Dhaka: Statements condemning the murder of Avijit Roy

March 5, 2015

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia unequivocally condemns the murder of Avijit Roy on February 26, 2015 on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Dr. Avijit Roy was a naturalized American citizen of Bangladeshi origin. An engineer by profession, he wrote on themes related to science, philosophy, religion and society. More than a decade ago he founded a popular internet forum Mukto-Mona (Open Mind) that has been a strong voice against religious intolerance.

His last two books (written in Bangla) are on cosmology (titled “Universe out of Nothing”) and on the friendship between Rabindranath Tagore and the Argentinian writer Victoria Ocampo. “The Philosophy of Atheists” and “The Virus of Faith”, also written in Bangla, focused on science, religion and rationalism. For the thoughts that were espoused in these books and in Mukto-Mona, Avijit Roy received several death threats last year, including the warning that he would be killed upon his return to Bangladesh.

In accordance with the threat, Avijit Roy was killed ten days after his arrival in February 2015, on a public street with knives and machetes in full view of onlookers. His wife Rafida Ahmed Banna was also attacked. Currently, she is in critical condition in a Dhaka hospital.

The murder of Abhijit follows the same pattern as in the earlier killings of blogger Rajib Haider (February, 2013), Prof. Shafiul Islam of Rajshahi University (November, 2014), Prof. Yunus (also of Rajshahi University) (December, 2004), and the attack on Prof. Humayun Azad of Dhaka University (February, 2004).

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia is alarmed by the killing of free thinking intellectuals, clearly aimed at stifling secular and creative thinking, and call upon all to condemn these crimes. We implore citizens of Bangladesh, organizations and political parties, in power or in opposition, to work together and fight against extreme religious orthodoxy that has resulted in the heinous killing of Dr. Avijit Roy.

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Statement from People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (P.A.D.S)

28 February 2015

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism strongly condemns the brutal murder of Mr Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi secular blogger and author on 26th February in Dhaka. His wife Ms Rafida Anwar Banna has suffered grievous injuries in the attack. Mr Roy was a popular blogger and author who wrote a number of books against religious extremism and the threat to human dignity and democracy from it. He had been on the hit list of Islamic fundamentalists for a number of years. He was advised caution but continued to put forth his views bravely in public. He was murdered while returning from a book fair after the release of his latest book. Islamic fundamentalists have been the bulwark of authoritarianism in Bangladesh even before the country
became independent. They were hand in gloves with the Pakistani Army during the barbaric repression of Bangladeshi freedom movement, and have been in alliance with dictatorial regimes and authoritarian parties. They have also indulged in violence against Hindu and Buddhist religious minorities in the country. According to some reports up to twenty secular activists have been killed in Bangladesh in the past two years by Islamic fundamentalists. It is very
encouraging to learn that secular forces in the country have not been cowed down by such violence, and spontaneous protests have erupted in the Shanbag square near Dhaka University against the murder of Avijit Roy.

It is increasingly becoming clear that authoritarian violent forces in many parts of the world are using religion to target non-believers and attack rights of minorities, women, and believers who do not share their fundamentalism. Murders of rationalist Narender Dhabholkar, and communist Govind Panasare in Maharashtra, persecution of editor Shirin Dalvi, and increased vandalism against Churches, and rioting against minorities ever since Modi government took over are proof of this trend in India. People of Pakistan, many countries in the West Asia and Africa are suffering large scale violence by terrorist groups acting in the name of religion. Even a group of cartoonists in Paris have been killed. It is important that all democracy loving forces
discuss and debate the public role of religion. This is possible only in a secular framework of polity, which gives equal public rights to non-believers and believers, and to believers of different faiths.