when they socialise with different kinds of people. That is just life.

Imagine A says that he believes in socialism and B says that some socialist leader has character problems, and that socialism has no ideological value.

Then is it okay for A to say that B has offended his political sentiments? And this gives A the right to sue B and maybe also slaughter him in public? B has, in fact, hurt A’s political sentiments. The question is, so what?

These incidents don’t happen when other sentiments are hurt. They only happen when religious ones are hurt. Why do we have to be so respectful of religious sentiments? Because religion is true, or because many people love the religion?

People who think religion is true should learn to react to it in the same way they react when their other feelings are hurt. The politics of sentiments is not new.

It has been raging against democracy, knowledge, science, women’s rights, human rights, and equal rights for all. Now we must choose which side we want to save — religious sentiments or democracy, knowledge, and equal rights.

The politics of religious sentiments has taken a violent turn. The solution for this is not to protect religious sentiments. Rather, the opposite. It must be attacked constantly. Even more so than before. This is how people will eventually learn how to deal with it. Otherwise, the people in the business of religion will destroy what is left of society.

No one has been able to achieve women’s rights without offending misogynists, and no one has been able to establish human rights without offending people against equal rights for all. From establishing democracy to science — some people have always been offended. If the business of religion is to be stopped and stale social norms are to be broken, religious sentiments must be regularly attacked.

If you want to side with the bloggers or the atheists, it is not appropriate to say that they did not hurt anybody’s religious sentiments. Rather, you should say that they attacked people’s religious sentiments because it was necessary to do so. The fundamentalists want the word “atheist” to be a curse word. If “atheist” is a curse word, then “believer” is the same.

You may curse as you please, but violence is not acceptable. Ideology must be fought with ideology. The battle between science and religion is perennial. Scientists don’t hack people who refuse to believe their theories, but fundamentalists do. This will not stop unless the entire country protests together.

No place for the poor anywhere

As we sit in the comfort of our homes reading this, there are tens of thousands of people out there searching for a roof over their heads. These are the nowhere men, women and children —illegal Bangaldeshi immigrants fleeing the hopelessness of their country in search of survival.

These are people struggling with basic needs such as hunger and thirst, but no nation seems to be forthcoming enough to come to their aid. Neighbours such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and others have refused help outright. The reason for this act of unkindness speaks of the harsh truth — the poor are not welcome anywhere. They are shunned from every sphere and every privilege, unwanted and uncared for. Wonder what the scenario would have been had there been rich people in the equation. Obviously, they would’nt have been refused at any shore. In fact, they would have been given a warm welcome with everyone vying to have them aboard.

Human traffickers have coined several terms for their activities. When the transaction requires passage by sea, in their vocabulary, it is known as Columbus Visa; when it is through forests and no-man’s lands, it is known as the Tarzan Visa. Even the harshest critics of this trade would find it difficult to ignore the dark humour.

So, how much does it take to earn a passage at the hands of these traffickers? It would take about 10,000 taka — an amount scrounged by the desperate by selling the last of their earthly possessions for a flicker of hope — and a further 25,000 taka for ferry owners to book a place in their vessel. Then beings the journey to find a better life in a distant land full of promise.

It is usually assumed that a person of islamic origin would like to go to an islamic county. But Indonesia has strictly instructed that even if there are people seen drowning at sea, no one should try to bring them ashore. Ah! The irony of it, a muslim country refusing a fellow muslim even while chanting the strain of islamic brotherhood!

It may sound unbelievable at first but muslims are actually better off in countries, where islam does not feature as the primary religion. Places like Europe and Canada welcome them with far more warmth than islamic countries. But the poor, however, do not have the luxury to go that far for a better life. Their meagre capacity allows them to only venture to nearby countries. Thus, they find themselves on a journey of uncertainty on sea that may also serve as their grave as time progresses. It is, indeed, ironical that, when vessels laden with muslims are being turned away by muslim countries, the Philippines, a christian nation, has given its word that they will be offered shelter.

What disheartens further is the fact that people like Aung San Suu Kyi, someone awarded with the Nobel peace prize, chooses to keep silent on the plight of Rohingya muslims in Myanmar. It is really disappointing when such an ardent advocator of peace decides to hold her tongue for the love of power rather than protest against human atrocities.

The Bangladesh government has neither the will, nor the naval power, to stop human traffickers. Teknaf and Maheshkhali are the primary areas where these traffickers are active — there are some 80 routes around these areas from where trafficking takes place under the cover of the night — and it is common knowledge that the police of these regions accept bribes to turn a blind eye.

The saddest part is that so desperate are the people being trafficked that they believe that even on being caught as illegal immigrants, they would have a better life in the prisons of Malaysia than walking free in their own country. With the consolation that they would never have to sleep hungry ever again, they find a better deal in servitude than in freedom.

Many commentators have been urging for strict anti-trafficking laws to prevent such situations. I, however, have reservations on calling this trafficking a violation of human conduct. It has been the prerogative of the human race to move towards a habitat that is less hostile to their survival. This has been one of the primal factors that have made us survive through the passage of time. The theory of evolution or the theory of human race has been a continuous search to find ourselves in a better position than that we have been in. Now, if laws would forbid such activity, I think we are looking at the wrong end of the scenario.

We are not limited by boundaries that predestine our fate. It does not work to debate on humanity while putting shackles on the freedom of fellow humans. Bangladesh needs to work out a policy that allows free movement within their neighbouring countries without resorting to means such as human trafficking. A piece of paper (as in passport/visa) should no longer serve as a prerequisite to human freedom and the system that supports it should be abolished.

There is too little time to be wasted in our lives for hate, disbelief and anger towards each other. Let us instead strive towards love,respect and peaceful coexistence.

Another science writer -blogger was hacked to death in Bangladesh today

Ananta Bijoy Das was a talented science writer and a blogger. He was hacked to death today by Islamic terrorists in Bangladesh.

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Ananta Bijoy Das wrote a wonderful poem about me. In his poem, he saluted me for being an uncompromising feminist and humanist. Debashish Bhattacharya translated the poem into English.

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A Few Lines For Taslima Nasreen

By Ananta Bijoy Das

The wolves and hyenas of the darkness are prowling over the world
Naked swords in hand, their unconcealed carnal desire dripping off from their eyes and mouths.
Intellectual conceit, under the veneer of fake social awareness, is chewing out
Every issue from big bang to human evolution, global vision .
Alexandria to Nalanda being rampaged and raped by them,
The “elders” are breathing in hatred and violence in their pens,
Blood of the innocent dripping off the shameless swords everywhere.

If you violate their fatwa, their red eyes and edicts
You get beheaded in the east west north south wherever you are.
They have bought over all – the arms, muscles, judiciary and the media.
Nevertheless someone or other is lighting the fire somewhere,
The fire of protest, the revolutionary fire which burns off the stinking, old, decomposed beliefs and rituals, “sacred” establishments.
The lighted path travels from Hypatia to Mary, Rokea –
All hail Taslima, red salute to you.

Ananta Bijoy Das was an editor of a science magazine called Jukti (logic). He used to write blogs on Mukto Mona blogging site. He wrote some books on Darwin and evolution in Bengali. He received Rationalist Mukto Mona award for his writings.

Bangladesh government is not taking any action against the Islamist-killers because of the fear of being labelled as anti-Islam. Islamists are allowed to do whatever they like in Bangladesh. It seems killing free-thinker atheists who criticize Islam is their main agenda.

Rajib Haider
A.K.M Shafiur Rahman
Avijit Roy
Washikur Rahman Babu
Ananta Bijoy Das.
Who is next?

Tomorrow maybe you. Or maybe me.