Just another murder in Bangladesh

Another intellectual, a professor of English, Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, was hacked to death in Bangladesh for the crime of being an atheist. The twist here, though, is that he wasn’t an atheist at all.

But according to his daughter, Rizwana Hasin, 23, he was not an atheist.

Siddiquee participated in cultural activities and wanted to open a music school in nearby Bagmara.

“He loved music. A concept is growing in Bangladesh these days that those who are interested in music, culture, are not believers in religion,” she told CNN.

First they come for the atheists, an easy target. Then they go after the artists, the poets, the writers, the musicians, the poets because they love the world too much and are not sufficiently fanatical. Then the teachers and other educators. This is one way to change the culture to make everyone believe as you do: chop down everyone who isn’t as ignorant as you are.

The future Bangladesh of their dreams will contain only people who know how to pray and how to use a machete, nothing more.


  1. dianne says

    Bangladesh is a tiny, flat country, most of which is less than 10 meters above sea level. I can’t help but wonder if that’s not influencing some of this behavior. When the world is pretty much going to end around you, maybe religious fanaticism makes more sense somehow. Not that that excuses any little, tiny, bit of what is happening there, but it might help explain some of it.

  2. John Morales says

    dianne, I live in Australia, and Bangladesh has nearly 170 million inhabitants to our 24 million.

    (Not so tiny, in some respects)

  3. dianne says

    @2: Tiny in terms of land area, not population. Also, the majority of the country is less than 10 meters above sea level. It’s my understanding that if all the polar ice melted (which admittedly is not happening next week and maybe not happening at all), Bangladesh would turn into the Bay of Bangladesh. It could be that my logic or understanding of human psychology are off, but that situation would make me anxious and possibly prone to doing extreme things, if I lived there.

  4. Kaintukee Bob says

    @dianne: While I’m sure there is plenty of merit to psychoanalysis, your comments read almost like you are trying to excuse the behavior.

    This man, no matter his creed nor what labels he applied to himself, was butchered. That is a terrible thing, There is no excusing the actions of the person or persons who did it.*

    *Yes, if you want to be pedantic, there are situations where lethal force is called for in defense of yourself or others. I’ve found no evidence that Rizwana threatened anyone’s life or property.

  5. Holms says

    dianne, I think you theory may rest a little too much on the fanatics being familiar with the current state of climate science, when they are largely rejecting science. I suspect if clobal warming enters into it at all, it is as a mere pretext, a useful bit of rhetoric to add to the large stock of hatred they already have for all things Western.

  6. dianne says

    @4: You make a good point. FWIW, my intent* was to look for non-obvious causes of this increase in religious violence in order to (hopefully) find more ways to combat it. Because something must have changed in Bangladeshi society to cause this increase in religiously motivated murders. That doesn’t in any way excuse the individuals: they knew it was wrong to pick up an ax and hack someone to death, but it might provide additional ways to try to stop further similar acts.

    *And intent’s magic, right?

  7. dianne says

    @5: Also true. On thinking about it, I think I may have had it more or less backwards: If climate change is a factor it more likely is so because they _don’t_ believe in it. Look at it this way: How many typhoons, floods, mudslides, etc has Bangladesh suffered in the last decade or so? Seems like they’re in the news about it a lot. If you believe in climate change then you have an explanation for it and a way to work on the problem. If you don’t, then it’s an act of god. God’s angry. Best start getting rid of the non-believers if you want the disasters to stop.

  8. numerobis says

    dianne: I suspect global warming has diddly squat to do with this. Bangladesh is doomed in the long run, but that’ll take a while yet. My understanding of what’s going on (but IANAB):

    Bangladesh was part of Pakistan when India and Pakistan split apart as the British left. It was a slight majority of the population of this country but had no political power.

    In 1971, faced with an independence movement in Bengal (caused in no small part by refusing to seat the winners of the election), the Pakistani government teamed up with Islamist groups notably including Jamaat-e-Islami to massacre opponents: ethnic and religious minorities, and the intelligentsia. The pro-independence groups responded by fighting a civil war, and won with the help of India. They were led politically by the Awami league.

    As a result, Bangladesh became independent and set itself up with a secular constitution. The Jamaat-e-Islami and other such parties were banned, its leaders exiled. Just four years later, a military coup let them all get back into the country. Democracy was restored (with occasional coups) but basically there were two groups, the same two that had fought the civil war: the Awami League versus the BNP, the latter of which includes Jamaat-e-Islami.

    Since 2008, the Awami league has been back in power with a large popular mandate. They’ve started prosecuting Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP leaders for war crimes, and have executed a few.

    So basically, these murders of secular intelligentsia look to my (not particularly expert) eye like the continuation of the 1971 civil war which hasn’t quite been resolved yet.

  9. Infophile says

    @4 Kaintukee Bob:

    I read the original comment as trying to understand the reasons behind this behavior, not trying to excuse it. The two things get conflated far too often. For instance, if we wanted to decrease the number of murders in a given location (eg. Bangladesh), we could decide to just punish murders. Okay, in Bangladesh, where that isn’t already done (at least for these particular murders), that could help. But murders still happen even when they’re regularly punished, so what then? Well, perhaps we could try to figure out what factors contribute to murder, and address those factors. Is religious extremism a problem? Maybe address that. Is poverty a problem? Work on that. Lack of community engagement? Ditto. Global warming? Sure, why not? None of this is excusing murder.

    I do get though that sometimes the line between understanding and excusing might not be as clear, though. Victim-blaming is a particular case when “understanding” crosses the line. For something inexcusable, the onus should never be on the victims to prevent it, even if it actually ends up being the case that something they’re doing is contributing to it. In this case, victim-blaming would be saying that “Perhaps these people wouldn’t be getting killed if they stopped being so flagrant about their atheism.” This is quite different from “Perhaps these people wouldn’t be getting killed if global warming weren’t such a pressing issue for Bangladesh.”

  10. parrothead says

    They simply chose to murder someone that they felt was different enough from them to murder.