CFI Canada joins CFI (US) and other international intellectuals, human rights advocates and organizations in a joint statement condemning the Bangladeshi government’s ongoing failure to provide fundamental protection and security to its citizens. Find a PDF version of this document hereYou can sign the petition here.

STATEMENT ON ATTACKS ON ATHEISTS, SECULARISTS, AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN BANGLADESH

We, the undersigned academics, intellectuals, human rights advocates, and organizations from Bangladesh and around the world, unequivocally condemn recent statements by Bangladesh government officials appearing to blame writers, publishers, and activists for their own deaths at the hands of violent extremists with suspected links to militant Islamist groups. We strongly urge the Bangladesh government to immediately take steps to vigorously protect the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and expression, both in word and in deed.

Since February 2015, there have been six deadly attacks on atheist, humanist, and secularist writers, bloggers, and publishers in Bangladesh, all by machete-wielding militants. On February 26, 2015, Avijit Roy, founder of the freethought forum Mukto-Mona, was killed while leaving a book fair, which he was visiting with his wife, author and activist Rafida Bonya Ahmed. Ahmed survived, but was seriously injured. On March 30, 2015, Washiqur Rahman was killed by a group of extremists while on his way to work. On May 12, 2015, Ananta Bijoy

Das was killed in the same fashion. On August 7, 2015, Niloy Neel was killed when six men tricked their way into Niloy’s home, locked his partner in a room, and hacked Niloy to death. On October 31, 2015, Faisal Arefin Deepan, a Muslim publisher of secularist books, was killed at his publishing house. The same day, three others — Ahmedur Rashid Tutul, Tariq Rahim, and Ranadipam Basu — were seriously injured in a similar attack at another publishing house. And, on April 6, 2016, law student Nazimuddin Samad was attacked and killed while returning home from class.

Religious believers, LGBT rights activists, and university professors have also been subjected to threats and violent attacks. Between October and December 2015, 37 Christian leaders received death threats. On November 27, 2015, gunmen attacked a Shia mosque, killing one and injuring three. On December 25, 2015, a suicide bomber injured three at an Ahmadi mosque. On February 21, militants killed a Hindu priest and injured a devotee. On March 15, 2016, a Shia cleric was killed. On April 23, 2016, university English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked to death on his way to work. On April 24, another Hindu devotee was killed. On April 25, 2016, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine, and a fellow LGBT rights activist and theatre artist, Mahbub Tanay, were stabbed to death. And on April 30, 2016, a Hindu tailor previously arrested andjailed for allegedly making derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad, was hacked to death.

While some of these attacks have been claimed by native terrorist groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and Ansar-al Islam, the Bangladesh branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, others have been claimed by Daesh (ISIL).

The response from the Bangladesh government to these attacks has been extremely disappointing; the response to attacks on atheists and secular activists has been particularly disheartening. No one has yet been held to account for the killings. While some arrests have been made, few charges have been filed against the perpetrators. Some threatened atheists and secularists, who are on public hit lists released by militant Islamist groups suspected in ongoing attacks, have been told to self-censor or go into exile when requesting assistance from law enforcement. Many activists are also hesitant to approach the police, fearing that they could be charged under the Information, Communications, and Technology Act, which criminalizes writings that hurt religious belief.Government officials have failed to take action to help protect and support threatened atheists or secularists, or publicly condemn the killings. Officials have instead distanced themselves from the victims, or even appeared to blame the deceased for their own murders.

After the murder of Niloy Neel, Prime Minister Hasina stated, “You can’t attack someone else’s religion. You’ll have to stop doing this. It won’t be tolerated if someone else’s religious sentiment is hurt.” After the recent murder of Nazimuddin Samad, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan stated that part of the investigation would be “to see whether he has written anything objectionable in his blogs,” implying that would provide some justification for Samad’s death. Minister Khan would also state, “The bloggers, they should control their writing. … I want to say that people should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything — hurt any religion, any people’s beliefs, any religious leaders.” Just days later, Prime Minister Hasina shared similar sentiments, stating in regards to secular bloggers, “I consider such writings as not free thinking but filthy words. Why anyone would write such things? It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions. Why would the government take responsibility if such writings lead to any untoward incidents? Everyone should maintain decency. Or else the government wouldn’t take the responsibility for any uncivilised attitude.”

One need not agree with another person’s opinions on religion to recognize their right to express those opinions and live in relative peace. The answer to objectionable expression must not be violence, but counter-expression.

These killings of innocent writers, bloggers, publishers, activists, and religious believers — simply for peacefully exercising their basic freedoms — are robbing Bangladesh of bright minds and brave human rights defenders. It is inexcusable that government officials have, by and large, sided with violent extremists, asked citizens to self-censor, and failed to provide enough protection or hold the killers to account.

Bangladesh has made commitments to uphold fundamental human rights. The Constitution guarantees all citizens the rights to life (Article 32), freedom of conscience and speech (Article 39), and freedom of religion (Article 41). Additionally, Bangladesh is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to life (Article 6), to not be discriminated against on various grounds (Article 2), to freedom of thought, conscience, or religion (Article 18), and to freedom of expression (Article 19).

These rights include the liberty to adopt or not adopt a religious belief, to change or leave a religion or belief, to observe and manifest one’s religion or belief, either individually or in community, and to speak freely and engage in public discourse about one’s beliefs, ideas, or convictions — without fear of reprisal attacks or government crackdowns.

We therefore call on:

  •  The Bangladesh government to vigorously protect the full exercise of the freedoms of religion, belief, and expression, threatened atheists, secularists, minorities, and all those exercising their rights in their country;
  • Bangladesh government officials to stop citing religion as a justification to refuse the rights of certain Bangladeshis in public statements, and forcefully and categorically condemn violent attacks on atheists, secularists, minorities, and all those exercising their rights in their country;
  • The Bangladesh government to conduct prompt, thorough, effective, independent, and impartial investigations into the killings since February 2015, and ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials which respect international standards;
  • The international community to extend support and provide assistance to Bangladesh to address this human

rights crisis.

Signed,

INDIVIDUALS

Aase Gjerdrum, Editor and Translator

Ahmad Tabshir Choudhury, National Vice President – External Affairs & Public Relation, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, Bangladesh

Alan Levinovitz, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Philosophy and Religion, James Madison University

Alexis de Roode, Poet

Alf R. Jacobsen, Writer

Ali Riaz, PhD, University Professor and Chair – Department of Politics and Government, Illinois State University

Amanda Sebestyen, Director of Asylum Education and Legal Fund Member – National Union of Journalists

Amit R. Baishya, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of English, University of Oklahoma

Amrapali Basumatary, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of English, Kirori Mal College University of Delhi

Amritjit Singh, PhD, Langston Hughes Professor of English – Ohio University

Ananya Azad, Blogger and Writer

Ania Loomba, PhD, Catherine Bryson Professor of English – University of Pennsylvania

Anindya Kanti Biswas, Editor-in-Chief – kalakinkar.com

Anirban Baishya, PhD Candidate, School of Cinematic Arts – University of South California

Ann Grodzins Gold, PhD, Chair, Department of Religion  Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Professor of Anthropology, Syracuse University

Anne B. Reinertsen, PhD, Professor in Education, Queen Maud University College

Anu Muhammad, PhD, Professor – Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University

Dr. Ajoy Roy, Retired Professor – University of Dhaka

Arifur Rahman, Cartoonist and Member of PEN Norway

Arnt Birkedal, Writer

Aruni Kashyap, Writer and Translator, Assistant Professor of English – Ashoka University, India

Asbjørn Øverås, Editor

Åse Brandvold, Journalist and Author

Atle Naess, Writer

Audity Falguni, Writer, Poet, and Activist

Austin Dacey, PhD, Author and Philosopher

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Founder AHA Foundation

Bernt Bølviken, Advisor Aschehoug Publishing House

Boris van der Ham, Chairman Dutch Humanist Association

Birgithe Schumann-Olsen, Librarian and Member of PEN Norway

Brit Bildøen, Writer

Brynjar Bjerkem, Programme Manager – Transnational Arts Production

Caroline Halliday, Writer and Artist

Choity Ahmed, Editorial Board Member – Anupranan Literary Magazine

Christopher Grøndahl, Novelist and Screenwriter

Dr. Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate – Supreme Court of India Chairman Human Rights Law Network

Deeyah Khan, Emmy-Award Winning Film Director, Music Producer, Composer, and Activist

Dipen Bhattacharya, PhD, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy – Moreno Valley College

Doranne Jacobson, Research Associate – Columbia University

Elham Manea, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of Political Science, University of Zurich

Elin Ørjasæter, Author Member, PEN Norway

Faizun Zackariya, Citizens’ Voice for Justice and Peace

Fariborz Pooya, Host, Bread and Roses TV

Geraldine Forbes, PhD, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita Department of History – State University of New York at Oswego

Grace Westcott, Executive Director – PEN Canada

Rev. Gretta Vosper, Minister, United Church of Canada

Gro Kjernli, Member, PEN Norway

Gudmund Vindland, Novelist

Gunn Hild Lem, Writer and Editor

Gyrid Axe Øvsteng, Writer

Haim Bresheeth, Professorial Research Associate – Faculty of Arts and Humanities, School of Oriental and African Studies

Hana Shams Ahmed, Activist and MA Candidate – University of Western Ontario

Hanne Herrman, Independent Artist

Hans Tarjei Skaare, Teacher – Nansen Academy

Harald S. Klungveit, Journalist and Member of PEN Norway

Hege Newth Nouri, Secretary General – PEN Norway

Hilde Ghosh Maisey, General Manager – Transnational Arts Production

Ibn Warraq, Author

Ida Lou Larsen, Journalist

Inger Sverreson Holmes, Translator- Norwegian Non-Fiction Authors’ and Translators’ Organisation

Imran H. Sarker, Blogger and Secular Activist

Iva Gavanski, Advisor, WiPC PEN Norway

Jahanara Nuri, Writer and Human Rights Activist

Jay Rajiva, PhD, Assistant Professor – Global Anglophone Literature Department of English, Georgia State University

Johanna Fronth-Nygren, Translator and Writer Member, PEN Norway

Jyotirmoy Barua, Barrister at Law Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Kaberi Gayen, University of Dhaka

Karen Leonard, PhD, Professor Emeritus – Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine

Khushi Kabir, Feminist and Human Rights Activist

Knut Nærum, Writer

Kristin Skare Orgeret, PhD, Professor – Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Oslo and Akershus University College

Kristina Quintano, Publisher and Translator

Kumar Rana, Project Director Pratichi India trust

Lawrence M. Krauss, PhD, Foundation Professor – School of Earth and Space Exploration and,Physics Department, Director, Origins Project – Arizona State University

Line Alice Ytrehus, PhD, Professor, Intercultural Studies NLA University College Member, PEN Norway

Lucy Bland, PhD, Professor of Social and Cultural History – Anglia Ruskin University, Cambride

Maajid Nawaz, Author and Activist – Founding Chairman, Quilliam

Madhurima Chakraborty, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of English, Columbia College Chicago

Makiko Kimura, PhD, Associate Professor – Tsuda College Shimin Gaikou Centre

Mara Matta, PhD, Professor of Modern Literatures of the Indian Subcontinent – Sapienza University of Rome

Marieme Helie Lucas, Former Faculty (Social Sciences), Algiers University  Founder, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

Marius Kolbenstvedt, Actor

Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All Producer, Bread and Roses TV

Maskwaith Ahsan, Author, Journalist, and Educator

Massimo Pigliucci, K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy City College of New York

Max Farrar, PhD, Emeritus Professor Department of Sociology

University of Leeds, Mehnaaz Momen, PhD  Associate Professor Texas A & M International University

Mehran Amirahmadi, Author and Member of PEN Norway

Mette C. Newth, Writer and Translator

Michael Bauer, Author and CEO Bavarian Humanist Association

Michael De Dora, Director of Public Policy; UN Representative Center for Inquiry

Michael Kazimierz O’Dwyer, Physics and Math Teacher

Mitul Baruah, PhD Candidate, Geography Department – Syracuse University

M.M. Akash, PhD, Professor – Department of Economics, University of Dhaka

Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of International Relations University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Morten Harry Olsen, Author and Member of PEN Norway

Muktasree Chakma Sathi, Researcher and Human Rights Activist

Nakul Singh Sawhney, Filmmaker

Dr. Natalia Paszkiewicz, Independent Researcher

Nigel C. Hughes, PhD, Professor – Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Irvine

Nils Nordberg, Writer and Professor – Lucy Bland Anglia Ruskin University

Ole Robert Sunde, Author and Member of PEN Norway

Pål Moddi Knutsen, Musician and Member of PEN Norway

Papori Bora, PhD, Assistant Professor Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

P.B. Cliteur, PhD, Professor of Jurisprudence – University of Leiden

Per Kværne, PhD, Professor Emeritus – University of Oslo

Rafida Bonya Ahmed, Humanist and Activist, Senior Director, Finance Industry, Widow of Dr. Avijit Roy

Raihan Sharif, Fulbright Scholar. Washington State University

Ranabir Samaddar, PhD, Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies – Calcutta Research Group

Ragnar Aalbu, Illustrator and Author Member, PEN Norway

Ratnadipa De Ghosh, Poet and Author

Raza Rumi, Scholar in Residence – Ithaca College, NY

Reza Aslan, PhD, Author and Religious Scholar

Richard Dawkins. Emeritus Professor University of Oxford

Ricky Varghese, PhD, RSW, Psychotherapist

Rumana Hashem, PhD, Post-Doc Researcher Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging- University of East London

Russell Blackford, PhD, School of Humanities and Social Science – University of Newcastle, NSW

Salman Rushdie, Novelist

Sam Harris, PhD, Author and Neuroscientist

Samina Luthfa, PhD, Assistant Professor Department of Sociology, University of Dhaka

Sean Dowdy, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology – University of Chicago

Shahidul Alam PhD, Photographer, Writer and Curator

Shelley Feldman, PhD, Professor – Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University

Stein Versto, Writer

Steven Pinker, PhD – Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

Supriti Dhar, Editor womenchapter.com

Susan Wadley, PhD, Director, South Asia Center – Syracuse University

Suzanne Hanchett, PhD, Partner, Planning Alternatives for Change LLC

Taslima Nasreen, Author

Terje Torkildsen, Author and Comedian

Tor Edvin Dahl, Writer

Truls Lie, Editor

Varuni Bhatia, PhD, Assistant Professor – Asian Languages and Cultures Department, University of Michigan

Willy Tore Mørch, Professor Emeritus – University of Tromsø

ORGANIZATIONS

21st Century Wilberforce Initiative

American Atheists

American Humanist Association

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-Asia)

Atheist Alliance International

Atheist Foundation of Australia

Bangladesh Group – The Netherlands (Bangladesh Groep Nederland)

Blogger & Online Activist Network-Bangladesh

British Humanist Association

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Canadian Secular Alliance

Cartoonist’s Club

Center for Inquiry

Centre for Inquiry – Canada

Centre for Secular Space UK

Christian Solidarity Worldwide – UK

Council of Australian Humanist Societies

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

Dutch Humanist Association (Humanistisch Verbond)

European Humanist Federation

Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations

Freedom House

The Hague Peace Projects

Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted

Humanist Society Scotland

Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association

International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (Germany)

International Humanist and Ethical Union

Insan Foundation Trust

STATEMENT ON ATTACKS ON ATHEISTS, SECULARISTS, AND

RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN BANGLADESH

Liberty South Asia

Mukto-Mona

One Law for All

Open Doors

Organizing Committee, Chittagong Hill Tracts Campaign

PEN American Center

PEN Nederland

Progressive Atheists, Inc. (Australia)

Muslims for Progressive Values

Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom

Rationalist Society of Australia

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

Secular Coalition for America

Secular Coalition of Australia

Secular Party of Australia

Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

Swedish Humanist Association

University for Humanistic Studies (Universiteit voor Humanistiek)

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