A person and an institution

The Guardian has an excellent long and sympathetic essay on Avijit Roy, by Oliver Laughland in New York and Saad Hammadi in Dhaka.

His friends told him it was too dangerous to go to Bangladesh, but he wanted to visit his mother.

Roy’s death led secular activists to take to the streets in Dhaka to demand justice and to refocus international attention on freedom of speech in Bangladesh. As violence and political tensions in the country re-emerged after a year of relative calm, the murder has exacerbated existing rifts between the country’s secular incumbents the Awami League and its rightwing opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, its Islamist ally.

“I think we lost not just a person, but an institute. He was a movement,” said Jahed Ahmed – a New York based co-founder of Mukto-Mona. “He created an online renaissance.”

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Two living, breathing human beings

A “godless science-researcher” wrote an impassioned, humane post about the murder of Avijit Roy, who was his friend.

Hacked to death. Hacked. To death. Two living, breathing human beings, returning home after their day’s work, set upon by murderous assailants who dragged them to the pavement and hacked away at them with machete-like sharp instruments. Two human beings, a man who has succumbed to his deadly injuries, and a woman, who sustained severe injuries to her hands and forehead as she tried to protect her companion. Two human beings, my friend and his wife.

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Never a reason to stop fighting to make it better

Alom Shaha nudges everyone to notice and remember Avijit Roy.

He was a hero to many Bangladeshis, but few if any in the west will be declaring that they are Avijit in the way so many of us announced we were Charlie after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. But there are lots of Avijits outside the west, genuinely brave individuals who put their lives on the line to uphold values and freedoms that we take for granted: Ahmed Rajib Haider, another Bangladeshi atheist who was killed because of what he wrote; Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been flogged in public and is in prison for “insulting Islam”; Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, jailed for three years in Egypt, again for “insulting Islam” by simply declaring he is an atheist; Kacem El Ghazzali, who lives in exile after death threats in his home country of Morocco – the list is long and depressing.

The list includes also Taslima Nasreen, Zineb el-Rhazoui, Deeyah Khan, Maryam Namazie. [Read more…]

Rahman is busted

Law enforcement people in Bangladesh have arrested Farabi Shafiur Rahman in connection with the murder of Avijit Roy.

A spokesman for the police’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said Farabi Shafiur Rahman had been arrested at a bus station in the capital over the brutal murder of Avijit Roy. “He is the main suspect,” RAB spokesman Maj Maksudul Alam said.

Rahman had threatened Roy several times before, including on Facebook, where he said Roy would be killed upon his arrival in Dhaka. The suspect has been handed over to the police’s detective branch, which is investigating the killing. [Read more…]

If everyone could share his story

Trisha Ahmed, daughter of Avijit Roy, asks us all to share her father’s story. The IHEU has more.

Criticism of a “culture of impunity” and the apparent failure of authorities to act on strong, credible threats by known individuals in the past year alone has been a common feature of the international outcry over the killing, including our own commentary which named one of the hostile individuals Fellow humanist bloggers like Asif Mohiuddin have called for pressure to be piled on the Bangladesh government.

Roy’s daughter, Trisha Ahmed, a student in the United States, has also written about her father in tribute and calling for his story to be shared far and wider. Her words below, originally posted on Facebook, are re-published with permission.

“My dad was a prominent Bengali writer, most famous for his books about science and atheism. He and my mom went to Bangladesh last week to publicize his books at Bangladesh’s national book fair. 15 hours ago, Islamic fundamentalists stabbed my dad to death. My mom was severely wounded from the attack and is still in the hospital. His death is headline news in Bangladesh. [Read more…]

The cause is highly personal

Avijit Roy and his daughter Trisha Ahmed wrote an op-ed for Free Inquiry, October/November 2013: Freethought Under Attack in Bangladesh. (I had a piece in that issue too. I never met him, but it was one degree of separation.)

It’s chilling to read now – all the more chilling, that is. It was chilling then and it’s more so now.

On April 1, 2013, the Bangladeshi government played the fool in a disgraceful affair that we only wish had been an April Fool’s Day prank. On that day, several bloggers were put behind bars in Bangladesh on the sole basis that they were openly atheist. When we say “openly atheist,” we do not mean that the bloggers denounced religion in public squares or emphatically condemned theists to the ugliest patches of ground after death. Instead, the government criminalized these four men for simply voicing their rational, skeptic, and scientific thoughts on blogging forums—sites that exist for free inquiry, self-expression, and, most important, free speech.

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Nothing new in Bangladesh

The BBC reports on the murder of Avijit Roy and what it means for Bangladesh and other dissenters.

Hundreds of people gathered in Dhaka to mourn the blogger’s death.

Mr Roy’s family say he received threats after publishing articles promoting secular views, science and social issues on his Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona (Free Mind).

He defended atheism in a recent Facebook post, calling it a “rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief”.

His Mukto-mona website on Friday bore the message in Bengali “we are grieving but we shall overcome” against a black background.

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