An atheist, who was brutally stabbed by the Islamists, is now arrested by the government.

The present government of Bangladesh is called ‘secular’.
People who do not know the meaning of secular call this government ‘secular’.

Asif Mohiuddin was brutally stabbed by the Islamists. Now the government arrested him for the crime of being an atheist.

His blog was banned by the government a few days ago.

His yesterday’s facebook message was:

Yesterday 3 bloggers of Bangla blog community have been arrested for not believing in any organized religion and for criticizing of the religious fundamentalism, religious institutions and religious Dogmas. Few days back, 84 freethinker bloggers were listed by some religious fundamentalist groups named ‘Hefajat e Islam” and the list was submitted to the government to arrest them and to impose Blasphemy law on them. I’m one of the listed bloggers, and In January, I was stabbed brutally by some Al-Qaeda terrorist group in Dhaka. And after one month, Blogger Rajib Haidar was slaughtered by the same group. Now our co called secular government are doing the rest of the job. May be they will arrest me today or tomorrow morning.

There was a time in the 17-18th century in Europe when women who excelled in knowledge, science and philosophy more than men were blamed for witchcraft and were burned alive by the churches and their theocratic government. Education and thus advancement for women has always been a threat for radicalism so this is why the church and the government indulged in burning the progressive women by branding them as witches.

The exact same situation is in Bangladesh right now. The whole new generation who brought in a revolution in Bangla blog community with their advancement in science, philosophy and critical mind, who wrote against the religious fundamentalism and in favor of our great liberation war, freedom of speech, secularism and democracy will be burned alive just like witch-hunt in the late middle ages.

Religious sentiments are so easy to be offended, that sentiment is always ready to be hurt. Religious fundamentalist always search google, facebook and youtube for the contents that hurts their sentiment and always cry to stop those Blasphemy! I don’t know who told them to search those things and hurt themselves! This is so ridiculous and nonsense.

Religious feelings can be hurt in a number of ways. The mass slaughter of cows at Muslim ‘Qurbani’ festivals may be offensive for the Hindus who worship the Cows as gods. Similarly, public worship of idols, celebrating the Bangla New Year and giving flowers at the Shahid Minar in a Muslim-dominated country can offend a true follower of Islam because all of the cultures are forbidden in Islam. Moreover, followers of other religion might not accept or feel insulted when someone says that ‘Islam is the best religion in the world’, or it might hurt Muslims when a Hindu person claims that all humans are born as Hindus. So as a matter of fact, if you want to prohibit the criticism on religion, you have to prohibit the statements that go in favor of the religion also.

The general people who take religion as a part of humanism, aren’t really interested in such propaganda that relates to religious ignominy but when things like these are used in political deceptive maneuvers, they make people believe that their own religion is endangered and to protect it they have to take part in war, murder, rape and what not. This was exactly how the genocide of 1971 was planned in Bangladesh, in the name of Islam, Pakistan army killed 3000000 of our people and raped more than 200000 women.

So Insulting religion is obviously a political issue, political leaders just want to use religions for their dirty politics and to save the religion, they want middle aged laws to be imposed and to promote religion based education system which is not compatible with modern age. The listed bloggers were solely doing the right job to separate religion from politics and the state. When religion remains out of the politics which gets dirty at times, it will remain sacred and then no one will ever want to disrespect it, or insult it.

To drag religion into politics and playing with it like a football is the real offense towards religion. So separating the religion from the state is the primary concern of the Blogger community in Bangladesh, also to save the religions from being insulted.

Just a couple of days ago, four Islamists were arrested for stabbing Asif.
Today Asif was arrested.
Does the government try to prove that Asif is as guilty as the Islamists who tried to murder him?
Asif wrote blogs expressing his thoughts on atheism, secularism and humanism. He did not kill anyone in the name of atheism. He asked no one to kill anyone to save atheism. He used his keyboard or pen to tell the truth. Islamists nearly killed Asif with knives. The government of Bangladesh thinks there is no difference between Asif, the freethinker and a bunch of murderers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was a soft-core Islamist. She is now trying to be a hard-core Islamist. She is helping the Islamists for their dreams–of turning Bangladesh into a fundamentalist country–come true.

Sheikh Hasina has been preventing me from entering my country because I am an atheist and a feminist. She put enlightened bloggers in prison because those bloggers do not believe in God.

‘What is the difference between Islamists and Sheikh Hasina?’ I asked.

A friend of mine said, ‘the difference between Islamists and Sheikh Hasina is that Islamists do not pretend to be secular.’

Not only the Islamists, the government is now harassing atheists in Bangladesh.

‘It is time to refuse to tiptoe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having a faith were a privilege endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions.’ – A. C. Grayling
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It seems a group of Islamists is fighting against another group of Islamists in Bangladesh. The government created a panel to check comments on Islam and the prophet.

[Read more…]

A Freedom Fighter’s Voice!

I was not a freedom fighter. But as a little girl I experienced the horrors of war. Saleem Samad expressed his feelings on secular uprising in Bangladesh. His words touched my heart.

The deafening roar of the youth at Shahbag Square, the epicentre of protest in Dhaka, is awe-inspiring. Mainly because over 1 lakh youth are chanting “Joy Bangla” (Long Live Bangladesh).

This was the war cry of the Mukti Joddhas (war veterans) who liberated the country in 1971. I haven’t heard that slogan in over 40 years since the country was liberated.

I was a Mukti Joddha. I joined the underground movement in April 1971, a month after the liberation struggle began. I was a student of the (now defunct) Central college.

I spoke fluent English and Urdu and was tasked with reconnaissance and arranging getaways for guerrillas who did their hit-and-run raids out of Dhaka. If the Pakistanis caught me, the punishment was death.

But death would come after slow brutal torture where they would try and extract the names of all my collaborators from me. I guess I was too young to worry about the consequences.

The Joy Bangla slogan became a taboo after the assassination of independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. “Today I walk in the streets shout the slogan without fear, prejudice or being bashful,” Shamsuddin Ahmed, media consultant and writer tells me.

The revival of the war cry of Bangladeshi nationalism is significant. Young people from all walks of life have turned out in their thousands to protest the life sentences handed out to Islamists.

If they persist, Bangladesh could become the world’s first Muslim nation to bury political Islam once for all. It is a devil which needs to be contained. And here’s why.

The struggle against Islamic Pakistan was sparked off in its erstwhile eastern province in March 1971. Nine months later, the new nation of Bangladesh emerged, after a bloody gruesome war for millions of Hindus and Muslim alike.

Pakistan’s marauding army with their local henchmen committed genocide, arson and forced abductions for nine months of liberation war, 4 lakh women were sexually abused, intellectuals murdered and abducted.

Bangladesh war historian Prof. Muntasir Mamoon claims genocide of three million people. These were people whose only crime was to believe in independence of Bangla speaking nation. The marauding Pakistan forces and their henchmen were blamed for the genocide.

The peasants fought the elite Pakistan military forces and their auxiliary forces, largely recruited from among the Bangali Muslim population in the country. War veterans of the Mukti Bahini, a majority of them like me are still alive and active in civil society.

Our spirits are not dampened and we have demanded the trial of these collaborators and war criminals. For forty years our voice was not heard. After nearly 30 years of struggle, we gave up. But we underestimated the new generation.

Their thunderous cry is not just audible over Shahbag Square. It echoes over social media, Twitter and Facebook. It is an angry voice demanding justice.

In the Arab Spring, the protests were anti-government. The Arab protesters objective was to achieve democracy, freedom and justice. In Bangladesh the scenario is dramatically different.

The protesters quest is to seek justice for crimes committed in 1971, when Bangladesh, formerly Eastern province of Pakistan, attained its independence. The crowd listens patiently to chorus, poetry recitation and brief speeches for hours. Thousands chants slogans repeatedly.

Popular belief suggests that Bangladesh is a conservative Sunni Muslim society. The presence of young women at the square belies this. The women are there, with children in tow, on their lap or shoulder way past midnight.

Forty two years after its difficult birth, Bangladesh is witnessing a rebirth in Shahbag Square.

Let’s hope the angry young generation will make our dreams of a secular Bangladesh come true.

Secular Uprising in Bangladesh

Why I support Shahbag!

Having keenly observed the Tahrir Square revolution and the eventual victory of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in Egypt, I no longer get easily impressed by crowd-sourced movements. A multitude of activists, connected primarily via Facebook, as well as progressive bloggers had gathered on Bangladesh streets demanding death penalty for a war criminal called Abdul Kader Mollah. As a campaigner against the death penalty, I could not support these protesters in this particular demand of theirs.

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Most people protesting at Shahbag and demanding the death penalty for Mollah were born after the 1971 war following which East Pakistan gained independence from Pakistan, forming the nation of Bangladesh. However — thanks to secular writers and artists, who strove to keep aflame the emotions and perceptions associated with the ‘71 war, through books, plays, films and performances — these protesters are by no means ignorant about the genocide carried out during the war by the Pakistan Army, along with local religious militias affiliated with the Islamist outfit, Jamaat-e-Islami. After Islamization started in earnest in Bangladesh during the mid ’80s, many of these protesters have also witnessed how Islamists murdered progressive people, violated people’s human rights, oppressed women, and tortured non-Muslims in the name of Islam. After decades of maintaining silence, their patience has worn thin; they have finally started to rise in rebellion against the status quo. As more people joined the crowd, they have started demanding death penalty for all tried and convicted war criminals.
A Bangladesh tribunal recently sentenced Abdul Kader Mollah, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, to life imprisonment for his war crimes, but the Shahbag crowd could not be happy with this verdict. Based on previous experience, they are apprehensive that Mollah would be released if the political party-in-opposition, a known ally of Jamaat-e-Islami, were to win the next election.

It is important to remember that in present Bangladesh, not all Islamists are war criminals; however, all war criminals are Islamists – who, at one time, did not want the separation from Pakistan, a country based on Islam. The Shahbag movement gained interest for me when some protesters started demanding a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, as well as on all the religious schools, banks, clinics and other amenities that were created with money collected from Middle Eastern Islamists, whose express desire was to turn the erstwhile-secular Bangladesh into a country of Islamists.

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Those who are familiar with my writings know that I am not in favor of banning and censorship, in general. Yet, I supported banning Jamaat-e-Islami, because in Bangladesh this political party is nothing more than a terrorist organization, led by known war criminals who raped, maimed and killed people by the thousands in 1971. On top of that, in the last 40 years, they have been committing an even more serious crime by systematically destroying the country via Islamization. And yet, perhaps driven by the necessities of realpolitik, they have been pardoned, favored, accorded respect, honored, and empowered by the worthless politicians and military since the Bangladesh gained its Freedom. Some of these war criminal Islamists, who were stoutly against the independence of this nation, were made into Members of the Parliament, ministers, and once even a President of the independent Bangladesh.

The inequities of Jamaat-e-Islami did not end with Mollah’s life imprisonment sentence. Delawar Hossain Sayedee, one of the most notorious criminals belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, was handed a death sentence by the tribunal, after almost a month of non-stop protests at Shahbag. After the verdict was issued, Sayedee’s Islamist followers vandalized cities, burned down Hindu and Buddhist temples, killed innocent people, along with policemen. There is no doubt that in today’s Bangladesh, the Islamists are much more powerful and ferocious than ever.

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The Islamists have gained unbelievable strength in Bangladesh over the years. They have been showing off their strength by harassing, abusing, stabbing and murdering anyone who rose in dissent against their atrocities, including progressive bloggers. They stabbed Asif Mohiuddin, an atheist blogger, a month ago; in the recent past, they brutally killed Rajib Haider, another atheist blogger and one of the organizers of the Shahbag movement.

Islamists have also taken to the tactic of calling all the bloggers and protesters at Shahbag ‘atheists’. This has discomfited and scared the folks at Shahbag; most of them are Muslims, and they had cast their lot with the Shahbag crowd with no bigger-and-better agenda than merely to ask for the hanging of war criminals, perhaps because they sought closure via revenge. Now that the Islamists have called them atheists (that dirty, dirty word!), many of them are now falling over themselves trying to prove they are pious Muslims. Therefore, instead of saying, “They are atheists and have the right to criticize religion, but no one has the right to kill them, just like no one has the right to kill religious people for being religious!”, the so-called liberal and secular people at Shahbag are bleating placatory statements, such as “Jamaat-e-Islami goons are trying to prove that bloggers are atheists, but they are not atheists; they are good people.” As if atheists are not good people!

People attend mass demonstration at Shahbagh intersection, in Dhaka

It is very alarming that the word ‘atheist’ is being considered as a filthy, obscene word in Bangladesh, and the liberal people refrain from doing anything in support of the freedom of expression of atheists. They must know that Islam should not be exempt from the critical scrutiny that applies to other religions as well; in their mind, they must understand that Islam has to go through an enlightenment process similar to what other world religions have already gone through, by questioning the inhuman, unequal, unscientific and irrational aspects of religion. If the Shahbag movement can’t make people understand this simple but necessary idea, then real change would never occur, even if all the war criminals are hanged. I know that even the atheists at Shahbag would say, the time for this idea has not arrived yet. However, I earnestly hope that people would soon evolve, and be enlightened enough to realize that there is no real difference between the Islam of the 7th century and the Islam Jamaat-e-Islami practices to this day.

Sadly, the very nature of Bangladesh has changed greatly. Ordinary people have been alarmingly indoctrinated into the ways of Islamists. Many more women are veiled, and more men go to mosques to pray, than ever before. I lost the hopes I had for Bangladesh many years ago, but some of those were rekindled by the Shahbag movement. I truly hope that the Shahbag movement will turn into a positive political movement for a true democracy and a secular state – a state which affirms a strict separation between religion and state, and maintains a uniform civil code, a set of secular laws that are not based on religion, but instead, on equality, and an education system that is secular, scientific, and enlightened.

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A war is needed in Bangladesh, a war between two diametrically opposite ideas — secularism and fundamentalism; between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith; between those who strive to move forward and those who strain to push themselves backward; a war between modernism and barbarism, humanism and Islamism; between innovation and tradition, future and past; between those who value freedom and those who do not.

Let us encourage people of Bangladesh to transmute their nation into a secular country without poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions — free of religionism, fanaticism, fascism, barbarism; a country without crimes and corruption!

All sane and secular people should support the Shahbag movement, because it is a rare and immensely difficult movement in an Islamized country. I am not sure whether they will eventually manage to have Jamaat-e-Islami proscribed, particularly because the Bangladesh government is likely to be afraid of losing the considerable financial support that come from the Islamic countries. Western support may not be forthcoming, because not many Western secular countries are interested in Bangladesh, often seen as a nation stuck in a quagmire of over-population, poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance. Once a thriving community of vivacious, affectionate, creative people, this unfortunate country is now drowning in Islamism and may soon be submerged in the Indian ocean.

I also hope that if the Shahbag movement, in its present form, fails to achieve its goals now, the brave and enlightened people associated with it will not be permanently disillusioned or disheartened, and will renew/repeat their efforts until their dreams come true. A trend must be set. People need to get angry. I am painfully aware of the evil powers which once attempted to eliminate me, and with whom the pro-Islamist government ultimately colluded to throw me out of Bangladesh, my own country, 20 years ago, never to allow me in again. Therefore, I know how much I would love to see hundreds of thousands of angry, passionate young people with a vision rise against that insanity, and usher in real change, a new era.

Save atheists! Islamists are slaughtering them in Bangladesh! (Warning: Violent Images)

Four people were killed and more than 200 injured in Bangladesh yesterday as hundreds of Islamists clashed with police in Dhaka and other major cities demanding execution of “atheist bloggers” they accused of blasphemy.

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Islamists hate atheists. Their banner says, ‘ We demand the death penalty for atheist bloggers because they use obscene language to criticize Allah, Muhammad and the Quran.’ The banner carries the pictures of atheist bloggers. Asif Mohiuddin is among them. Asif was brutally stabbed by the Islamists a month ago.

His blog is known for its criticism of religions in one of the most conservative parts of the world. Even though Asif is a popular blogger, it is not easy for him to continue publishing his blogs. Islamic newspapers wrote against Asif Mohiuddin and his anti Islamic writings.

Cops asked him to stop writing.
Index for censorship is concerned about Asif’s freedom of expression.

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Rajib Haider, another atheist blogger was slaughtered just a few days ago, for saying state and religion should be separated, education system should be completely secular, and politics must not be based on religion.

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A few years ago Humayun Azad , an atheist writer, became the victim of a vicious assassination attempt by the Islamists.

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Because of the recent barbaric killing of atheists in Bangladesh, Dhormockery, an excellent blog on atheism, created by courageous Bengali atheists is suspended.

Instead of saying ‘they are atheists and they have the right to express their opinions against religion, no one has the right to kill them like no one has the right to kill religous people for being religious’, the liberal and secular people who have been fighting Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh, saying, ‘ Jamaat-e-Islami goons are trying to prove they are atheists, but they are not atheists, they are good people (as if atheists are not good people!). We want justice for the murder of bloggers’. It is very alarming that the word atheist is considered as an obscene word in Bangladesh and liberal people do not try to do anything for the freedom of expression of atheists. If not now, then when?

I hope Dhormockery will start again soon. I hope Asif and other atheist bloggers will not be threatened anymore. And after the banning of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic terrorist organization, the Islamic killers and abusers will go back to their caves where they really belong.
I am probably insulting the ancient cave people. They were obviously much better than today’s Islamists!

Let’s sing for Bangladesh!

My heartfelt thanks to Tarek Fatah for writing a heart touching piece about Bangladesh.

In a tiny country on the other side of the globe, far away from the glare of celebrity TV anchors and big-shot correspondents in jungle khaki, a revolution is unfolding, but not if you watch CNN, BBC or CBC.

For two weeks now, hundreds of thousands people from young men and women, aging former guerrilla fighters and grandmothers who still carry the scars of violence, have occupied the Shahbag Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The collective anger of a nation, simmering for over 40 years below the surface, finally erupted this month.

The roots of this resentment lay in the genocide of the Bengali people that started in March 1971 by the Pakistan Army and its accuses jihadi collaborators, the mullahs of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The military-sanctioned massacres did not stop until nine months later in December that year when the Indian Army intervened and the Pakistan military promptly surrendered.

From the ashes of a war and three million dead people choking its rivers, the new country of Bangladesh emerged…

For the first time ever in the Muslim world, there has been a popular uprising against the fascism of Islamist parties. One would have expected the western intelligentsia to be thrilled at this development and for the media to report from the square, but the Walter Cronkites of the world are no more.

Back in the 1970s when ratings was not all that mattered to the super stars of the time, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar played for our conscience at the memorable ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. And then there was Joan Baez who let out a wail in the midst of a genocide. Her song rallied millions:

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Bangladesh

When the sun sinks in the west

Die a million people of the Bangladesh

Today too, the sun sinks in the west,, but no one is singing for Bangladesh anymore.

‘For the first time ever in the Muslim world, there has been a popular uprising against the fascism of Islamist parties.’ Nothing can be better than mass protests against fascism and barbarism. I am not really supporting the execution of war criminals as I am against the death penalty. If you do not want to do anything but to cry for the death penalty, you can cry as much as you want. The people who are for abolishing the death penalty will not lend you their shoulders to cry on. I support the banning of Jamaat-e-Islami. In Bangladesh, it is nothing but a terrorist organization. The religious terrorist organizations should be banned if we want true democracy, human rights, women’s freedom and freedom of expression.

The Shahbag movement should be led by secular progressive people. If the political parties hijack the movement, they will definitely ruin it. All the political parties in Bangladesh made the fascist Jamaat-e-Islami their allies in the past. It is foolish to trust them.

George Harrison died. The great people of the ‘concert for Bangladesh’ are not here. They are not singing for Bangladesh. But we, humanists, secularists, and dreamers are still alive. Let’s sing for Bangladesh! Let’s make our dreams come true. Let’s encourage people of Bangladesh to make their country a secular country without poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions,a country without religionism, fanaticism, fascism, barbarism, a country without crimes and corruption!

Bangladesh! A fucked-up country! (Warning: Violent image)

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Rajib Haider Shuvo, a 26 years old architect, one of the organizers of the Shahbag movement, a talented young atheist blogger was brutally killed by the Islamists last night. His throat was slit. His criticism of Islam was far milder than my criticism of Islam which were published 26 years ago in Bangladesh. He wrote blogs under the pen name thaba baba. I wrote my anti-religion articles and books in late 80’s using my real name. Thaba baba was killed. I survived but I was forced to leave Bangladesh 20 years ago. I would surely get killed like Rajib if I lived in that country. I was on the top of the hit list made by Islamic terrorists.

Bangladesh is a hopelessly pathetic country. A pure fucked-up country. The country has been controlled by the Islamists. The society has been rottened by the Islamists. The people have been manipulated by the Islamists. Atheists get killed. A few weeks ago, another Bengali atheist blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, was brutally stabbed by the Islamists. He quite brilliantly mocked Allah and Islam. Asif is now fighting for his life. No doubt, Bangladesh sucks.

The Islamization of Bangladesh started in the mid ’80s. Most people remained silent for decades. Now some young bloggers and online activists started a country-wide awareness campaign against war criminals. A very few of them are against Islam and Islamists. Their Shahbag movement could turn to a positive political movement for a secular democracy. But Islamists already have shown their strength by stabbing and killing enlightened bloggers. It will definitely scare many people at Shahbag.

A war is needed in Bangladesh, a war between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism, between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith, between those who strive to go forwards, and those who strive to go backwards, a war between modernism and barbarism, humanism and Islamism, between innovation and tradition, future and past, between those who value freedom and those who do not.

Will an uncompromising fight against Islamists be possible in a already fucked-up country?