The New York Times points out, accurately, that the murders of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh sends a chilling message to atheist bloggers in Bangladesh.
When the steamy, clamorous evening had settled over this city, and Oyasiqur Rhaman had finished his day’s work at a travel agency, he would turn to one of his favorite pastimes: Poking fun at fundamentalist Islam.
Mr. Rhaman, 27, blogged under the name Kutshit Hasher Chhana, or The Ugly Duckling, and he specialized in sharp-edged satire. In one post, he adopted the persona of a self-important believer fielding questions from an atheist. (An example: “See, the captive women, impressed at the heroism of the Muslim fighters, used to engage in sex with them willingly. Don’t you see that it gave pleasures to them as well?”) He posted photos of sausages wrapped in pastries, labeled “pigs in a burqa.”
Here where I live, we can do that without fear. We don’t expect to be killed for it.
Two men were captured by local residents and handed over to the police, according to Mohammad Salahuddin, who heads the district police station. Those men said an acquaintance known as Masum had instructed them to kill Mr. Rhaman because “he made some comments against Islam” on social media, but that they had not read the comments themselves.
Where was their due diligence?
The deaths of Mr. Roy and Mr. Rhaman this month have sent a chilling message to the country’s secular bloggers, who say they are competing for the hearts and minds of young people exposed to oceans of material promoting conservative Islam.
Mr. Haider, Mr. Roy and Mr. Rhaman were all swept up in the 2013 Shahbag movement, which called for the death penalty for Islamist political leaders who were implicated in atrocities committed during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan. The movement was met with a passionate response from young Islamist activists, deepening a divide among members of the same generation over whether Bangladesh is, or should be, a Muslim state.
Aka a theocracy. No state should be a theocracy. Theocracies are a terrible idea – for theists as well as atheists. What good is your religion if it’s not voluntary? How persuasive is it if people aren’t allowed to refuse it or leave it?
It has always been risky for Bangladeshi intellectuals to criticize Islam, but when they fled the country, it used to be to avoid prosecution, not extremist violence, said Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi supreme court lawyer.
“People who have lived in conflict zones will describe how you move from being a society where you attack people verbally and try to invoke the law against them,” she said. “Now our society is increasingly going toward one where you murder your enemies.”
Here it’s mostly abortion doctors. So far.
Monirul Islam, a police official who is overseeing the investigation into Mr. Roy’s death, said the police have seen a pattern of attacks on writers and intellectuals. Those involved are often well-off, Internet-savvy young people, he said, and not the impoverished men who typically committed such crimes in the past. Mr. Islam said the attackers operate in small groups and have been active so far in eight to 10 of the country’s 64 districts.
“At this stage, their strategy is silent, targeted killing,” he said.
So far the police have arrested only one suspect in the murder of Avijit Roy: Shafiur Rahman Farabi.
Mr. Islam said Mr. Farabi “disclosed some information,” and that the police have identified additional suspects, a group of men not directly connected with Mr. Farabi. He said he believed more than five people were involved, and that several of them probably attended North South University.
The authorities were luckier on Monday, when bystanders caught two men trying to flee the scene; a third man escaped. In an exchange with journalists, the two suspects seemed remorseless, according to Mohammad Jamil Khan, a reporter for The Dhaka Tribune.
“They were talking with me very happily, that they have done a good job by killing the blogger,” Mr. Khan told the BBC. “They don’t feel any guilt. They think they have done a very good job for their religion.”
Allah is merciful.