‘This valley of death is not my country’

There isn’t much difference between what’s been happening recently in India and Bangladesh, with rationalists and freethinkers being butchered by fundamentalist elements. Na­rendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi were mercilessly killed because they advocated freethinking and rationalism. It’s noteworthy that, of late, a certain section of the hindu community in India is turning intolerant to progress. The only thing that probably differentiates them from their muslim counterparts across the border, is that they are clad in saffron and sport sandalwood tilak on their foreheads. So, when you look at it carefully, a fanatic’s faith in a particular religion or sect doesn’t really matter. That person is a th­reat to human society as long as he is against democracy and free speech.

We can carry on speculating who really killed Kalburgi and we would not be wrong in our assumption. Earlier, religious fanatics threatened him with imminent death if he did not mend his ways. He apparently provoked them by once famously insisting that idol worship was a lost cause and “if one wants to, one can even urinate on idols”. Staunch hindus didn’t take those words kindly. An Akademi award winner and an academic, Kalburgi had served as the vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi. He was always vocal about blind faith and caste-based discrimination. It is not surprising that his views did not go down well with people blinded by their religious ideologies.

Narendra Dabholkar, a resident of Pune, met a similar fate in 2013, when he was out for his morning walk, as did another non-believer Go­vind Pansare who was killed in Kohlapur earlier this year. The chief minister of Karnataka has issued an unconvincing statement that his government would try its best to bring to justice Kalburgi’s yet unidentified murderers.

That citizens across the Indian subcontinent can no longer voice their beliefs is shocking. And we are not talking about muslim zealots al­one. Intolerance towards free speech and reasoning has been taking a regular toll across Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. What makes it wo­rse is the extermination of freethinkers and progressive citizens in the democratic republic of India.

A nation cannot progress if it kills citizens who educate the masses about breaking free from mental barriers and outdated convictions. Such societies are condemned to live in the dark ages.

Bangladesh has already lost young and free-spirited citizens like Abhijeet and Ananta to islamic fanatics, who like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, in India, can only be blamed for standing up to religious intolerance and bigotry. People who place their faith in wrong beliefs and religious boundaries are afraid of those who speak the truth and show them the folly of their ways. Having lost to reason, these fanatics can only resort to violence to make a point. Societies that accept terror as a means to silence thinking do not understand the value of free speech. Wh­ich is why their religious advocates insist that free speech should not hurt the religious sentiments of anyone or any sect, without even underst­anding that that is exactly what free speech is all about; it comes without any guideline or restraint.

Change agents, who set out to transform societies have always faced resistance and persecution from those who hold on to their old ways. Most are either put behind the bars or mercilessly killed. Yet, they seldom manage to restrain dreamers from altering the flow of civilisation. We might have started to consider ourselves to be progressive because we have made scientific advances and raised out standard of living, yet the truth remains that there are still certain hidden corners of our society where the glow of knowledge and truth cannot penetrate.

India is unlike Pakistan or Bangladesh. Its democratic upbringing is not a hoax or a stunt; it is more religiously tolerant than its neighbours. But then, it has not managed to stop the killings of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi; neither has it brought its killers to justice. This is a matter of shame for India. Despite being a far stronger nation than Pakistan and Bangladesh with a superior intelligence set up, its government has failed to book the perpetrators of the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon blasts, or th­ose responsible for the bombing of the Samjhauta Express that ran between Pakistan and India or those responsible for bombing its numerous mos­ques.

We can only hope that such apathy towards human life in the name of upholding religious values does not continue forever in India and its government actively intervenes in identifying and punishing the terrorists. It is India’s heavenly and historic mandate to remain a safe haven for those who believe in free speech and progress. If India fails to do so, it would be far worse than its neighbours. And that makes it appropriate to quote the famous Indian radical Na­barun Bhatta­charya: “Th­is valley of death is not my country.”

Bangladesh no country for atheists

It’s a matter of pride to be a freethinker, atheist and blogger in a civilised society; as such people are loved and respected by the masses. The renowned among them bask in adulation. However, in the dark corners around the world, where society is still in its primitive and brutal state, such intellectuals are shunned for being progressive and speaking their minds or writing what they wish to say. Such societies silence the voices of atheists who try to wake citizens to a new dawn.

I started my writing career 30 years ago, to make obscurantists understand their follies and how they were pushing our society into a deep abyss where the light of truth would never reach. After all these years, I have failed in my crusade, even as these bigots have become more strident. As the lone crusader, my voice could not be heard across the entire country. Bangladesh might have ach­ieved its independence, but without many more voices joining the chorus, the cost of freedom has been high.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her son Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, who acts as her information and communications technology (ICT) adviser as well as political campaigner, have announced that they will not stand with the atheists, at least openly. But the point is that the atheists are not aliens, they too are citizens of the country.

So, it is apparent that the government of the day is with the bigots.

I wonder when atheist became such a hated word that everybody chooses to maintain a safe distance from them. This, when the government is bound by its own policy to not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their religion, colour, gender or language. Sadly, the Awami League government has turned its back on those people who need its support the most, in order to safeguard its own interest.

Sheikh Hasina’s statements voicing concerns about the recent murder of bloggers opposed to radical islam are words of false hope aimed at attracting a certain vote bank. More enigmatic is her silence on those who can upset her applecart.

No wonder then, Ban­gladesh runs on doublespeak today — one that sympathises with victims of terrorism and the other that remains eloquently silent against fundamentalism. Sheikh Hasina doesn’t want her world to know whether she or her government has any connection either with the atheist or with the fundamentalist, so she chooses to weave tales to appease both the votebank at home and her liberal global constituency, on which she depends on aid.

Bangladesh has never been a true democracy, because a democracy does not have affinity to any particular religion, whereas Bangladesh has an official religion. Till the time this country gets rid of that state religion, till the time atheists become as accepted as bigots, Bangladesh cannot be called a democratic country. Here, the word atheist is almost a profanity. It’s very unfortunate when a country hates atheists because of being just that.

There has always been a marked conflict between religion and science and every time science emerges as the winner, as science doesn’t base itself on faith but on facts. It supports what is tested and is true and truth cannot be hidden by lies for a very long time. To abolish all kinds of hypocricy from the country, we need more atheists to speak the truth even at the cost of their lives. We need more Abhijits, Anantars, Rajibs and Washiqurs.

I came to learn that Muhammed Zafar Iqbal has said that the silence of the government on the death of the bloggers is a strong indication that this is going to be the new norm for the country. At times, I really feel that one shouldn’t expect anything worthwhile from Bangladesh. Its political parties will turn it into a fundamentalist islamic state. And the commoners will just sit and watch the unfolding horror. A rational mind might say this is strongly condemnable, but for the masses, it is not such an appalling place to be. They have been so blinded by religion that they wouldn’t mind being another clog in the giant wheel turning Bangladesh into “darul islam.”

Citizens who are resisting this anarchy with courage will be slowly and systematically eliminated by those who will never be punished, because they serve the vested interests of shrewd politicians.

Bangladesh was earlier known to the world because of the annual floods that devastated the population. From a country that suffered from natural calamities, it is now emerging as a nation that suffers from manmade catastrophes, remorselessly butchering atheists and bloggers. Unless politicians don’t stop the business of using religion for vote bank politics, several talented youngsters will bleed to death in the country.

Once Sheikh Mujibar Rahaman had moved the people to reject the Pakistani soldiers who massacared the Ban­gladeshi intelligentsia. Today, his own daughter is indulging criminals whose hands are red with the blood of bloggers. Sheikh Mujibar protested and acted on the crisis, Sheikh Hasina is but a mere shadow of that past.

I no longer feel ashamed to say I feel scared to think of myself as a Bangladeshi.

Authorities are desperate to protect lies and myths

Bangladesh did it to me long ago. Twenty years have passed. The country hasn’t learnt anything. It hasn’t stopped harassing thinking minds. Now the country’s new fucking laws gave the fucking authorities the fucking right to fucking arrest two teenagers for writing about fucking religion on their facebook and blogs. I am sick and tired of the fucking news of fucking harassment of atheists almost every fucking day.

No sane people can accept Islamic barbarism.

Islamists want to kill a Mauritanian blogger because he has lack of respect for prophet Muhammad.

We have been witnessing Islamic barbarism all over the world. Islam says apostates must be killed. So, the believers of Islam kill apostates.

What about peace loving moderate Muslims? Do they think it is all right to criticize Muhammad? No, they do not. They also believe apostates should be punished.

I wonder who gave Muhammad and his Islam immunity from criticism?

On Friday January 3rd, the Nouadibou gendarmerie brigade arrested twenty-eight year old Mauritanian Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir. The young accountant and blogger is to be tried for lack of respect to prophet Muhammad and for apostasy. The latter is punishable by death in Mauritania. Although Sharia law is enforced in the country, death sentences have not been applied by the government since the 1980s.

According to Article 306 of the Mauritanian penal code, “Unless they have repented, every person guilty of the crime of apostasy (Zandagha) shall be put to death.”

Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir published an article titled “Religion, Religiosity and Blacksmiths” on the Mauritanian website Aqlame. Although it was posted anonymously, the authorities somehow managed to obtain his name. The editor of Aqlame later tried to absolve himself of editorial responsibility by claiming that he had not read the article prior to its publication, and that he immediately deleted it amid angry comments and reactions.

The article’s aim was to partly blame the deeply hierarchical structure of Mauritanian society on traditions dating back to the times of prophet Muhammad. More specifically, Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir deplored the fact that the social class he belongs to – the Blacksmiths – was not permitted socio-economic promotion due to ancient traditions. The blogger also reportedly criticized Muhammad and his companions for some of their decisions during Islam’s holy wars. Despite the fact that he issued a public written apology in which he insisted that he never meant to denigrate the person of the prophet, the blogger could not escape the wrath of public outrage.

First, his family members wrote and co-signed a letter in which they basically disown him unless he repents. The letter reads:

“It does look like the foolish modernists, secularists and atheists are still attempting to derail us from the true path after their Jewish and hypocrite masters failed to do so. […] The author of the article must be sponsored by some outside forces. He equated his infallible religion with the rest of humanity’s beliefs and falsely accused our prophet of racism and favoritism. This is not surprising from someone who seeks knowledge from those who hate Allah and his prophet peace be upon him. […] We call upon society to denounce any individual who adopts a similar stance.”

In addition, the streets of Nouadibou witnessed an escalation of clashes between angry mobs and the police. Taking place in front of the court where Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir is supposed to be tried, the protests turned violent, forcing the authorities to reinforce security presence around the tribunal. The protesters expressed their anger at the amount of time the justice system is taking to prosecute the blogger, accusing it of being soft. Mauritanian online press outlets followed suit by praising “the large crowds from all walks of life” who “even discarded their professional duties” (!) in order to publicly condemn the blogger. They also reported the numerous appeals from “imams, scholars and professors” to execute Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir. Preacher Abi Ould Ali said he would pay 4000 Euros to anyone who kills the blogger.

Such outpouring of public anger is only part of a wave of Islamic radicalism that has been building up in Mauritania for the last weeks. Mauritanian activists confirm that in collaboration with Salafists, members of Tawassoul (Mauritanian Islamist party) have been organizing an undercover Facebook witch hunt against their political enemies. In addition, public opinion has been flooded with calls for parents to better “monitor” their children. Mauritanian families were reportedly visited by ad-hoc committees who advised them to silence their adult sons and daughters. The latter are targeted disproportionally, as evidenced by the orchestrated campaign of condemnation against actress Laila Moulay for appearing unveiled in a videoclip.

On January 10th, after a week’s silence, the Mauritanian government added its voice to the ongoing persecution against the blogger. Facing angry protesters after the Friday prayer, president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said: “We will apply God’s law on whoever insults the prophet, and whoever publishes such an insult.” This was in line with the quasi-unanimous condemnation of Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir by political parties. The case is putting the Mauritanian government in a tough spot. If it does not apply the death penalty, it infuriates a conservative public that it can barely contain – as evidenced by the violent clashes with the police. If it does apply the death penalty, it breaks with an unwritten rule of avoiding executions, even against terrorists responsible for civilian deaths. Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir will then be a blogger treated more harshly than terrorists are.

Shunned by his relatives and the rest of Mauritanian society, the blogger had three days to retract his sayings (the Muslim ultimatum for repention). His apology was apparently not enough in the eyes of his detractors. The tragedy of his case is that he is totally isolated at home and abroad. There appears to be no condemnation yet from international watchdogs of the unhuman treatment he is being subjected to. It is thus very hard to be optimistic regarding his future. Cheikh Ould Mohamed M’Kheitir has however committed no crime worthy of social isolation or the death penalty. All he did was to harmlessly express his opinion on a social matter. His ordeal is yet another example of the danger Islamists pose to individual freedoms: they would rather have free minds dead than argue with them.

I do not think there is any reason to love Islam. But there are millions of reasons to leave Islam.

Why and how a Hindu Brahmin became an atheist.

  • Arun Njanappilly Madhavan is a medical doctor living in Kerala, India. He is an atheist. We hear a lot why Christians or Jews or Muslims become atheists, but we do not hear much about Hindus, why a Hindu becomes an atheist. I requested Arun Madhavan to write about his story for my blog. The busy doctor kindly wrote why he became an atheist. His twitter account is @charakan.

    ‘How I became an atheist?

    Actually I do not remember much about my Theist life.
    Was I ever a Theist?
    Probably yes.
    I was born into an upper caste Hindu family in Kerala, in south India. My family was not very religious, and routine visits to temples and special offerings to gods to get something done were rare. My parents did ask me to pray to gods, and I must have done that till I reached the age of 14-15. But my overall impression was my parents did not really believe in a typical Theist god, who controls everything in your life. They encouraged us children to work hard in school , and made us think that its your work that counts more than your offerings/prayers to gods. We celebrated the usual Malayali festivals like Vishu, Onam and Pooja.
    My earliest introduction to Hinduism was through Mahabharatha and Ramayana , the big Hindu (Indian) epics. I liked the Mahabharatha very much because it was a gripping tale with huge variety of characters, umpteen number of sub plots and a mega scale. My mother encouraged me to read alternate view points about the epics in which the ‘good’ guys like Pandavas and Rama were not that good and the ‘bad’ guys like Kauravas and Ravana clan were not that bad.
    Gods like Rama , who readily sends his wife to the forest, because there was a doubt about her chastity,and cunning Krishna with 16008 wives never deserved worship from me.

    Curious about Hinduism, I read some selected verses from its holy grail, the Vedas.
    Vedas probably were created between 1500 and 500 BC. They are a collections of hymns of Aryans, a clan of pastoralists. Rig Veda is considered the oldest. Vedic literature was preserved for hundreds of years by reciting and remembering orally before it was written in Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans.The Vedic hymns are mostly verses recited in praise of Aryan gods, which they called devas.At the sacrifices where Rig Veda hymns were recited, the devas were invited to come and sit around the sacrificial fire, to receive the hospitality of the Aryans who sacrificed animals in their honour.

    Apart from verses praising gods, Rig Veda also has verses which are used to ensure the social inequality of the society.
    Here is an example from Purushsooktham from Rigveda 10.90 about creation of humans and caste system.
    11.1: What did the Purusha (i.e. Virat) hold within Him? How many parts were assigned in His Huge Form?
    11.2: What was His Mouth? What was His Arms? What was His Thighs? And what was His Feet?
    12.1: The Brahmanas were His Mouth, the Kshatriyas became His Arms,
    12.2: The Vaishyas were His Thighs, and from His pair of Feet were born the Shudras.

    I can’t see how some one can believe in such stupidities about origin of human beings. We can easily see through it as a vain attempt to justify and perpetuate cruel caste system.

    Then I turned to Bhagavad Gita, the book some Hindus consider as The Holy book. There also I could not find anything inspiring. It is just a collection repetitive, incoherent and many a time self contradictory verses.

    The whole Hindu system of beliefs looked very shady. I had no difficulty in realising that a religion which wholly supports the oppressive caste system and Patriarchy is a sham.

    By the time I was 15, I started standing outside when our family visited temples. Still I used to take part in religious family rituals, so as not to offend the elders. When some one smeared sandal paste on my forehead, I used to clean it off as soon as possible!

    My feeling initially was all those who believe in gods were weak minded and could not survive without god belief. So I never questioned their beliefs , though I never allowed them to impose it on me.
    Later, in last few years , I realised that no one needs a god-belief , and such a belief is so prevalent because of childhood conditioning. Propagation of reason and rational thinking can help in de-conditioning. I realised it is ok to offend family elders so that one can drive your point of view of logic and reason forcefully.

    Humans created god myths as an explanation for the things that they could not explain. Religions were created by the powerful to retain control on others using god myth. As more and more things are being explained by Science, the space for gods are shrinking fast. There may be still a lot of things which we cannot explain, but that does not mean we should invent an illogical answer of god for the gaps in our knowledge.

    The way things are progressing, atheism may become the default position of all human beings. The question of why some one became an atheist may be irrelevant soon. Then the more logical question will be for the theist to explain why some one believes in a myth without any evidence.’

  • Where is Hamed Abdel-Samad? Is he killed because he is critical of Islam?

    Hamed Abdel-Samad is disappeared.


    Police in Cairo are investigating the disappearance of an Egyptian-born German author and critic of Islam, security sources said on Tuesday, months after a cleric declared him an infidel and called for his death.

    Hamed Abdel-Samad, author of “The Downfall of the Islamic World: A Prognosis”, went missing in recent days, according to a missing person’s report filed by his brother, police sources said. An Egyptian newspaper report said he had been abducted.

    The German ambassador in Cairo has asked Egypt’s deputy prime minister, Ziad Bahaa El-Din, to do everything to secure his “personal freedom and physical well-being”, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday.

    He added Abdel-Samad, 41, had been in contact with the German embassy in Cairo regarding his personal safety, without giving further details. His whereabouts were unknown and the German authorities were working hard to solve the case, he said.

    In a television show broadcast in June and posted on YouTube, an Egyptian cleric, Mahmoud Shaaban, called for the killing of the author, who frequently appears in German media as a speaker on Islamic affairs, saying he was an infidel.

    If you criticize Islam, you will be harassed, imprisoned, abused, killed or thrown out of your country. No other people face the brutality and hatred of Muslims more than critics of Islam with Muslim background. Should ex-Muslims continue to be killed? When would faith-heads stop the silent genocide of anti-theists, atheists, rationalists, humanists?

    We are not living in the 7th century, or are we actually living in the 7th century?

    Deal With It.

    I hope you know about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. a light-hearted ‘faith’ whose members call themselves Pastafarians because their ‘only dogma… is the rejection of dogma’. Pastafarians believe that an invisible alien made of spaghetti and meatballs created the universe after ‘drinking heavily.’

    Lukas Novy, a man from Czech Republic, has been allowed to wear a sieve on his head for religious reason on his official identity card. He says that his Pastafarian faith means he has to wear the sieve at all times. Officials ruled that turning down Novy’s request would be a breach of the country’s religious equality laws.

    Now look at Novy’s driving license.


    It is so cool. I am laughing out loud. Really. Nothing is better than mocking religion.

    You know what he is wearing on his head!

    Novy was influenced by Niko Alm, his fellow Pastafarian in Austria. Niko had the idea when he read that headdresses were allowed in official pictures only for religious reasons. Niko sent his application for a new driver’s licence in 2008 along with a picture of himself with a colander on his head. A colander is a bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with holes in it used for draining food such as pasta or rice. Officials first objected to the sieve on his head for his driving licence photograph. It took Niko three years to get the license, after arguing that the sieve was a requirement of Pastafarianism. After receiving his driving licence, Niko now wants to get Pastafarianism officially recognised as an official faith in Austria.

    People who believe in religious freedom, must agree that the rights of Pastafarians should be recognized not only in Austria and Czech Republic, but all over the world. I am very much pro-Pasta. You never know it can become the biggest religion in the future. Flying Spaghetti Monster can be worshipped by billions. Who thought Christianity or Islam would be like monsters one day when they just began their journey? Never underestimate bullshit.